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The First Swords (Books of Swords #1-3)

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  3,065 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
Fred Saberhagen's Book of Swords novels have captivated fantasy readers for more than a decade. Here, now available in one volume, are the three books that started it all.

For a game the gods have given the world twelve Swords of Power so that they might be amused as the nations battle for their possession. But Vulcan the Smith has had his own little joke: the Swords can ki
Paperback, 608 pages
Published January 15th 1999 by Tor Books (first published 1985)
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Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A good friend had recommended this collection to me a year or so ago, but had also added at the time that he had mislaid his copy of it and wished he could read it again. Recently while searching for an ugly shirt to wear to a Hawaiian themed party I was fortunate enough to find a copy of this volume on sale for a dollar at a local thrift store. When I informed my friend of my good fortune I had to promise to lend it to him to re-read as soon as I was done with it. And now having completed the t ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
This one is from so far back, I read it years ago. Saberhagen is pretty versatile. I'd just read the Berserker stories and moved into these fantasies. Pretty good.

These take place in the fictional universe set up in Empire of the East taking place thousands of years after that book. If you enjoy the universe this one carries on it's tale. While I like Empire better, these are still pretty good.
Chisa Puckett
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
The overall concept of the Book of Swords is pretty amazing - twelve swords forged by the god Vulcan have legendary powers and their impact on humanity.

However, for the most part I found myself struggling through all three parts of this omnibus.

Saberhagen has a tendency to describe what is going on rather than have the character act out the scenes. This makes me less immersed in the story.

Mark, who I felt should be the primary protagonist, frequently felt like a secondary character. Nestor, who
I read the series as an awkward teen and I loved them. I need to re-read them now and see how I feel!
Dec 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-sci-fi
it's fine.
Ана Хелс
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Класиката си е класика. Какво ти и трябва - умел разказвач, интересни идеи, добре представена смесица между постапокалиптичен, отдавна забравен реалистичен сай-фай и чиста фентъзийна среда с могъщи мечове, копнеещи за власт благородници и излезли от простолюдието момци с огън в сърцето и щипка геройски късмет. Преди години Бард издаваха оригиналната трилогия в приятно томче, но освен спомена за доста недоклатен на моменти превод, друго не ми е останало. От автетичния текст обаче подозирам , че щ
Jeffrey Daniels
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What's fun about post-apocalyptic stories is you can make any leap from "modern" man to the future: hyper-advanced, straggling remainders, reversion to less technology. They all have a measure of fun to them as long as they don't get too "preachy" about man's self-destructive nature.

Fred Saberhagen's venture into fantasy/sword & sorcery is a grouping of tales with a large measure of fun. You won't find earth-shattering revelations or deep philosophical ponderings here; you just get a lot of
May 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, sci-fi, reviewed
This book could be classified as both a sci-fi and a fantasy book. The premise as you quickly learn is that a pantheon of gods exist with some very familiar names from our own mythology. They demand that the god Vulcan create a set of swords that they can scatter around the world and take sides as the humans duke it out for the ultimate power one would have by collecting all of the swords, all for their amusement.

Vulcan does so, using several mortals to help him forage the swords and spilling th
Christopher Hernandez
On many occasions I find myself enjoying a good stroll through a the nearby "Brick & Mortar" bookstore. I came across Saberhagen's book and recalled reading one of his books when I was a kid. I did not remember which book, but remember enjoying the tales of magical swords. This book was a collection of Saberhagen's first trilogy, and so I picked it up for the sake of remembrance.

I found myself flashing back to that moment as a kid where I was fascinated by the magical swords ...forged by Vu
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, dying-earth
This is a collection of the first three Swords books by Fred Saberhagen. It features the origins of a set of twelve swords forged by the god Vulcan. They are to be used in a game played by the gods using humans as pawns. However, the game does not turn out like they expect.

