Have Sword, Will Travel – Garth Nix and Sean Williams

The seventh son of a miller, Odo has little expectation of life and few goals other than not to be a miller and to get out of the village of Lenburh; his best friend, Eleanor, daughter of Symon, an apothecary and herbalist, at least has a specific ambition, wishing to follow in the footsteps of her late mother and become a knight, forever seeking adventure.

The river which supplies the village water and turns the mill having dropped to a trickle, Lenburh and the surrounding townships are threatened but neither Odo nor Eleanor suspect it will fall to them to find the source until one day, while fishing for eels in Dragonfoot Hollow, Odo spots the gleam of polished metal in the mud, an ancient enchanted sword who awakens at his touch.

Hildebrand Shining Foebiter is his name, a damaged relic of another time who speaks in a bold Gothic script, with gaps in his memory but still determined and wilful Biter promptly knights “Sir Odo” and demands he and Eleanor, charged to be “his squire,” undertake a quest into the mountains north of Lenburh to track the diminishing source of the Silverrun.

Written by Garth Nix and Sean Williams, unlike the sluggish and muddy Silverrun the twists of Have Sword, Will Travel are swift and always pushing forward as Odo, Eleanor and Biter travel beyond the familiar lands of home, meeting travellers and encountering dangers and learning how to duel and when to avoid a fight if there is a better choice and earning their way through good deeds repaid in food and armour.

The rumour is that the blockage upstream has been engineered by the legendary and fearsome dragon Quenwulf, but there are many challenges even before they come within her desolate realm in the mountains, and sometimes those whose appearance is sinister can be trusted more than those who present themselves as friends, a lesson which must be learned more than once at increasing cost.

Although the prose style could not be more different there are aspects of Have Sword, Will Travel which remind of the grandfather of all urban fantasy, Alan Garner’s classic The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, in the goblin-like nocturnal urthkin, the passage across field and forest, the quest of the two young and inexperienced though brave heroes as they learn the stories of the land, its people and its history and themselves as they find their place within it, guided by ancient magic.

Odo thirteen years old though tall and strong for his age, a misfit in his village as much as Eleanor, Have Sword, Will Travel, is perfect reading for that age, with likeable characters with a strong sense of responsibility, a healthy friendship and a conviction to do what is right, their adventures soon to continue in Let Sleeping Dragons Lie, published simultaneously.

Have Sword, Will Travel is available now from Piccadilly Press