Today I am excited to be joining the blog tour organised by Escapist Book Tours for C.M. Caplan’s debut novel, The Sword in the Street. This book has been on my radar since I took part in the Cover Reveal back in January 2021, so I was very happy to finally move it to the top of my TBR pile. Please check out the posts from the other bloggers/bookstagrammers/podcasters on this tour. Thank you to Justin and Sara of Escapist Book Tours for having me along on this tour!
The Sword in the Street by C.M. Caplan
Intended Age Group: 18+
Published: March 3rd, 2021
Cover Illustration: Felix Ortiz (https://www.artstation.com/felixortiz)
Cover Design: Ken Dawson (https://ccovers.co.uk/)
Shown on Page:
- Abuse – Never shown on the page, but an important aspect to the backgrounds of each main character
- Rape – It is never directly depicted, though the victim recounts the events during a monologue about halfway through.
Trial by battle is a holy rite on Hillside.
Hired blades bleed their foes in savage duels, settling everything from petty grievances to the corporate laws that keep their citizens in line. Embroiled in these cutthroat political games is John Chronicle, an impoverished swordsman with no better prospects, seeking the duel that will free him from the Dregs.
Meanwhile, John’s boyfriend Edwin, an autistic university student, befriends a fellow scholar who claims to study the arcane art of thaumaturgy. When she offers to teach Edwin this subtle magic, he hopes that he can use it to bolster John’s skill with a blade. But thaumaturgy is a dangerous magic, and the forces that drive it have other plans.
The couple soon find themselves entangled in the web of intrigue surrounding the swordsmen and their sponsors, and they’re forced to question how bloody they’re willing to get to escape poverty — and they don’t come away with the same answer.
I was sent both a paperback and digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author C. M. Caplan and to Escapist Book tours.
The Sword in the Street is a standalone gaslamp low fantasy, with plenty of sword fighting, a touch of magic, great characterisation and world building that helps to drop the reader right into the story’s locations to experience the sights and sounds of the Dregs, The Stacks and the more well-to-do area of Hillside. One of the main characters, John Chronicle currently lives in the Dregs, near to the docks, but dreams of being able to afford an apartment in the slightly nicer part of town called The Stacks. At least it wouldn’t smell as bad away from the docks:
The stink of decaying merbrides festered on the docks outside his house. The stench filtered through the broken walls. John could see them through his window. What remained of the creatures sat squat on the docks overnight, as big as boulders. The white cages of their bones would be gone by the first fingers of sunlight.
The debut for indie author C. M. Caplan, The Sword in the Street focuses on the relationship between the main characters of John Chronicle, a swordsman, and his beloved Edwin Gaunt, an autistic student at the local university who knows all about the laws affecting swordsmen, thanks to his studies, and who tries to use this knowledge to promote the possibility of humble swordsmen working for themselves as independent freeblades rather than being sponsored by and beholden to one particular noble patron. The story itself is set in a world in which disputes between noble houses are settled via duels between sponsored swordsmen with writs detailing the charges (taking the place of modern day lawyers). John Chronicle is one such swordsman in the employ of Lordess Triumph. Edwin, John’s partner, has discovered a loophole during his studies, whereby these swordsmen should be able to work as freeblades if the Council will pass the required law. John attacks someone he believes raped his friend Aubrey, an action that lands him in jail.
The story is not really the main focus of this book, I felt that it was more about the relationships between the main characters and all of the nuance involved in making such relationships work, particularly when your worldview is slightly ‘off-kilter’ when compared to the majority of other people. One of the author’s particular strengths as a writer lies in his characterisation – particularly of the neuro-diverse student, Edwin Gaunt. I felt like I was being given an expert insight into the way the mind can work for a sector of the population that is often misunderstood and misrepresented. Edwin is constantly second-guessing himself and in need of confirmation from others that he is acting or thinking in an acceptable manner. He uses the drug ‘Ash’ to help calm him down and regulate his chaotic emotions when they start to spiral out of control.
“Your feelings exist, sitting inside you, whether you want them to be there or not. All you can do is choose how you react to them.”
There is a magic system in The Sword in the Street – that of thaumaturgy – where letters are used to draw a sigil, which is then charged with an intent via pain or pleasure. Aubrey teaches Edwin how to do this, who then uses it to save John’s life but is unsure whether it actually worked or was coincidental. Aubrey is more convinced by the power of thaumaturgy.
“Magic doesn’t let you do things that are impossible. God’s ruined corpse, it doesn’t even let you do the things that are improbable. It’s about taking your desires and calling on the Else to help you make it probable.”
This book is distinctive in its representation of both an autistic protagonist, other psychologically damaged characters, and also that of a gay couple as main characters. I highly recommend it to all fantasy fans who want to embrace diversity. It might possibly challenge you and make you reconsider some of your opinions…
About the Author
C.M. Caplan is a quadruplet (yes, really), mentally disabled, and he spent two years as the Senior Fiction Editor on a national magazine while he was still an undergrad in college.
He has a degree in creative writing and was the recipient of his university’s highest honor in the arts. His short fiction also won an Honorable Mention in the 2019 Writers of the Future Contest. His debut novel, The Sword in the Street, was a 2021 SPFBO semifinalist.
He currently lives in New England.
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