The Sword in the Street — C.M. Caplan

The Sword in the Street — C.M. Caplan

The Sword in the Street is a fun debut with characters who, regardless of how you feel about them, are so flawed and undeniably human, that you feel for their journeys. I enjoyed reading about these gorgeous messes and their (often) questionable decisions.

I’ve seen the book described as grimdark with lots of smooching, but I would actually say that parts of it were kind of… cozy? For the most part, we stay in the same place, accompanying characters down the same streets, sort of doing variations of the same thing. There are dark themes—the system itself is a sham, and the people in power are dicks—but the tone didn’t feel dark.

What was interesting to me was how characters navigated the madness of their lives. John, Edwin, and Aubrey each have their struggles, and while their friends might not wholly understand, they are still willing to learn. I liked that. Sometimes people make mistakes, friends say stupid things. I think this book does a good job of highlighting that communication doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be there.

That said, I do want to point out that John and Edwin have an unhealthy relationship that plays a big role in the book, and there were moments that made it uncomfortable to read. Ultimately, it didn’t bother me too much (I generally don’t like relationships in books, lol), but some parts—like the constant boundary crossing that, while addressed and called out, is still very much there—might not vibe. I know toxic dynamics may be triggering for some readers, especially those who might not expect them to play such a central role, so I do think it is important to point out.

The book is (to me) more character- than plot-driven, but the story was also a fun ride. There is lots of swashbucklin’, smoochin’, and shady spells. There is violence (I mean, it’s a book about swordfighting) and drug addiction. Keeping my cautionary note in the previous paragraph in mind, I enjoyed it.

Key words to help you decide: multiple (third-person) POVs, smooching, down-with-the-system, rich vs. poor, unhealthy relationships, queer MC, autistic MC, swashbuckling, duelling, fantasy drug addiction

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