The 19th Bladesman Review

The 19th Bladesman Review | S.J Hartland

I’m exploring a new fantasy world today by dipping into S.J Hartland’s writing – a new author for me. I didn’t know what to expect with this one, but I loved it: the characters are possibly some of the best I’ve read when it comes to rooting for your tortured hero. Keep reading for my full review on The 19th Bladesman.

Publisher: Dark Blade Publishing | Date: 2018| Genre: Fantasy

Plot: His duty is to die young, but fate has something far more lethal in mind

If Kaell breaks, the kingdom breaks with him. And prophecy says the 19th Bladesman will break …

The Bonded Warrior …

Kill. Die young. That’s what a swordsman bonded to the ancient gods does. Without expecting praise from the man who trained him to survive this centuries-old, malignant war against the inhuman followers of an invincible lord. But Kaell wants more. More of Val Arques’ attention, his approval. Just more.

The fire dancer …

Ice lord, spy, Heath never loses a fire dance. Yet he longs to know that thrill of danger down his spine as he kills for his god, to fight a warrior who might, just might be better than him.

The broken …

Val Arques is a bladesman of formidable power entrusted not only with Kaell’s life but with the truth that will destroy him. Banished to a grim outpost of this doomed kingdom of sorcery, poetry and treachery, he cannot afford to care about the young warrior. For love means loss. And Val Arques has a shameful secret …

A kingdom on the edge of chaos …

As a vengeful god escapes his ancient prison and Kaell is drawn into his web of deception, even Val Arques can’t protect him from the dark prophecy awaiting him. Because you can’t flee fate unless you’re willing to do the unthinkable.

I received The 19th Bladesman from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The 19th Bladesman book Review

The 19th Bladesman Review

The 19th Bladesman caught my attention on Netgalley, then I left it sitting on my shelf for an age. Oh, do I regret that.

I loved this book.

Okay, yes, it might fall into some typical fantasy clichés: the majority of the protagonists are male, and the female characters – while strong in their own way – are deceived by those they fall in love with. The themes reminded me of Robin Hobb’s work – which I thoroughly enjoy.

But the characters are so lovable it doesn’t feel like you’re revisiting a familiar story.


Kaell is the chosen one: appointed by the Gods to fight ghouls and keep the land safe. But being taken hostage by his enemy never was part of the plan and Kaell must come to terms with what he is prepared to do to survive. Kaell has both the biggest and smallest part to play: he’s essential to events spiralling out of control but there reached a point when I wondered if he could go more than a page without being taken prisoner.

The thud in his chest belted ribs. Breathe. Decide. Do nothing and achieve nothing. More words from the past when he trained as a Serravan warrior. Indecision is action’s enemy.

The 19th bladesman by Sj Hartland

I’ve never come across a hero with such vulnerabilities before. It’s more rare in this sort of book where the hero is allowed to show those vulnerabilities, and the need to protect Kaell is overwhelming at time!

Val is not cold: he’s afraid. Afraid of what letting love in will do. Val is a man with a history – a far longer one than any mortal man should boast of. He must train Kaell, keep him alive, and find a way to stop the boy entering his heart.

Aric faces an impossible challenge when his sister is kidnapped by ghouls: kill a stranger (Kaell) or sacrifice his little sister. But fate has other plans and Aric survives torture and impossible odds to fight another day.

Heath is a more complicated character: despite his arrogance, he’s still likeable, but it’s never as clear what is driving him.


If I could have the entire book of Kaell and Aric, it would be an amazing story. The banter between these two, even when held prisoner and facing execution, is brilliant, adding a sharp relief into an otherwise tense situation.

The characterisations of each of these men draw you into the book. You want them all to come out on top, even when they are on opposing sides. They are open and vulnerable, honest in their own ways.

The dialogue is full of banter and torment, breaking the tension at times and your heart at others.

The characters make the book.


The plot is full of tension and betrayal, heartbreak, surrender and battles. It’s not a short book and there are times when the plot itself doesn’t seem to be moving on due to following these multiple character-arcs, with some flashes back to the past to explain how they got to where they are now. At these points, it felt the book could do with being a fraction shorter, but I remained engrossed and engaged the entire way through.

A strong recommendation from here, and I’m really looking forward to reading the second.

Have you read anything by this author before? Do you like the sound of this series?

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23 thoughts on “The 19th Bladesman Review | S.J Hartland

  1. This sounds like a great addition to the fantasy genre and has some interesting characterisations and more complex male characters, with them being portrayed as open and vulnerable which sometimes doesn’t happen in this genre, glad to hear that the book kept you engrossed, it’s always nice when you get sucked into a book like this. Thanks for sharing xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I adore a good character book; strong people and vivid quirks always drive a story in my mind, even if the tale itself is not perfect. Since I have found most new books these days to have female heroines, I am always on the hunt for some male-driven fantasy!


  3. I read this book too, a year ago, I and loved it. I agree with you, Kaell is so vulnerable. All he wants his Val’s love but time and again gets only a stiff look from him. Good review, Lindsey. 🙂


  4. I love books that the characters really make what they are! Also had that experience with a book this year that I’d left on my bookshelf for years and regretted it when I realised how good it was!


    • The good thing, though, is that not only is book two out, but book three is on it’s way as well, so now I don’t have to wait so long to find out what happens next, aha!


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