Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Sasha Book1 Sasha: A Trial Of Blood And Steel
by Joel Shepherd

Supplied for review by Hachette New Zealand

Reviewed By: Jan Butterworth

Lenayin is a land divided by two religions. The Goeren-yai faith is a bit pagan, guided by spirits and focused on strength and honour. Followed by most of the common people, it is the original Lenayin religion. The Verenthane faith is a more organized religion that has the majority of Lenayin's nobility amongst its followers. When the sole remaining Goeren-yai High Lord kills a neighboring province's Verenthane leader, a complex conflict begins that threatens to tear apart the fragile balance keeping Lenayin together.

The heroine, Sasha (short for Sashandra), is a daughter of the Lenay king. She has abandoned her royal privileges to live among the Goeren-yai and study fighting techniques. Her tutor (uman) is Kessligh, former commander of Lenayin 's armies and hero of a past war with neighboring Cherrovan. Kessligh has adopted the Nasi-Keth, a third belief system that follows the teachings of the non-human serrinim.

Sasha is a supremely talented sword fighter as well as being temperamental and stubborn. She is torn in different directions, her desire to lead a simple life studying swordwork battling with the call of history and duty. The Goeren-yai believe she is guided by the Synnich spirit that will liberate them from Verenthane oppression.

The book starts off slow, with the first half introducing the world of Lenayin. There is a lot of talking, with characters being introduced and giving a good grasp of who’s who. The political manipulations of the court are introduced and the laying out of events sets the scene of complex family and clan interaction. The second half has more action, marching off to war, alliances built, battle scenes. Characters are introduced who will play a major role in future books.

This is the start of an exciting fantasy quartet. I’ve got the next 3 on my desk and can’t wait to start them. They show the heroine as someone tough who turns her back on privilege and can be the best in a man’s world. She doesn’t sit around waiting for rescue. Her sister also appears and shows her strength in a different way. I look forward to seeing more of Sofy. Sasha is an excellent epic fantasy novel that promises great things for the rest of the series. I highly recommend this for fantasy fans.

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