Cassandra Clare began teasing Sword Catcher’s publication years ago, and I have been waiting in the shadows reading every one of her newsletters to track the book’s progress. Now that it’s here, it doesn’t feel real, but I am so happy it is. I devoured this book and must now convince you to read it so I am not alone with my thoughts. Whether you fancy character-driven stories, intricate worldbuilding, or are just here for political shenanigans, Sword Catcher is perfect for you and I know it.
A deafening roar erupts through the square as the citizens of Castellane catch a glimpse of Prince Conor Aurelian. The handsome young man before them looks, sounds, and acts like the prince, it is but a bit of magic averting their eyes from seeing the truth. It is not the prince but his Sword Catcher, Kel, standing in for him in case anyone in the crowd has ill intentions toward the royal heir. As Kel addresses the crowd, a young Ashkar woman fights against the masses to usher her sick friend to safety. Lin Caster has once again been turned away from the knowledge she seeks to heal her friend but nothing will sour her determination. Something powerful is stirring in Castellane, and Kel and Lin are creating trouble as they put their lives on the line to protect their charges. Whether it’s out of duty or for love, they begin to bend and break the rules all the while becoming entangled in the prophesized downfall of the Aurelians of Castellane.
The story is told through two POVs—the Sword Catcher, Kel, and an Ashkar physician, Lin Caster. Each character gives us a unique perspective of the events unfolding around Castellane. Kel is our window into the palace and the royal family as well as the rich, influential Charter Families that live on The Hill. Lin takes the reader into the Sault and introduces us to the Ashkar, their beliefs, and their ostracized place in society. Kel and Lin’s worlds intersect in places that I won’t spoil for you, but what you need to know is that their perspective unwraps one of the best gifts this book has to offer: Prince Conor. The prince does not grace us with a POV, yet Kel and Lin bring him to life in a vibrant way. We don’t get to see inside Conor’s head, but it was a fascinating experience getting to piece this person together from the interactions he has with the people around him. Not all can be revealed through Kel’s and Lin’s eyes because Conor is unpredictable and keeps things close to his chest these days. But I love watching his secrets spill out between the two perspectives. Each POV gives us a puzzle piece, and it allows us to put together a picture of the confusing, capricious prince that kept me on my toes throughout the entire book.
If you love political intrigue, you will absolutely revel in the machinations within Castellane. There are forces outside and within the kingdom that are putting pressure on the royal family’s hold on the city. External forces come in the form of tenuous relationships and trade systems that have been built between Castellane and countless other kingdoms. The Sarthe and Malgasi kingdoms are prominent players in this book, but Clare has revealed a vast world of other powers that no doubt will become known to us later in the series. Castellane is a complicated port town that is home to many groups with varying interests as well. The royal family bestows coveted trade charters among the rich and powerful families who are a political force of chaos all on their own. The kingdom has also opened its doors to the Ashkar, magic users who have been seeking sanctuary for generations since losing their homeland. And then there is the Ragpicker King, who rules the Castellane underground and serves as a prominent crime boss who keeps tabs on everything. Castellane is a melting pot bubbling over, and Clare expertly sows chaos between the varying groups.
Kel and Lin are strange reflections of one another. Both are individuals familiar with sacrifice, and their thoughts and actions are guided by their ability to protect another person. As the Sword Catcher, Kel exists to be the prince’s shield and serve as a living target to suffer and potentially die so that the royal heir may survive. Lin became a physician in hopes of finding a cure for her best friend’s mysterious illness. Kel was not forced to be Sword Catcher, but when he faced a future of poverty and crime, an extravagant life serving the royal family was hard to turn down. On the other hand, Lin was so driven to help Mariam that she pursued an occupation unheard of for an Ashkar woman and sought special approval from the Ashkar leader to study medicine. Kel cannot truly be seen or known, and he becomes a ghost of himself because Prince Conor must come before all things. While Lin is unapologetically herself and pushes through the world despite it not wanting to make room for her. Both characters are making sacrifices for others but the reasons and circumstances are wildly different. It’s interesting to see their motivations become entangled in something so much bigger than themselves, and we get to discover just how far they will go to protect the ones they love.
If you’re new to Cassandra Clare or consider yourself an avid Shadowhunter fan, you will have an incredible time with Sword Catcher. Clare expertly builds the world and entraps you in it with characters you would literally do anything for. If you’re not a character reader, Clare can turn you into one because no one can pull you under the weight of deep, meaningful, and painful relationships like she can. And if that isn’t enough for you, Castellane has plenty of secrets for you to uncover. Now start reading, so we can discuss theories for the next three years until we are blessed with book two.
Rating: Sword Catcher – 10/10