Coming at you today with a middling middle-grade fantasy.
Have Sword, Will Travel By Garth Nix and Sean Williams
My Edition: Paperback – 274 pages – 2017 – Scholastic – ISBN: 9780545259071
Odo and Eleanor stumble upon a magical, talking sword named Biter and much to Eleanor’s dismay, Odo finds himself knighted while she’s dubbed his squire. Eleanor is the one who longs to become a knight, following in the footsteps of her mother, while Odo isn’t quite sure what he’s seeking – but it’s certainly not knighthood! Biter coerces the two into a grand adventure to save their town and the realm by finding the cause of the recent water shortage.
I picked this up because I’m a big fan of Nix’s work (and middle-grade fantasy) and it was…meh.
Odo and Eleanor are likable enough, though I didn’t really connect or empathize with them. I did appreciate the tension surrounding Eleanor’s desire to be a knight and the jealousy she experienced at Odo’s suddenly becoming one. Yet, she never sabotaged his efforts at learning swordcraft from Biter and was a constant support, all while watching what Biter taught Odo and committing it to memory. The two have their tiffs, but there are no major betrayals or drama because more than they want adventure or peace and quiet, they value their friendship. I enjoyed how, while reluctant to become a knight, Odo did his best to be strong and just.
I did highlight one quote where Odo is talking about wanting to give the sword to a real knight:
“So you want to be a miller?” asked Eleanor.
“It’s all I know.”
“That doesn’t answer the question.”
I think that’s a good point for everyone to remember – you don’t have to become something just because that’s all you know. You can learn to be something more.
Biter, the talking sword, both bored and annoyed me. Also, to emphasize his deep and magical voice, they used a very stylized font. While I appreciate the idea, at times it was hard to read. I wish they’d just used bold or something.
The end turned out a little differently than I suspected, so that was interesting, I guess. But really, nothing about the characters, plot or writing really grabbed me. I think this is better suited to the younger end of middle-grade audiences. It’s probably a good starting point for young readers who are comfortable with chapter books but aren’t ready to tackle anything too lengthy or complex yet. I’m not sure how else to say that – I feel like that comes across as an insult, but I don’t mean it that way. This is a solid book, but not one that I’ll hang on to.