I found it to be ok, but it fell somewhere in between the classical pulp style of his older Berserkers short stories, and modern fantasy by more contemporary authors. This means it felt a bit flat to me - the characters were n
Aug 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is a good Sword and Sorcery adventure book. And I say that as someone who is not a fan of the genre. However, I read many of his "Berserker" series books so I thought I would give this a chance. The story is set in a far future earth where technology is gone, replaced by magic. Into this world the god Vulcan forges a set of swords imbued with great powers for a game the gods are going to play. The stories themselves really focus on one individual, Mark, whose father was used to help make th ...more
Aug 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
**Some spoilers**

I had forgotten how well I liked these books. Even, the more minor characters are likable. The story never really lags, and the ideas are fresh. Not many of the conventional tropes of fantasy are present. He never really makes any of the characters, "the chosen one". The princess doesn't lead her people to glorious battle, and conquers the entire continent. The evil is not really a supreme evil, and even knows his own limitations. The swords themselves are very interesting as p
Jun 01, 2010 rated it liked it
Finished the first of three books in this collection. So far another quick moving fantasy epic...there is a pantheon of gods, who out of boredom i guess, have Vulcan the Smith craft 12 powerful swords, each with their own special power, to give to mortals...chaos ensues and the gods are entertained. Four of the swords make an appearance in the first book: Townsaver, Dragonslicer, Coinspinner, and Sightblinder.

Typing that sentence just made me feel like a big dork.

Anywho, I'm taking a break from
This anthology of fantasy books were written in the late 70s, early 80s. If it were an 80s fantasy movie, it would be on the level of Beastmaster, or maybe the first Schwarzenegger Conan movie. In many ways, a typical sword-and-sorcery fantasy with evil sorcerers, brave young men made to be warriors, beautiful women. Still, the ideas of 12 Swords imbued with amazing magical gifts and the way different forces use them or battle to contain them is interesting, and enjoyable.

It's biggest issues ar
Tim Giauque
Jun 20, 2010 rated it liked it
Hey, I finally managed to finish a book! In between chewing on vast chunks of Infinite Jest, I read the three books that comprise The First Swords. Yeah, it's three shorter books published in one volume. I love that.

The books tell a fairly basic fantasy story in which twelve magical swords, forged by the god Vulcan, are found and used by various and sundry human beings to various fantasy-novel things like storm castles, slay dragons, and the like. It's a fun premise, if not strikingly original.

Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ill named omnibus of first three books of swords. Saberhagen suggests that this primitive culture is in the future, after the fall of man. Gods have shown up taking the names and persona of the classical deities. They decide to have a game in which a dozen swords are created, each with super magical powers. Beyond the fact that this is a fairly puerile idea for a story, the first novel is burdened by an boring protagonist, a young man who is running for his life. The second novel is a little bet ...more
The First Book of Swords: It took me a while to get into the story. Saberhagen's use of mythology is unusual and there is a lot of action. The end of the book left me excited to find out what happends in book 2. I give this book 2 stars.

The Second Book of Swords: This book had action from beginning to end and was a much better read than the first book. Their quest and the magic/characters they meet along the way was interesting and suspenseful with some interesting twists. I give this book 4 sta
Harrison Phillips
The trilogy revolves around 12 magical swords forged by the Gods, each with its distinct capability. I found the imagination extraordinary and the characters either very likeable or completely evil. Fred Saberhagen captured my attention and I found I anticipated the next chapters and book until I'd read them all. The story is quick paced and well organized following a logical path telling the story of each sword's power and how it is used.
I would recommend the trilogy to anyone interested in the
Mar 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
I just finished reading this trio of books, and sadly it was like eating a bag of popcorn. Quite alot to eat in one sitting, but even when finished your left feeling hungry.

I had high hopes going in and for part of the first book they seemed not to be dashed. But after that and on with the other two books I was disappointed.

To much spent on the surroundings and not enough on the interaction between the characters. I enjoyed the books to a point but felt cheated at the end. So much that should ha
Patricia Hamill
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed-by-me
I really enjoyed reading the The Lost Swords again. This volume combines the first three books in the Book of Swords series.

The books follow Mark, Ben and Barbara on their adventures, which revolve around twelve powerful swords created by the gods (look for mostly Greek gods as well as a cameo by Shiva) and given to humans for the amusement of the gods. Things backfire on the gods when they discover that the swords can be turned against them.

The three books can be read in any order. Although ea
Jeffrey Henning
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I got the complete version of this book, but only read it for the third book, because I have the first two as singles, so this review is really for the third book only.

