Jen reviews The Hunted, the second book in The Cursed Sword Fantasy series by Mike Morris. Check out Jen’s review of book 1, Who He Fights.
Thank you kindly to Mike Morris for sending me a paperback copy of The Hunted, with its beautiful, newly-revised cover.
|Series: The Cursed Sword #2||Genre: Fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: November 25, 2021||Trigger Warnings: death, zealots, blood, gore|
|Page count: 286||Publisher: self-published|
To save the world, Nathaniel Rane and his fellow soldiers in the fabled Legion Of Swords used outlawed magic to become faster, stronger and all but impossible to kill. But those powers came with a terrible price — now, Rane has to save his soul before it’s too late.
But the Soldiers of the Inquisition pursue Rane relentlessly, offering a reward of ten thousand gold pieces to anyone who will betray him — and death by burning to any that offer succor. To escape, he’s forced into demon infested lands and encounters a family whose fate soon becomes entwined with his. Hunted by holy warriors, demons and monsters, can Rane help four innocent people reach salvation in time? Or will Rane be the death of them all?
“Some debris shifted, and Rane’s head shot up, all his senses alert. He tensed, but only silence followed. Perhaps he’d imagined it. He bent down to examine what was left of the door when he heard it again. He clambered out of the ruins, as the noise increased, eager to have space around him in case he needed to fight.
Rane turned in a circle, trying to see what was causing instability. There has never been earthquakes out in the Steppes as far as he knew, but still, the ground shook.
Then he saw a mound of grass move. It was only a few yards away the grass rippled rising, like a blanket being picked up off the floor.
Something big stirred under the earth. Rane took a step back and drew a pistol as an arm appeared, as thick as a tree trunk.
Rane’s heart raced, and his mouth went dry as a giant body pushed itself up and then shrugged the grass off its back.”
Sym Fera 11/8
I read the first book in this series (He Who Fights) way back in 2018 which surprised the heck out me, because so much of Rane’s story has stuck with me for all this time. I never intended to take quite this long to get back to this series, but here I am, four years later, finally returning to see how Nathanial Rane makes out.
We left Nathaniel Rane at the end of He Who Fights, with a strengthened resolve to do everything possible to hang on to those last threads of his humanity. The Hunted continues with Rane’s search for Babayon, the man with whom he has pinned his hopes for a reversal, or at the very least a release from the spell that has his soul forever fused to his weapon. And with that the curse that comes with the binding.
Nathaniel’s search takes a small detour when he can’t ignore a family in trouble. At the risk of his anonymity, he takes on the job of helping them cross the steppes.
When trouble comes knocking, the fact he is a Legionnaire, becomes all too obvious – setting the Inquisitors; a cult-like society that hunts down people like Rane (and anyone, really, that doesn’t fit in their parameters of what they feel is right) on his trail once again.
We have two POVs in this story Rane, and Sister Sarah.
Rane, of course, we know, but Sarah gives us a side of the world that we didn’t get much of last time around. The last book was Rane only, and focused on his journey – the past, how he got where he is, the demons he is battling (inside and out), and how to accomplish that goal.
This time around, Rane’s story didn’t feel so much like it was broken into different acts/parts of the decline into losing his soul. He is still struggling, don’t get me wrong. But the goal is clearer in his mind. Though, he has moments that are close. He feels much more like he has a firm grasp on what he has to do, and is better at finding ways around not using his sword. He is holding onto his humanity, with every last bit of his will that he can.
Sister Sarah is an Inquisitor. While she is more sympathetic in the beginning than some of her fellow inquisitors, she is also in a position to take over as Priestess – if she does everything right. This goal forces her to put aside her concerns with some of the Inquisitors’ practices, which don’t always sit well in her heart.
Part of her character’s journey is the push and pull of what her church is telling her is right, and knowing deep down that some of their doctrines, feel inhuman and can’t be right.
In some ways, her struggle felt harder than Rane’s, maybe because we can see so much of the truth that she isn’t quite willing to see yet. As the story goes, that hope that she will allow herself to see the wrongness – that the monsters they’re hunting, maybe aren’t as monstrous as the people who are hunting them – feels like it gets further from happening. It was close with her; I was starting to hate her inability to see past her religion and I wanted badly to smack some sense into her, and her church.
The fight scenes are clear, quick, and actiony. As a fight movie lover – I just can’t say enough about them. I loved the extra-worrying element in these fights with the chance of Rane, or of his weapon, being thrown out of range of each other and him dying of his accumulated injuries. The fusing keeps him nearly immortal as long as the sword is near, making for some of the most stressful, but fun reading ever.
The Hunter felt a little more hopeful and had less of a darker, desperate tone than He Who Fights – like we went from The Raid, to John Wick, in tone, not a lot lighter but definitely a little different in feeling.
We are left with a sense that Rane, could actually win this fight against himself, and find Babayon, and come out the other side, with his soul as his own.
Also, the story body/format (whatever it’s called) between the books went from a three-part act kind of idea in the first book, to a single-act feel in this one, which gives The Hunted more of a quick almost serialized feel. It’s a bit hard to explain as I am a non-writer. I think visually, so I often use movies as examples and I’m probably not making a bit of sense…
Anyway, it’s a style choice that trims some of the baggage and actually speeds up the feel of the story. So, if you read He Who Fights, and thought it was slower, or more introspective than you like – this style gives The Hunted this accelerated vibe which lends to that action-packed popcorn feel. You know, the one that makes you think, hey, this would make a great action-packed summer movie! And you’d be right.
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