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The First Book of Swords

(Books of Swords #1)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  6,916 ratings  ·  139 reviews
The gods decide to devise a Game of great fun: their colleague Vulcan forges 12 magic Swords, each with a different power, and scatters them across the world. Play begins in grand and gloriously violent fashion as Swords are gathered and used to control chance, enhance fortune, and change destiny. The holder of a Sword wields power undreamed... power to change the world an ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 309 pages
Published April 1984 by TOR (first published 1983)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  6,916 ratings  ·  139 reviews

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Maria V. Snyder
Recently one of my Goodread friends recommended this book to me and it sounded so familiar so I went through my notebooks where I've been writing down the books I've read since I was 17 (too many books to add to my Read shelf on Goodreads when I signed up). I read this back in 1989! I've no idea if I liked it or not so I didn't give it a rating, but I also read Saberhagen's lost swords, the first triad in 1988. And I do love I probably enjoyed it ;)

I'm just super impressed by my memo
Robert Thompson
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
The First Book of Swords. The title about says it all. I find that while this first volume is tremendously engrossing I am at a loss to quote the specifics of that pull.

The book revolve around the making and subsequent acquiring of twelve swords of power. These weapons a "god made" enchanted or more specifically imbued with helpful but mostly terrifying traits that make each peerless in its specification.

Our tale begins with the crafting then thirteen years later the eventual scramble for twelve
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
It was a simple read ,but it was fun.
We're dealing with gods and swords of ungodly power.
The first 1/4 of the book is like an introduction.

I thought the characters were done really well.
And the world-building was enough without boring detail and repetition.

Apparently a young boy begins a quest with a sword who unknowingly is being played by
higher forces, and we will follow him through the series.
I liked this book and would recommend it to others who read fantasy.
Sep 18, 2014 rated it liked it
This one of the first novels that introduced me to the fantasy genre, and therefore I will always have a soft spot for this story. I tried re-reading the story recently for the first time in many years, and I didn't get very far before I had to put the book down. Thanks to Saberhagen for helping to introduce me to such an amazing genre, but this is no longer a book that I enjoy. ...more
May 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I picked this up having never heard of this series before and was pleasantly surprised. The First Book of Swords is a solid fantasy novel that manages to be pretty original and very entertaining.
Keith Davis
Nov 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
The gods create twelve magic swords, each with a power and a curse, and turn them loose on humanity as a sort of game they can sit back and observe. The Book of Swords was Saberhagen's best fantasy series, but it is sort of like Farmer's Riverworld in that the idea is almost too big to carry off. Saberhagen could have written Swords novels for the rest of his life dealing with the various weapons and their interactions. Saberhagen is always an exciting and entertaining read. ...more
Jun 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
The first time I read this, I had not read the Empire of the East trilogy and was lukewarm on the Book of Swords series. This time around, I found myself enjoying it much more, this return to the world, albeit millennia later.

Seeing the post-apocalyptic, technological elements of the prior Empire of the East, pushed more into the background here, I was reminded of how fantasy as a genre became much more heavily codified in the 80s.
Apr 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of epic fantasy, patient readers
Shelves: fantasy
You almost never find Fred Saberhagen's books listed in those top 'blah' fantasy book lists floating around the Internet, which sucks because the man created a really interesting universe with a kickass concept at least two solid decades before everyone and their mother started churning out epic fantasy stories.

I read one of his books when I was in high school and it's stuck with me over the years. I still recall the details from time to time and that's what prompted me to look for more of his
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book series has a great concept: there are a handful of magical swords that were forged and scattered across the land, each with unique powers to grant the individual wielding it. The story of these swords and the hands they fall into is the premise of this book. I thought it could have been great if the author had pulled it off right. Unfortunately the execution was lacking in the imagination that the idea promised. The medieval setting was too familiar and uninspired. There is too much fo ...more
Jan 31, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I'm aware that this is a large series, but for some reason I was under the impression that each novel could be a standalone. So it was with mild disappointment that I read the last page without getting to the
punchline, the novel ending as a chapter does.
I know there is a game afoot, created by the gods who distribute twelve magical swords to humankind, but I'm a little miffed at still being left in the dark. Time will tell if I do bother to continue with the story,
which has been pretty good so f
Mar 15, 2014 rated it did not like it
Sorry to say I have no interest in Mark, Ben or Barbara. I was mildly interested in Nestor but there was too much jumping around to keep me interested. It started out really good with that prologue but...

Well I read the list of swords taken from Saberhagen's list and I'm just going to leave it at that.
Jun 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed, fantasy
The twelve swords is a five star concept, but the book felt a bit tedious at times.

My only problem with the plot is personal in that I despise the ‘so dystopian it’s gotten back around to medieval fantasy”. In this case in particular, it added nothing to the story and in my opinion actually detracted from the world on the rare occasions it was mentioned. However, as said, it’s done so rarely and contributes so little to the plot that it’s very easy to ignore it and pretend it’s not a thing at a
Dec 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This first book of a trilogy sets up a world of gods and common men. Here the gods have created twelve magical swords as part of a game that they are playing.
Each sword has different powers, good and bad.
This is a straight forward book with simple characters, but an enjoyable story and setup. You will have to read the other entries to appreciate the story.
Joe Runciman
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
Had to quit halfway through. The premise sounded like something right up my alley, and it is a good idea, but the execution is unremarkable. Bland writing style and very little character development. Nothing happening in the story moved me to continue.
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have read the series years ago, and really enjoyed it. This is more of a 3.75 so got a round up to 4.

