A sword of with a falcon-shaped handle is surrounded by a column of flame.

About the Book

Title: Blade of Secrets (Bladesmith #1)
Published: 2021
Series: Bladesmith
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Fantasyyyyy! *Jazz Hands*
BFF Charm: Peas In A Pod
Talky Talk: Familiarly Fun
Bonus Factors: Smithing, Found Family
Relationship Status: Travel Companions

Cover Story: Fantasyyyyy! *Jazz Hands*

I joke, but as “classic fantasy” as an image of a cool sword is, it’s refreshingly different than the cartoon covers trend we’ve seen permeating every genre of publishing lately, so I’ll take it! And to be fair, that is a pretty badass hilt. If I could wield a sword with any kind of expertise, I wouldn’t be ashamed to have that sitting at my hip.

The Deal:

Magic was once outlawed in Ghadra—a country once united and now separated into six provinces, each ruled by the former king’s children—and mages were hunted and killed. But times are a-changing, and since there aren’t many magic-users left, Ziva’s talent with imbuing magic with weaponry means she is a hot commodity known throughout the land. As someone who struggles with social anxiety and would much prefer the solitude of her forge to dealing with, well, anyone, Ziva could care less about her social stature and leaves the customer interactions to her sister, Temra.

But then she catches the eye of Kymora, the old king’s former general, who now runs the largest mercenary army that roams the six provinces unchecked. Initially, Ziva is drawn to Kymora’s confidence and admiration for her work, but after creating a broadsword so powerful it can cut enemies without a touch and steals their very secrets from their minds, Ziva realizes that no one, especially Kymora, should have such absolute power within their grasp.

Along with her sister and a few other surprise companions, Ziva leaves in the middle of the night, determined to find a way to destroy her own creation. But Kymora won’t let go that easily, and the road isn’t a tranquil place for someone like Ziva.

BFF Charm: Peas In A Pod

BFF Charm 2 Peas in a Pod - 2 BFF charms nestled in a pea pod

I will not pretend that I have anywhere near the level of anxiety Ziva feels in social situations, for which I am grateful, BUT I can totally relate to feeling uncomfortable in large groups, constantly second-guessing what you said, finding the right words one-on-one with someone you find intimidating (in a good or bad way), needing time alone, etc. etc. I’m an introvert who has definitely had to talk myself into attending certain events, or, heck, leaving the house on my own, and it was at once so nice to see that in fiction and so frustrating to watch Ziva go through this (because logically I know it’s FINE but anxiety isn’t always logical). Social issues aside, Ziva is hard-working, a bit naïve but loyal, and I’d be honored if she felt comfortable enough around me to call me a friend.

Also, shout-out to her sis, Temra, as she is a great sister and all-around cool-ass chick. She gets an honorary BFF charm too!

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Since she’s so withdrawn from people, Ziva doesn’t have any romantic experience and hasn’t really ever felt attracted to anyone….UNTIL she sees the fine, golden-red haired specimen that is sellsword Kellyn. Their first interaction, as she and Temra are fleeing town and decide to hire a very drunk Kellyn to protect them, dulls the shine of him in her eyes, but by the time the book is done I was half in love with him myself. There are some great tropey moments to be found within the pages that I don’t want to spoil, but Levenseller does the blush of first love—and, more specifically, respectful yet cocky and hottie love interests—SO WELL.

Talky Talk: Familiarly Fun

As far as the general plot goes, if you’re a fantasy reader: you’ve read this before. This is a “run from the bad guys, make some new friends, journey around the kingdom—oops, something goes wrong and we gotta run again” kinda book. I, for one, like those a lot, and there’s something about Levenseller’s writing that I have consistently been drawn to, so picking this up was an obvious choice for me. Levenseller gave her story enough fresh details with things like Ziva’s social anxiety and blacksmith skills to keep me interested and wondering what would be next. It’s an easy, well-written read with likeable characters and two sweet burgeoning romances—it’s not going to reinvent the wheel or give you the most amazing world-building or most jaw-dropping reveals, but it’s familiar and comforting, and sometimes that’s exactly what I want!

(And luckily for me, because I waited so long to pick this up, the second part of this duology is coming out in May 2022 so there isn’t long to wait to see the resolution!)

Bonus Factor: Smithing

A person stands over a hot forge with tongs as a huge flame of fire spurts up.

Metalworking is so fascinating. It’s often a very “masculine” coded job, but I loved how in Levenseller’s world this isn’t something people care about (they are, however, mistrustful of magic in general). I can only think of one other female character who specialized in metal and magic from another feminist writer, Tamora Pierce, and that’s Daja from her The Circle of Magic series. (In film, I immediately thought of Kate in A Knight’s Tale.) In addition, the way Ziva’s magic imbues the weapons she creates with different powers (a mace that can steal your breath, daggers that can shatter objects) is a fun and unique ability.

Bonus Factor: Found Family

Characters Jen Jack and Grams from Dawson's Creek standing together

Ziva only has Temra as their parents were killed when they were young, so as she begins to open up to her travel companions and form bonds, it’s very sweet to see. I love a good friends-to-family trope.

Relationship Status: Travel Companions

I wouldn’t be any good in a fight on the road, Book, but I’d be honored if you let me come along on your journey! I know there’s miles to go—and more stories to tell—before our time together is done.

Literary Matchmaking

Seafire (Seafire #1)

For a seafaring fantasy featuring a rag-tag found family, Natalie C. Parker’s Seafire offers a more confident main character but just as much heart.

Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)

I’m still waiting for ALL the books to release before I binge the rest of Susan Dennard’s The Witchlands series, but you may not be as weird about these things, so go and enjoy Truthwitch!

Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles #1)

Another stellar fantasy with the found family trope and people on the run is the series that begins with Finnikin of the Rock from the insanely talented Melina Marchetta.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Feiwel & Friends. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Blade of Secretsis available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.