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A series of fantasy novels written by Fred Saberhagen between 1984 and 1999. A distant sequel to his Empire Of The East trilogy. The novels are as follows:
- 1st Book of Swords, 1984
- 2nd Book of Swords, 1985
- 3rd Book of Swords, 1985
- Each of these were complied into the Complete Book of Swords, 1985.
- 1st Book of Lost Swords: Woundhealer's Story, 1988
- 2nd Book of Lost Swords: Sightblinder's Story, 1988
- 3rd Book of Lost Swords: Stonecutter's Story, 1988
- 4th Book of Lost Swords: Farslayer's Story, 1989
- 5th Book of Lost Swords: Coinspinner's Story, 1989
- 6th Book of Lost Swords: Mindsword's Story, 1990
- 7th Book of Lost Swords: Wayfinder's Story, 1992
- Last Book of Lost Swords: Shieldbreaker's Story, 1993
The Gods decide to have a game. The playing pieces are humans, armed with 12 nigh-indestructible swords forged by Vulcan, imbued with unique powers.
Each sword is surgically sharp, perfectly crafted, and, as mentioned, nigh-invulnerable. Each also possesses a special ability unique to the sword. They may be identified by a symbol engraved in white upon their otherwise black hilt, or in the case of Soulcutter, a lack thereof.
- Coinspinner, the Sword of Chance.
- Symbol: A pair of dice.
- Pros: Provides unnaturally good luck to its bearer, and bad luck to his or her foes. Can also be used as a less-powerful version of Wayfinder (presumably by steering its bearer away from "unlucky" routes).
- Cons: If the bearer takes his eyes off Coinspinner, even for one second, it can disappear and reappear anywhere in the world, even into a rival's hands. It often inflicts bad luck on the former bearer before it goes, especially if the bearer tried to keep the sword from leaving.
- Doomgiver, the Sword of Justice.
- Symbol: A hollow circle.
- Pros: Turns any attack upon its bearer back onto the attacker.
- Cons: Destroyed by Shieldbreaker before we can see any.
- Dragonslicer, the Sword of Heroes.
- Symbol: A Stylized dragon.
- Pros: When used against a dragon it automatically guides its bearer to the most fatal spot, cutting though scales and limbs like butter.
- Cons: Provides no protection to the bearer. When used against anything non-dragon, it's just a very well-crafted sword.
- Farslayer, the Sword of Vengeance.
- Symbol: Concentric circles, similar to a bulls-eye.
- Pros: Swing the blade in a circle and wish to kill someone and the sword will shriek through the air, sending a rainbow trail behind, on a direct and unstoppable journey straight into its target's heart (or its equivalent).
- Cons: ...where it will stay. Which means that anyone nearby, say a distraught loved one, can use it. Against the person who used it last.
- Mindsword, the Sword of Glory (Or, pejoratively, "Skulltwister, the Sword of Madness")
- Symbol: A flying banner. The blade itself is impossibly beautiful.
- Pros: Unsheathed, it emits the sound of a cheering crowd, and compels fanatical devotion toward its bearer upon all who can see or hear it. "All" including gods. The effects start wearing off after three days. Even sheathed, it works on some level. Wounds caused by its edge also fester horribly.
- Cons: This devotion can go to the user's head.
- Shieldbreaker, the Sword of Force (also, "The Widowmaker").
- Symbol: A hammer.
- Pros: Confers immunity to all armed attacks (claws and teeth count), as well as magical spells and, most importantly, the effects of the other Swords. Substitutes its own abilities for the bearer's skill, blocking attacks and striking with superhuman strength and speed. Any weapon (or equivalent) blocked or struck by Shieldbreaker will explode, generally severely harming or killing the opponent. This is the only way to destroy another Sword. Magical spells against Shieldbreaker's bearer are negated harmlessly.
- Cons: It's said that "no weapon" can stand up to it, and this is literally true; Shieldbreaker passes harmlessly through unarmed opponents and grants no protection whatsoever against punches, kicks, grapples, or any other type of unarmed attack. Furthermore, because Shieldbreaker controls its wielder's body during battle, he or she can't do anything at all to fight back against an unarmed opponent - or, for that matter, choose not to kill an armed one. Also, it draws strength from its wielder to operate; a long-enough fight can cause its owner to die of exhaustion.
- Sightblinder, the Sword of Stealth (or Deception).
- Symbol: A stylized human eye.
- Pros: People perceive the bearer as the person or entity they love and trust the most, or as the one they fear the most. Either way, someone they won't try to attack. The bearer's senses are sharpened, and they gain the ability to see through illusions (providing some protection from the Mindsword and Soulcutter).