I loved the third book. I really like how Mr. Saberhagen ties everything up so neatly, and then leaves a gaping hole at the end so he could continue on the story itself. I won't leave any spoilers, but it's there if you look at it, and I'd be impressed if you missed it!

I also loved that the swords really come into play in the thi
Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember seeing copies of the Books of the Swords in ads for the Science Fiction Book Club in Discover magaine as a kid. I always wanted to read them, mainly because I thought the swords on the covers were cool. At some point I had completely forgotten about it, but as I've been rediscovering my love of fantasy lately, I remember Fred Saberhagen. Definitely an enjoyable read, not anything that'll completely blow your mind or revolutionize anything, but much better than average schlock-fantasy ...more
Sep 18, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book has a promising set-up and a great set of main characters to play with. Then it gets distracted by subplots, ignores its characters, and fails to finish with a bang. This is a series involving swords powerful enough to kill the gods. You'd think the characters' feelings about the gods would play a major part, but no. In addition, any relationship between characters that's at all interesting gets dumped, abruptly and for no reason. The emperor had so much potential, as did many of the o ...more
Douglas Owen
Nov 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Too busy to update GoodReads.

Yes, I finished it once again. For some reason I find myself returning to this book every few years to discover new insights.

If you have not read this complete series, do so. And when you finish it, muse over the strange thought of, "What time frame did this book take place in?" It is truly one of those that could be a future or past time.

Muse over it, and enjoy the writing.
Андрій Горбунов
I think J. R. R. Tolkien is a bit overvalued because of his historical role in developing fantasy. Maybe Tolkien was the first one, but Saberhagen was the best one. And the best thing I can say about this book is that it's at one time a good fantasy and a good novel, making difference with those authors who understand fantasy but lack mastery in the plot, or vice versa, who create good novels but fantasy itself looks odd in their stories.
Bill Harrison
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book a few years back and reread it as I plan to read the other books in the series. The premise is that the gods are bored so they have Vulcan create 12 magical swords and disburse them to the world so the gods can watch what happens. I really like the story and the characters, but sometimes the scene descriptions get a little complicated instead of just let the characters act it out.
Shaun Thornhill
Not near enough world building for the sake of weird, disconnected story line. I had a difficult time with this one. I so wanted to like it. I soon learned that the swords were so overpowered and little used, I felt cheated. Every tiny detail about the history in the book sparked my curiosity, but the author never gave me anything substantive. The main characters were well fleshed out and formed. There were just too many moments that were anti climactic.
J Wrin
May 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A bizarre, mostly pointless book. I wonder why I bothered to finish it. The characters are one dimensional tottering around a sparse world infested with swords forged by the gods. The gods are a mongrel lot and strangely mortal. An ill-conceived meandering bit of tripe, can't imagine why anyone would like it
William Tracy
Sep 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While some of the writing is a little rough and the characters are thin, the plot and worldbuilding make this book. It is a very nice interweaving of a post-apocalyptic landscape with traces of technology, smashed with a sword and sorcery. It feels like there is a lot of extra story behind what is told in the books.
Nov 13, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While definitely a post-Tolkien work, I quite enjoyed the way the mystic swords were played out and used. They definitely felt like more than just shiny toys, more in line with ancient tales. Though there was a nebulous Dark Lord (as required by all post-Tolkien works), I feel this somewhat distracted from what turns out to be the heart of the tale, the world’s changing view of its gods.
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Fred Saberhagen was an American science fiction and fantasy author most famous for his ''Beserker'' and Dracula stories.

Saberhagen also wrote a series of a series of post-apocalyptic mytho-magical novels beginning with his popular ''Empire of the East'' and continuing through a long series of ''Swords'' and ''Lost Swords'' novels. Saberhagen died of cancer, in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Saberhagen was
More about Fred Saberhagen...

Other Books in the Series

Books of Swords (4 books)
  • The First Book of Swords (Books of Swords, #1)
  • The Second Book of Swords (Books of Swords, #2)
  • The Third Book of Swords (Books of Swords, #3)
  • Blind Man's Blade (Saberhagen's Book of Swords)

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“Who holds Wayfinder finds good roads,
Its master's step is brisk;
The Sword of Wisdom lightens loads
But adds unto their risk.”
More quotes…