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Swords at Culver    by Richard Gwyn Davies order for
Swords at Culver
by Richard Gwyn Davies
Order:  USA  Can
Unlimited Publishing, 2007 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

I do not know how many authors follow the old adage 'write what you know', but I can tell you that Richard Gwyn Davies sure did. Not only is the setting for his first novel, Swords at Culver, based on a real place, so is at least one of the main characters based on a real person.

After the death of his parents, Merthyn Jones moved from his native Wales to Indiana to study at Culver Military Academy. While Indiana was not what he expected, he made friends at his new school, most notably upperclassman Tim Marks. He has also developed good relationships with teachers, especially Dr. Davies. These new acquaintances come in handy when Merthyn and Tim are attacked in the library while viewing a display of ancient weapons. Obsessed with fantasy, both boys take up swords that seem to be calling to them and, without any training, vanquish the presence that had entered the library.

However, that is not the end to the evil around Culver; two Native Americans have been seen lurking around. Unlike most of the Native cultures, theirs has a history of violence and they have an eye on certain members of the academy's faculty and student body. With the help of Dr. Davies and other staff members, Merthyn and Tim must prepare themselves for the fight of their lives.

Davies has created a unique fantasy adventure that successfully mixes a variety of mythology, taking an Old Testament sword and an Arthurian sword and using them to fight a Native American legend. This interesting mix serves to keep the story moving between action sequences and brings up quite a few philosophical questions for characters and readers to piece out together. The characters are all quite likable, and this adds to the intensity of their plight.

However, as with many first novels, there are a few key points that Davies needs to polish. Mainly, where many new authors have trouble showing instead of telling, Davies tends to both show and tell, which can hinder the pace with unneeded explanations. Speaking of explanations, footnotes instead of parenthetical asides would better serve the pacing of certain spots while still providing needed information. Fortunately, none of these spots completely threw me out of the story; what did were two references to a favorite movie of mine with the name not only different each time but wrong in both instances. (Just for the record, the correct title is neither Indian Jones and the Lost Ark or Raiders of the Last Ark but Raiders of the Lost Ark.)

Despite these few hiccups, Richard Gwyn Davies has penned a fun fantasy adventure that is sure to please those young and old with an interest in Native American lore. A sequel, The Buddha at Culver, was recently released, and I look forward to more of Davies' fantasy world and to seeing how his writing has grown.

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