Sword Daughter is a new series from Brian Wood and Mack Chater which is set in an older time and a faraway place. I talked to both creators about this series, which has an interesting samurai cinema approach that should make it all the more interesting. If you’re a fan of historical fiction this may be the book to buy this week.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The Forty Swords came at night and murdered the entire village, save for two people: the infant Elsbeth and her grief-stricken father, Dag. Setting off on a revenge quest that will span the width of Viking Age Europe, they find the key to repairing their damaged relationship lies in the swords they carry. Created by Brian Wood (Northlanders, The Massive, DMZ) and Mack Chater (Briggs Land, Lazarus), Sword Daughter is a visually stunning, emotionally poignant story of parental guilt and acceptance of loss.
Why does this matter?
The setup is great as it probes a broken man who lost his wife and the daughter who can’t believe how unheroic her dad has become. It’s a revenge tale about a man realizing his duties as a father and maybe, just maybe, how he gets his mojo back.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This isn’t Brian Wood’s first foray in historical fiction and it shows. It feels valid, real, and well researched. That’s partly thanks to Chater who makes the clothes, environments, and people realistic. It’s also because the narrative never strays from the relationship between the father and daughter. They’ve been through a lot in an uncompromising world. It’s a world where, if you don’t fight back you’ll be crushed.
Much of this issue is setting up the tragic loss this father and daughter went through and the delicate rebuilding they may never fully achieve. The daughter is strange, affected by her mother’s loss and father abandoning her emotionally, and only speaks in images. It’s a neat way to convey her disconnection from being a full person and also her alienation from her father. As the story progresses there’s some respect built, but the daughter is clearly wary of her father and his ability to do anything for her. It sets up what will be a fascinating relationship that will be tested be it combat, or just entering a civilized town.
Chater draws a great issue with beautiful environments. The land is stark, but still pretty due to his lines. Characters faces, even the little girl, are worn and cracked which helps convey how hard life is at the time. The flashbacks with the Forty Swords is creepy as hell, as if these men in masks were monsters. Chater creates a sense of wonderment about them as if they were demons incarnate. That helps build up the stakes and impending doom our main characters will be facing.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Four pages are devoted to the bastards who took this family’s town and mother/wife which isn’t quite enough. Told via flashbacks we never get a strong sense of who these ruffians are and are given the explanation of them going “viking for the pure pleasure of the slaughter.” That makes them rather faceless and inhuman. Maybe they are just monsters who like to kill, but that is a dangerous oversimplification that could hurt the story going forward. That said, because we only get details on them via flashbacks and recollections the story doesn’t quite feel started yet. The main characters are tracking them down, but who knows where they are or how long it might take to get to them. As it stands this is more of a character developing story rather than an action orientated story driven by plot.
Is it good?
This is a unique take on a familial duo we have yet to see. It’s like Lone Wolf and Cub was reversed and the child is more responsible and a lot angrier.
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