- Cons: The bearer has no control over how he appears, and since he often appears to be something fearsome or wonderful, the sword is not particularly stealthy; its wielder is better off trying to brazen it out.
- Soulcutter, the Sword of Despair (also, the Tyrant's Blade)
- Symbol: None. The blade lacks any luster.
- Pros: When unsheathed, the sword projects a field of total despair and apathy so pervasive that anything caught in its range can do nothing except lie down and wait to die...
- Cons: ...including the bearer. Therefore, drawing the sword is generally the last decision anyone makes, and the mere threat of someone possessing it is often a big deal.
- Stonecutter, the Sword of Siege.
- Symbol: A wedge driving into a block.
- Pros: Stonecutter cuts through stone and earth like it was soft cheese. Useful for toppling castles, making tunnels and cutting statues and gemstones.
- Cons: Against anything not made of stone or earth, it's just a very well-crafted sword.
- Townsaver, the Sword of Fury.
- Symbol: A sword raised a stylized segment of castle wall.
- Pros: When defending unarmed people in a fixed position, Townsaver turns its bearer into a One-Man Army, striking with inhuman strength and speed, and keeps him from succumbing to his wounds until the end of battle.
- Cons: Besides that last bit, Townsaver does nothing to protect its bearer. It will even place its bearer between an attack and the people he's protecting. As with Shieldbreaker, the user is also compelled to finish a battle once entered. With all of this, it's not uncommon for the wielder to draw it, fight off an army single-handedly, and then instantly die once the battle is over.
- Wayfinder, the Sword of Wisdom.
- Symbol: Arrow.
- Pros: Wayfinder may guide its bearer to any goal they want, and takes into account anything they need to reach it. It may also be used for divinatory purposes (e.g. "Which person is lying to me?").
- Cons: Wayfinder picks the swiftest path... but the swiftest is not the safest. In fact it seems to deliberately choose the worst and riskiest way possible to get there.
- Woundhealer, the Sword of Mercy (Or Love, or Healing).
- Symbol: An open human hand.
- Pros: Will cure any living thing whose flesh it pierces of any malady or injury short of death, including mental or genetic disorders. (This later serves as a Deus Ex Machina when combined with The Power Of Heart.) It's also the only weapon that can stand up to and destroy Shieldbreaker.
- Cons: It heals anything it cuts, so its nigh-useless as a weapon. On the upside, when not used against living flesh, it behaves like an extremely well-crafted sword.
Vulcan enlists a few humans to help with his creating, and when he's done, he uses the bodies of all his helpers, save one, to quench the blades. The one he spares, he cuts off his arm and leaves him with Townsaver. Life proceeds as normal, until the local lord decides he wants to have a look at this commoner's God-Forged sword.
At this point, the War for the Swords begins in earnest. All the high and mighty, rich and powerful people seek the various swords for themselves.
A commonly-known song describes the Swords, providing hints as to their powers and weaknesses, and goes thus:
THE SONG OF SWORDS
Who holds Coinspinner knows good odds
- Absurdly Sharp Blade - all of the Swords, with beyond-absurd sharpness inside their specialties.
- A God Am I - Anyone who uses the Mindsword. Its ability is to turn everyone within a couple hundred yards into mindlessly devoted slaves to the wielder. A few days with the hangers-on, and the wielder starts to believe the hype.
- Aerith and Bob - Main characters include Mark, Ben, Vilkata, Yambu...
- Aristocrats Are Evil -..Sometimes.
- Artifact of Doom - the whole purpose of Soulcutter
- Attack Reflector - Doomgiver. It understands the attacker's intent and will reflect any threat. A dropped boulder? Doomgiver will send it flying right back up to hit the dropper, even if it has to turn corners. A demon threatens to turn your body inside out, eat you, and digest you for 1000 years? We'll just say that being turned inside out and forced into your own stomach is not comfortable. A succubus tries to make you fall in love with her? She falls in love with you. A few Gods are planning to deprive you of your Sword? They lose theirs.
- Badass Boast Shieldbreaker's verse in the Song of Swords above
- Big Bad - Several - Vilkata and Yambu in the first trilogy, the immortal wizard Wood for most of the Lost Swords iterations.
- Black Magic
- The Blacksmith
- Blessed with Suck - Most people who get one of these swords. Sure, they are awesome, but they have cons and so many other people want to take it away from you.
- Book Ends - The main story begins and ends with Vulcan crawling along a mountainside looking for something.
- It's even more precise than that:
First sentence of the First Book: In what felt to him like the first cold morning of the world, he groped for fire.
- Born Lucky
- The Caper
- Call a Rabbit a Smeerp - Ridingbeasts, woolbeasts, milkbeasts, etc. Are they horses/sheep/cows?
