May 07, 2024

Five Broken Blades

By Mai Corland
Review by
Mai Corland’s new fantasy novel will thrill fans of Six of Crows.
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A hitman. A thief. A poisoner. A hunter. A spy. Five of the deadliest individuals in the kingdom of Yusan have all been assigned the same mission: Kill the king.

Under the name Meredith Ireland, author Mai Corland has written a number of beloved children’s and young adult novels including The Jasmine Project and Emma and the Love Spell. With Five Broken Blades, her adult fantasy debut, Corland takes readers to a much darker place. The kingdom of Yusan is wilting. People are starving, and murder and exploitation have become the standard for survival. Above the mayhem sits King Joon, cruel and apathetic, a god king made immortal by the Dragon Lord’s crown. King Joon should be unkillable. But several of his subjects, who range from wealthy nobles to poor orphans, are desperate enough to call on one of the blades to try.

Five Broken Blades alternates between the first-person perspectives of Corland’s full cast, introducing readers to a vivid array of motives and backstories both converging and diverging. Although the shifting point of view takes a little getting used to, every protagonist is entertaining, with a rich internal monologue. The greatest benefit of Corland’s approach is that readers get to see how the characters view each other: What does the flighty thief think of her new bodyguard? Will the exiled hunter ever acknowledge the love he’s harbored for the man who betrayed him? How does the poisoner feel about reuniting with her childhood nemesis now that they’ve both grown up?

Corland’s novel is certainly ambitious, balancing amorous entanglements with friendships, sibling relationships, mentorships and rivalries. Readers follow the five blades through mountain passes, marketplaces, villas, gardens, backstreets and waterfronts, all the way to the palace where King Joon resides. Corland deftly establishes setting and conflict, and readers are able to fully immerse themselves in the story. Korean folklore serves as a source of inspiration for the realm, and it is a true delight when flashes of mythology shine through. Additionally, the book incorporates historical elements like the traditional gender roles of ancient Korea in order to offer commentary and explore the consequences of discriminatory power structures.

Five Broken Blades is daring, expansive and memorable. Although the protagonists are hardened criminals and professional killers, their vulnerability—and their struggles to be vulnerable—will have readers rooting for them from the beginning. This is a book to be consumed in one sitting, and will leave readers eager to hear more from a bold new voice.

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Five Broken Blades

Five Broken Blades

By Mai Corland
Entangled: Red Tower Books
ISBN 9781649376909

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