Recently this series came up in discussion, so I had to dust off and start my re-read!
Mar 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, fantasy, stat_3
Stuff I Read – The First Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen Review

So not that recently (for my last birthday way back in June 2012), my wife was awesome enough to give me the complete Book of Lost Swords series, collected in three large hard cover books. I had bought the original Book of Swords books from a library book sale way back in the day and read them and enjoyed them in that they were fun and feature magic swords and a strange setting and Roman gods and a number of other things, and then
Jan 10, 2012 rated it liked it
This is one of those books I recall fondly. As a young person it, along with plenty of other fiction such as the Lord of the Rings, Narnia, the Prydan Chronicles, etc. inspired me a great deal. This series actually proves to have more depth than I recall it having.

The series itself helped to kindle my life-long love of stories about collections of objects. One thing I always didn't like about the Lord of the Rings was that we were told about this collection of magic rings, but we only 'really' g
Jeremy Preacher
Dec 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is another book that I read young enough that I can't be really objective about it. However, it holds up to a reread well enough, which is always a huge relief.

The First... is an oddly structured book. Mark, whose conception we see in the prologue, and the Swords (which... likewise) are the main characters of this series. (Yes, the main characters are largely inanimate objects.) The essay at the end (about which more in a bit) mentions that the series was written as the basis for "microcomp
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
The First Book of Swords is simple, but I loved it! Swords with special powers and kingdoms at war are not the most unique things in the world, but interesting characters, gods, and a fast paced plot push this book into greatness. I admit, the story was slow to start for me. The prologue was boring, and the main character walking around made me skip sections, but that was only a small part of the book, and I'm glad I stuck through it. I couldn't wait to find out what happens to the swords and th ...more
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is first book in Swords series written by Saberhagen. This review is really of the whole series as one big story. It is a good serial story told in installments rather than really a collection of individual books that are related. The story revolves around a collection of swords that each have great powers and great limitations, and in some cases great liabilities. The swords were made by the Greek god Hesphestus (god of blacksmithing) and put on earth to be fought over by mortals for some ...more
Lisa Francis
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Fred Saberhagen's Book of Swords series is really captivating. This First Book of Swords tells the tale of the son of a one-armed blacksmith now turned miller who runs away knowing his brother is dead and thinking his father is as well with the family heirloom sword forged by Vulcan himself and is now pursued by several high ranking lords/queens who wish to possess all 12 of the magic swords forged by Vulcan. Each sword has a specific power that will only activate in a certain way. We are introd ...more
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a review of the Book of Swords trilogy--but not any of the later swords books.

I fell in love with Saberhagen with the Berserker books. I read the Books of Swords as they came out in the early 80s, and then re-read them this Summer. And they're very good. Saberhagen creates a fascinating world where the relationship between gods and humans is complex and fascinating--and that relationship drives the story. The gods create a set of 12 swords with magical powers as part of a game to play wi
Sven Mysterioso
Jan 26, 2014 rated it liked it
This one is from my foggy ancient past, and I read it as a youngster to boot, so bear with me.

I loved the concept of semi-aware artifacts running loose in the world. With specific powers and goals and attitudes and influences. Its a good strong concept, and one that really lends itself to good epic fiction and large collections.

Saberhagen isn't a bad writer either, although I will really need to revisit with an adult eye now. I remember not been so enthralled that I had to consume every single s
Jun 23, 2015 rated it liked it
There isn't much to say about this book. It's your basic fantasy from a couple decades ago.

The best part about it is how the narration jumps forward to only the necessary parts of the story. I didn't have to read about Nestor's trek through the swamp or the gang's wagon ride to Sir Andrew's place. They just traveled there and the story continued. Made for a quick, easy read without any headaches.

There have only been a few Swords introduced so far, but they're neat. I just hope they get fleshed o
Jul 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Saberhagen's Berzerker stories are some of my favorite memories from my early science fiction reading. Never read his fantasy stuff. This is middling fantasy. More tolerable than the pretentious sprawling eleven-volume tripe that has become the norm, and not saddled with flashes of porn. A little light on character development, but a quick, enjoyable read. Ends oddly. Stops in the middle of nowhere, rather than in a cliffhanger. ...more
Aug 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Another great science fantasy series. This series is a set of stories of individual stories about mythical swords, their power, and what happens to the people who come across them. It's an interesting mix of quasi-mythology with a science fantasy story line.

It's a fun set of stories, light and quick reads ad if you like this kind of thing, you'll really enjoy the series.

Apr 10, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one.
Shelves: fantasy
This book started out great and I honestly tried to get through the entire thing, but after 200 pages, I gave up. The story slowed down, the main characters both started using false names, and the history of the swords was not alluded to enough. Through the pages I got through, you only find out about two of the (12?) swords that were constructed by a Hephaestus-like being.

May 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
(4.5 stars)

I haven't read anything by Saberhagen in ages, so picked this up when I stumbled on it.

There isn't much to say about it - high fantasy, magical swords, hints that all is not as it appears. My only complaint is the fact that things are gleaned by divination rather than spies and footwork, half the time.
Gautam Surath
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not unexpected that I would find this a good read considering its about swords and sorcery. But in a different vein from the usual, the swords take the center stage here making the title an apt one. Each sword has its unique quality with which it was forged and we see a couple of them in this opening book. Lets see what the rest bring.
Nov 12, 2014 rated it liked it
I love the stuff I have read by Saberhagen before and I have most of this series already but it has been a long time before I started it. This being the first book, it makes me want to read more but not in as much earnest as The Books of the Gods series did. Still a good fantasy novel and blends a lot of new mythology particular to this universe to our own.
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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

Other books in the series

Books of Swords (4 books)
  • 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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