- Catch Phrase - Whenever someone uses Farslayer, they recite the second line of its verse in the poem. The books seem disagree whether this is a necessary trigger or merely a tradition.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe
- Clingy MacGuffin - Once the battle starts, the wielder of Shieldbreaker can not let it go. And it can only harm armed opponents. So, one man can take on an army of soldiers armed to the teeth, demons, even the Gods themselves, but don't let the unarmed man get a stranglehold...
- Cool Mask - The Emperor is said to wear masks from time to time.
- Cool Sword - All over the place.
- The Dark Side
- Deal with the Devil - Vilkata. He cuts out his own eyes as a sacrifice in order to curse an enemy. Thereafter, various demons provide vision for him. Vilkata throws his pet demons a bone every now and then in fresh human flesh to torture.
- Deus Ex Machina - Swords just randomly appear in the weirdest places...
- Justified since the whole thing is a game run by the gods anyway.
- It's also Coinspinners stated power.
- Justified since the whole thing is a game run by the gods anyway.
- Determinator - Baron Doon, who goes three rounds against Shieldbreaker by using sheer cussedness (and dropping his destroyed weapons before the Sword can finish the job).
- Dual-Wielding - Difficult for most people to do. Causes intense nausea, but some people can handle it.
- Elaborate Underground Base - The Blue Temple's underground vault complex
- Everything's Better with Princesses - Kristin
- Empathic Weapon - Coinspinner, arguably.
- Evil Albino - Vilkata.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin - The name of the country of Tasavalta literally means "republic" in Finnish.
- Wouldn't that be Blatant Lies, since Tasavalta is a hereditary monarchy?
- Flaming Sword - Vilkata's demonic eyesight presents the Mindsword as a flaming spear.
- Forged by the Gods
- God Save Us From the Queen
- Gods Need Prayer Badly: As a result of changing human opinions about them they start to actually change.
- Gold Fever
- Happily Married - Played straight and subverted. Mark and Kristin oscillate throughout the series from happily married to wanting divorce. In the latter half of the series, Ben spends most of his time adventuring specifically to avoid his wife and child. Jord and Mala seem to get along well despite their marriage having been arranged without much input by them.
- Healing Shiv - Woundhealer is their king.
- Here There Were Dragons - By the end of the series, Dragonslicer has almost made itself obsolete.
- Heroic Bastard: Mark.
- High Heel Face Turn - Queen Yambu
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Several times, most notably the gods getting brainwashed, cursed and/or killed by the swords they had Vulcan create.
- Implausible Fencing Powers - Certain Swords grant their users this ability.
- Infinity+1 Sword
- Instant Messenger Pigeon - and Instant Messenger Lizard
- Intimate Healing - Kristin gives Mark her virginity in order to summon Aphrodite, in the hopes that the goddess can heal the poisoned wound Mark had received from the Mindsword. It works.
- Last of His Kind - By the end of the Last Book, Woundhealer is the last Sword left.
- Lost Technology - Earth, 50,000 years in the future. Technology is replaced by magic. Nuclear explosions have become demons. ARDNEH =
God= A computer program designed by the United States.
- Mermaid Problem
- Mutually Assured Destruction
- Named Weapons
- Our Demons Are Different: These ones were somehow formed from nuclear explosions and for Shieldbreaker's purposes every demon counts as a weapon.
- Our Dragons Are Different: Their growth is actually a bit like tadpoles.
- Penultimate Weapon
- Poisoned Weapons - The Mindsword
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Sir Andrew. He even has the word 'kind' usually added to his name. Unfortunately he's a relatively small fish surrounded by unpleasant and powerful nobles.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something
- Soul Jar - Demons souls are tied to mundane objects.
- Stout Strength — Ben, one of the main characters, is a tall, broad guy with a stupid-looking face. If he's wearing something that shows his general outline, he looks fat, and his arms and legs are so thick in proportion to their length they look stubby. Almost none of it is fat, though; Ben is much, much stronger than carnival strongmen, and gifted with above-average intelligence to boot.
- Sword Fight
- Sword of Plot Advancement - All of the 12 Swords, even in universe. They were made by the Gods to facilitate the Game.
- Thunderbolt Iron
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works - This is Farslayer's power, and we mean it always works. Even if the target is halfway around the world, underground, defended by powerful magic, and one of the Gods.
- Turned Against Their Masters - The Swords work against the Gods, too. By the end of the third book, all the gods have been killed.
- Unbreakable Weapons - The Swords are invulnerable to everything except each other.
- Virgin Power
- What Happened to the Mouse? - And how.