Akiri: The Sceptre of Xarbaal by Brian D Anderson and Steven Saville. Book review

Akiri: The Sceptre of Xarbaal by Brian D Anderson and Steven Savile, Longfire Press, 2016

Reviewed by Shona Kinsella

Akiri is a strong, traditional sword and sorcery novel that pulled me through the pages. Set on a secondary world, this a classic example of sword and sorcery and quest fantasy with some strong world-building.

Akiri is the commander of the Dul’Buhar and his king’s most loyal servant. Born into a world torn apart by war, brainwashed by his training in the Dul’Buhar, he does not question his king when he is sent on a mission to retrieve the Scepter of Xarbaal – a relic of the gods themselves, designed to wipe out mortal life.

Through his journey, Akiri learns more of his own past and his king’s and he begins to experience doubt. He is changed by the other characters that he meets – first a dragon and then his own uncle – although I would have liked to see doubt set in a little sooner. There was an opportunity to make Akiri struggle a little more, internally, that I feel was missed. Although it’s possible that the authors chose to sacrifice that internal story line in order to keep the breakneck pace which they succeeded at very well.

The pace may also explain why the characters, especially Akiri, are relatively shallow. We are given a skilled soldier and loyal servant and that’s about it. Akiri shows very little introspection and fails to consider the consequences of his actions for anyone other than himself and his mission. However, knowing this about Akiri, the reader is able to extrapolate from the common character type to know what kind of man Akiri is. He’s a Hero – but not necessarily a good man.

This is not a deep or challenging read but it is full of action, has some great world-building (I particularly liked the different races that people the world and the hints at the wider cultures) and great use of language. It’s a strong opener for a series and I liked the fact that several plot threads were left unresolved for future books, although the main story was concluded, meaning that this can be read as a standalone.

Often when authors collaborate on a work, there are shifts in voice, tell-take signs of who has written which section. In this case, the book is edited really well to carry the same voice throughout and I actually forgot it had been written by two people, which is really skillful. I’ve added both of these authors to my TBR list and I’ll be looking forward to seeing what is next for Akiri.