Sometimes we read a synopsis for a novel and think, “Wow, what a great story this is going to be.” We are excited about the main characters and are fans of the writer, so we think we know what to expect. Then we read the actual story and it fails to meet those expectations. It could be because of the characters, or the writing style, or the pace of the story, or it could even be the reader’s own expectations. With Three Swords, this is one of those novels where the story failed to live up to the expectations set by the synopsis.
Penned by C.L. Werner, the veteran writer of numerous short stories set in the Warhammer universe and the Black Plague trilogy, Three Swords tells the story of the Warriors Three as they receive an ominous set of predictions from the Enchanters as it pertains to Asgard. The Warriors Three must venture out into the cosmos to stop the Enchanters from enacting their plan to destroy the universe. This takes our titular heroes to many moments in history, from the actual civil war to important moments in England, and it is there where you really get some highlights that you can enjoy, even if you’re not well-versed in Marvel lore. Unfortunately, the story is not given much time to breathe before jumping to the next set-piece, and it seems Werner is ultimately in a rush to just get through the story. As such, the Warriors Three aren’t as fleshed out as they could’ve been. Whereas the little Easter eggs while they’re traversing the universe work without you having a vast array of Marvel knowledge, the characters are written as if you do have a vast array of Marvel knowledge. Due to this, it creates a disjointed narrative where characters do things and you’re almost expected to just understand why they did that.
The set pieces work pretty well, with Werner doing a great job of using words to paint the story of the action we are seeing. Because each Enchanter has a tower, or lair, it feels like a Mortal Kombat video game where you’re fighting waves until getting to the endgame boss. Fandral is the standout here, as he gets some really cool moments where we are reminded how good a swordsman and warrior he truly is. As I was reading it, I kept thinking “man, this would be a really cool adaptation on Disney+” because it kind of feels like the National Treasure films with their reverence for what came before in both Marvel and modern history with some really good action mixed in. I, also, enjoyed that this story really put someone other than Thor in charge of saving Asgard: too often, in Asgard’s history, the Warriors Three are just along for the ride, but putting them in charge here really makes the story feel small enough (their friendship shines) even though there’s so much at stake.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the twist ending. No spoilers, but it is telegraphed from the beginning, and that made it feel a bit cheap. It lessens everything that came before the end, and it doesn’t really hold up to the rest of the story: if the story was a B before the ending, the twist is like a D and just soured me a bit on the story as a whole.
All in all, a solid entry but one that could’ve been substantially better had a cheap twist not been added and had more effort been put into developing the characters beyond what we would know as Marvel fans. Werner deserves credit for writing the action and humor in a strong way, but in the end, the story falls to reach the heights teased.