The Demon Sword Asperides

 
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The Demon Sword Asperides
Age Range
9+
Release Date
July 11, 2023
ISBN
978-1643752785
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A scheming demon sword and a wannabe knight band together on a (possibly wicked) quest in this fantasy, perfect for fans of Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett.

For the past two hundred years, the demon sword Asperides has led a quiet life. While his physical form has been tasked with guarding the body of an evil sorcerer, the rest of his consciousness has taken a well-earned vacation. That constant need to trick humans into wielding him (at the price of their very souls, of course) was rather draining.

Nack Furnival, on the other hand, is far from satisfied with his existence. Nack has trained since birth to be a brave and noble knight—but, unfortunately, he isn’t especially good at it. Determined to prove his worth, Nack needs a quest. And to complete that quest, he’ll need the one thing no knight can do without: a sword.

When an attempt to resurrect the evil sorcerer throws Asperides into Nack’s path, the demon sword can’t help but trick the boy into making a contract to become his new owner. And with the newly undead (and very, very angry) sorcerer on their trail, Asperides and Nack find themselves swept up in a bigger adventure than either of them bargained for: saving the world.

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Discover your inner strength
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
The most innovative aspect of the book is having a demon sword as a main character, able to mentally communicate with a human main character named Nack. Asperides has been around for centuries and it’s used to being paired with ruthless, power-hungry men. Its primary goal is to trap captured souls and send them into the depths of the underworld. Asperides draws magical power from these souls which it uses to slay and reek chaos. An intriguing twist occurs when a wanna-be young knight in training becomes the sword’s new partner to rescue two female knights in danger. Readers will wonder what’s going to happen when a kind, young boy becomes the partner of a rare, terrifying demon sword.
Nack battles an internal conflict throughout the plot. He displays compassion for an enemy early on but he’s shunned by his family for the kind act. His major motivation after that is obtaining an angel blade, completing a brave quest, and then being welcomed back into his family. However, Asperides calls Nack a coward when the boy fails to decisively kill human opponents and Nack suffers from self-doubt. He still stands up for defenseless women and children by slaying demon creatures and he tries to behave kindly toward others. His ultimate goal is to be welcomed back home but he’s shocked when he enters the castle of the family’s nemesis to rescue his older brother. Despite being the master of a demon sword, the anguish, confusion, and insecurity within Nack’s mind add complexities to the story.
The conflict tying the entire plot together involves Asperides’s former, undead master and his plan to return to power. Amyral schemes to regain possession of the demon sword and retrieve his soul from the deepest depths of hell. Readers will wonder what will happen since Nack and Amyral have been partnered with the same sword. Who is the rightful master of Asperides? Amyral’s plot will culminate when the Missing Moon returns after two thousand years so the story has a built-in countdown clock. Amyral is aided by a young necromancer and her presence contributes additional twists to the plot.
What didn’t work as well:
Some readers might question the pace of the plot and Nack sometimes comes across as whiny. However, readers must appreciate the evolution of the characters in addition to the quest to stop Amyral. There’s no continuous action and the battles aren’t overly descriptive but the changes in personalities, attitudes, and self-images are what’s important.
The final verdict:
This book is a finalist for the 2023 Cybils Award in Elementary/Middle-grade Speculative Fiction. Nack, Asperides, and others are dynamic characters and undergo realizations and transformations throughout the book. Their emotional adventures will engross young readers as they try to stop Amyral from releasing swarms of demons from the underworld. Overall, this is an innovative twist on familiar middle-grade quests and I recommend you give it a shot.
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Perfect for Fans of Howl's Moving Castle
Overall rating
 
4.0
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4.0
Characters
 
4.0
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4.0
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Make way for a newer and so much cooler Howl's Moving Castle, without Howl of course. And Calcifer is a sword. And Sophie is a a young boy named Nack Furnival, who wants to be knight instead of a hatter.

The Demon Sword Asperides by Sarah Jean Horwitz is a middle grade fantasy that follows the dual perspectives of Nack Furnival, a boy aspiring to be a world famous knight, and (you guessed it) the demon sword Asperides. Trying to prove his worth, Nack sets off a quest that will finally prove his worth. But not without a sword, of course. When an attempt to resurrect the evil sorcerer Asperides has been trying to guard goes awry, he is thrown into Nack's path. Thus he has no choice but to make a deal with Nack, in order to save the world from the newly awoke evil sorcerer. No big deal, right.

What I loved most about Horwitz's work is the tone it presents the story in. Most fantasy stories presenting plot lines like these, will set it up to be much darker and grittier. But The Demon Sword Asperides is witty and fun. But still doesn't hold back it's punches with the more darker side of life. And you can't exactly go wrong with the set of characters Horwitz provides. I will forever loved Nack and Asperides, and the only way you'll get to them is by prying them from my cold dead fingers.

I feel like this book is a perfect firs step into fantasy for an reader, big or small. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a great need to track down Horwitz's last book, The Dark Lord Clementine.
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User reviews

1 review
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0(1)
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5.0(1)
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5.0(1)
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5.0(1)
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Loved This One
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
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5.0
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5.0
A while back, a child me scoured the library for books by Lloyd Alexander, Diana Wynne Jones, Gerald Morris, and Jonathan Stroud. I absolutely adored the fantasy worlds they created with snarky sidekicks/mentors, damsels who got their heroes out of distress just as much as they found themselves in it, and very grey ideas of who the bad or good guys really are. "The Demon Sword Asperides" felt like coming home to all those stories in a bright, shiny new package.

Nack Furnival may only be thirteen years old, but he's already very much down on his luck. Cast out of House Furnival for sparing an ally of the enemy, he's now on the lookout for a quest to restore his honor and be welcomed back within his family. Now, if only he could find a new sword. Or, even better, learn to fight with one...

Enter Asperides, a demon sword who has been content with lounging in the pubs of hell and just enjoying a break from entrapping souls from which to draw his power. When that existence becomes threatened by the reanimation of his most recent master, the ruthless, Amyral Venir, Asperides finds himself drawn back in to the world of the living, and drawn to a certain bumbling would-be knight...

If the summary alone didn't sell it, the book was great fun and chock full of humor and derring-do. Asperides is the perfect sarcastic deuteragonist, much like a certain dwarf from Game of Thrones if you prefer the works of George RR Martin, or like Bartimaeus if, like myself, you hold fond memories of Stroud's work. The cover art may be reminiscent of early 2000s children's literature, but I feel the story can be enjoyed throughout the ages by all ages.

Thanks to the publisher, Hachette Books, for sending me a free copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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