Kerr recreates the feeling of that rose-tinted romp, full of triumph and camaraderie ... a lovely quest with an ever-optimistic, wholeheartedly enthusiastic crew of brilliant women and chivalrous men ... Kerr spends just enough time describing the world to let the reader know the important points ... there’s enough anachronistic attachment to writing, laws and education to make the plot an intriguing mix of political protest, violence and legal procedure ... With a lightly magical, extremely familiar setting and lovable cast of characters, Kerr sets out to take the reader through the Kingdom of Deverry’s evolution to a (hopefully) more just world. She doles out plot points via chatty gossip between noble families and secret messages sent by way of servants. At no point, however, does Sword of Fire contain any real tension. Kerr tells a delightful, relentlessly joyful story; all anxiety is resolved within six pages of its introduction ... Meandering through the pages of Kerr’s Sword of Fire was escapism of the finest quality. For readers looking for a dark drama of epic proportions, these 380 pages will hold nothing for you. Here, you will only find charming banter, happy endings and optimism in prose form.
Kerr gives equal attention to multiple characters and plotlines alongside Alyssa’s mission, none of which are fully developed; pacing is leisurely, and most of the action is political. Sword of Fire will appeal most to serious Deverry fans, but readers who like courtly fantasy and intricate politics may also enjoy.
The book serves as a pointed rebuke to other high-fantasy series that posit that the same feudal society has existed for unchanging centuries; Deverry is evolving in a plausible and intriguing way, with its university system, controversy regarding and prejudice against increased possibilities for women, and a struggle for rights for the common people. People who haven’t read the previous 15 books will probably be able to jump in here and enjoy the experience, but they will definitely miss various nuances, references, and cameos from several long-lived characters and their descendants that devoted fans will just love ... Covers all the bases: a welcome return to a long-beloved world that also takes the story in a fresh direction.