Book Review: Of Pens and Swords by Rena Rocford

26846589Title : Of Pens and Swords

Author : Rena Rocford

Publisher : Curiosity Quills Press

Release date : March 21st, 2016

Rating : 3.8/5

Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

Seventeen-year-old Cyra Berque wants two things in life: a date with Rochan and a chance to fence at the Olympics. But people with one hand don’t normally fence, and girls with big thighs don’t get the boy. Knowing that she wants to make the Olympics, Cyra’s coach sets her up with another coach, one who could take her all the way to the top, but the new coach costs more. Feeling her dreams slipping out of reach, Cyra agrees to tutor a ballerina with a rich father and a D minus in English. It’s triple the pay and triple the pain. The ballerina isn’t interested in passing classes―she wants Rochan, and she’s promised she’ll turn her D minus into a full-fledged F if Cyra doesn’t help her win the heart of Rochan.

Review :

Of Pens and Swords wasn’t what I expected. Expectations: Horrendous characters and weird writing pattern. Reality: Light and entertaining read.

Let’s start with the writing. If you are, like me, a pop culture fan, you’ll be happy to know that Rocford sprinkled her novel with pop culture references! I actually love when authors mention other popular works; it creates a kind of connection between them and their readers, and you can immediately tell that they’re not one of those pretentious “hipsters” who only want to make references to underground art (music, movies, artists, etc.). And by pretentious hipsters, you know what I mean. I’m not going to explain myself, for fear that I will get swept away by my exasperation and actually offend someone.

Anyway, the book is written in a cynical, cutting humor and honesty. It was a really fun read; it was like watching a movie about a typical, fast-paced teenager’s life, complete with drama and boys and gossip!! I guess you noticed that I love this kind of stuff, lmao! But as I said, the cutting humor was the best part of the writing. It lays bare how certain things really are, and tells what everyone is thinking. You know, those thoughts that are either too mean, too embarrassing or too raw to actually say out loud? It actually made the reading quite entertaining and funny!

The author knows a lot about her subjects, which are fencing, ballet and art. If you’ve been following my reviews for a while now, you’ll know that I LOVE it when authors do their homework. It makes the reading enjoyable, because Rocford doesn’t leave details in the wind, nothing is vague and I could actually learn some stuff. Another note of importance: Rocford deals with the consequences of lacking a hand. She does a good job at highlighting the difficulties of having only one hand in the world, and particularly in Cyra’s case, where she wants to become an Olympic fencer.

So, yes, Rocford knows her stuff…except for that one part where she wrote: Indian continent. This will never leave my mind.

About the characters, now. At first, Cyra seemed like a strong-headed girl. But then, I realized it was more immaturity than strong-headedness. Some things she did, I had to roll my eyes. But I did appreciate her sharpness. She has attitude, and a peculiar, carefree way of thinking. Her “spunkiness” was very welcomed, because I always like dynamic characters! She is, all in all, a really cool girl, one I’d like to be friends with, and it really helps that she’s so eloquent! It’s a nice idea to have a one-handed girl. I think I’ve never read a book whose protagonist has that kind of handicap. And it’s even nicer that Of Pens and Swords doesn’t revolve around how she lost her hand, but about how it affects her present. Cyra moved on from the accident, she’s not lingering on it.

Christine and Sara, though, have one foot each in my blacklist. In literally a minute, Christine goes from enemy to friend. I’m not saying her character was flawed, it’s just how badly Rocford wrote her. And Sara… Man, was she two-dimensional. She’s the typical mean girl, who has nothing else on her mind.

The ending was horribly done. It was waaaay too fast. The three extra A’s are necessary, trust me. I was still mulling over the dramatic plot twist, and already the book came to a conclusion! I was incredulous at how the author skimmed through some issues to get to the ending she wanted.

In conclusion, Of Pens and Swords was an enjoyable read with a lovable protagonist, but could use some improvements in characters and pace.

**I would like to thank NetGalley and Curiosity Quills Press for providing me with a digital galley of this book!

Picture sources : 1, 2

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