Swordheart is a romantic adventure novel by T Kingfisher (a.k.a. Ursula Vernon) set in the same world as the marvellous Clockwork Boys duology.
Halla, our heroine and a respectable widow, starts the novel locked up in her room, imprisoned by her awful relatives. Unfortunately, she has inherited a fortune after caring for a curmudgeonly collector and rogue uncle for years. Said relatives (by marriage) don't want to let the fortune leave the family, and so they are preparing to force her to marry her clammy-handed, limp cousin-in-law.
Seeing no other way out, she tries to kill herself with an old sword that has been hanging on the wall for years. Only, as she draws it, a warrior magically appears: Sarkis, servant of the sword, is sworn to protect its wielder.
Swordheart is a fairly straightforward romantic adventure. Halla is likeable, naive, filled with child-like curiosity and wonder, downtrodden and very not-confident. Sarkis is a fierce warrior, not blessed with the greatest patience in general (but a huge amount of patience with Halla, even if he tends to mutter under his breath and bang his head against any nearby solid surface a lot), and generally up-tight and upstanding and cut from the very same cloth as Clocktaur Wars' paladin character.
Their adventure is basically a journey along a road to the nearest town (some days' travel away) and the nearest city (a few more days of travel), and back. There's a lot of travelling along that one road in the story, with a few small and big adventures along the way.
Swordheart is a story on a different scale from other T Kingfisher and Ursula Vernon novels I have read. There's no big quest, no saving-the-world shenanigans, no ticking clock. Instead, it's a story of two characters, both eminently likeable, developing feelings for each other, while having a few adventures along the way. The book leaves and breathes with Halla and Sarkis and the reader's investment in them. They're likeable, but as currently bitter curmudgeon, I did not feel the "awwww" that I was supposed to feel. I would bet that other readers (and, I suspect, women readers in particular) will feel much more warming of their tender hearts at the book.
This book is made of fluffy huggy things and the old TV movie Pride & Prejudice moment when Colin Firth's Mr Darcy is shirtless and all flustered. Curmudgeons beware!
Fortunately, there is a gnole in the book (yay!), it is full of the author's delightful sense of humour, and the Vagrant Hills are awesome. Altogether, there's just enough swashbuckling mayhem and laughter to keep even curmudgeons like myself engaged and interested.
Rating: 3.5/5. A bit too sweet for my palate, but good.