Sherwood Smith is one of the most skilled authors I’ve ever had the privilege to read. She has written a wide array of books, all targeted at different age groups. Not many authors can successfully do that! But her most amazing accomplishment is in creating a fictional world that is so multi-dimensional it can produce 10+ unique books. Each book/series set in the Sartorias-deles world is completely individual, in that the stories are all fresh with new characters, cultures and histories. Yet when read as a whole they are all woven together and you begin to appreciate the mastery of Sherwood Smith.
When I re-read Smith’s books, certain details that I may have previously overlooked now stand out because of all the knowledge I garnered from the other stories. It makes the reading experience so much richer.
Banner of the Damned is a perfect example of why Sherwood Smith is a genius. This book ties together so many threads from her previous stories (Inda, Crown Duel, Senrid, A Stranger to Command) that you can’t help but be amazed by her skill as a world-builder and storyteller.
Banner of the Damned covered so much ground, that it felt like I was reading a whole series, rather than one book. The main character Emras starts out as an insignificant scribe who happens to be in the right place at the right time. Over the course of the novel she is confronted with many moral and ethical decisions that ultimately make her an integral part of the story. You really see the arc of her character, as she transitions from a young naive student to a mature woman that takes accountability for her actions.
Although the narrative is mostly from the perspective of Emras, it is not solely her story– it’s a behind-the-scenes look at how culture shapes nations. This is also a great example of how subjective history is when it’s distorted for personal or political reasons. The perspective of the book shifts at times to other characters, so we get a intimate portrait of all the main players. Each and every character in Banner of the Damned is unique and interesting, Smith is excellent at conveying their motivations and desires so they all seem to come to life. No character is without a flaw, and even the villains are not purely evil. There is such a wide range of personalities and emotions, that it’s easy to relate to and empathize with the characters.
The tremendous amount of political and historical detail can sometimes be overwhelming, but it this case it only serves to enhance the reality of the world, and add dimension to the story. If you’re new to Sherwood Smith, I would recommend starting with some of the “easier” books (Crown Duel, Senrid, Inda), and working your way up to this one.
The first Sherwood Smith book I ever read was Crown Duel / Court Duel. For years it was my favorite book (you can tell by how dog-eared the pages are!). Once Inda was published, my love affair with the author began, and I had to get my hands on everything Sherwood Smith wrote. I can’t say that I have a favorite anymore, because in my mind all her books form one interconnected story.
Books by Sherwood Smith:
Crown & Court (YA)
★★★★ Crown Duel / Court Duel (published together and separately)
★★★★ A Stranger to Command – A prequel to Crown Duel, but read it second.
Inda (Adult) – This series takes place years before the Crown Duel books. It is more intense and detailed because it is an adult series and they average 600 pages.
★★★★★ The Fox
★★★★★ King’s Shield
★★★★★ Treason’s Shore
★★★★★ Banner of the Damned (Adult) – Takes place between the events of Inda & Crown Duel.
★★ Senrid (YA) – Ties in with the whole Sartorias-deles world, but it’s not very polished and somewhat confusing to follow.
★★★ The Trouble With Kings (YA) – Stand alone fantasy that takes place after Crown Duel.
★★★★ A Posse of Princesses (YA) – Another stand-alone fantasy that is set in a different world, but is a charming teen book.
Sasharia en Garde! (YA) – Also takes place in Sartorias-deles, with a real-world (earth) crossover).
★★★ Once a Princess
★★★ Twice a Prince
Dobrenica (Adult) – Urban Fantasy, with a Mr. Darcy like character and an old-world feel.
★★★★ Coronets & Steel
★★★★ Blood Spirits
★★★★ Revenant Eve
note: This is not a complete list! Sherwood Smith has also written other series, including many children’s books. You can find more on her website sherwoodsmith.net.