Editorial Review: Joseph and the Seven Swords by Faisal Alothainah
Joseph and the Seven Swords is the story of a young man who sets off on an adventure after discovering that he is destined to be a king.
Although Joseph and the Seven Swords is the story of Joseph and his trials and tribulations it is also a tale within a tale. In the same fashion as The Princess Bride, JatSS is framed as a grandfather telling the story to his five grandchildren. Of course, this means that while it is a fantasy story, it is not as gritty as something like Game of Thrones or even Lord of the Rings. Instead, JatSS is more akin to a fairy tale or a fable, which makes it suitable for younger readers.
The author of JatSS, Faisal Alothainah, has a very straightforward writing style and doesn't waste any time on unnecessary elements. This makes for a very fast-paced story as sometimes, days or weeks can go past in just a few sentences. The story also highlights the fact that even if you are destined for greatness you still need to work hard to be ready for it.
As with all good fantasy stories JatSS opens with a prophecy stating that if the Queen gives birth during a red moon she should sacrifice her boy, or the older son if she has twins, or risk the future of the kingdom. Fortunately, this sacrifice only involves sending the baby away and not killing it. According to the prophecy, this child will be prepared and guided by a special sword to one day receive his rightful inheritance. Growing up as a simple village boy, Joseph is unaware of this prophecy until he discovers a sword that sparks when he picks it up. The seven warriors that appear from this magical sword inform Joseph of his heritage and destiny, which prompts him to set off to the nearby kingdom of Zelaar.
Although JatSS is a relatively brisk read, there are plenty of trials and tribulations for Joseph to face during his journey. However, he also encounters and befriends a diverse group of people that includes a circus performer, baker's daughter, and prison guard. Unfortunately, Joseph makes just as many enemies who either use him as an unwilling pawn in their evil schemes or simply seek to harm him because of jealousy. Despite landing up in prison twice over the course of the story Joseph manages to hold on to his dream and maintain his integrity.
Readers who prefer their fantasy stories to be a little darker and grittier might be put off by the relatively sanitized style of Joseph and the Seven Swords. It never really feels like Joseph is in any real peril and some situations, such as an attack by a prison bully, are simply resolved by Jason getting kicked ten times until the rest of the prisoners pluck up the courage to stand with him. This is sufficient for the bully to be cowed into remorse and the encounter ends with a pinky swear that the bully won't harm anyone again. Younger readers will enjoy these types of encounters, but more mature readers could find it saccharine if they are not fond of fables and fairytales. Some of the characters in the book are also a little one-dimensional, such as the King's adviser who is simply referred to as the "bad adviser" throughout the book while plotting and scheming like a Disney villain.
Overall Jason and the Seven Swords is a fast-paced and interesting story that puts a new spin on some traditional fantasy tropes. The writing style and way in which most conflicts in the novel are resolved definitely lends it more to being a children's story, but readers of all ages will be able to appreciate the lessons it teaches.