One day, Jyosh will climb the heavens and slay a dragon god.
Though nothing could seem less likely for a slave, especially one whose body is too broken to cycle sunshine into destructive magical energy. Until he meets a woman who can secretly teach him the lightblade, an energy sword transmuted from sunlight, capable of changing size, shape, and performing incredible magical feats according to the wielder’s skill level.
Except she only exists in his dreams. Each hour of sleep equals a day in these shared lucid dreams, wherein he must master new lightblade abilities, bond with his teacher and other allies, and gain the fortitude to overcome his weakness and crush his enemies.
When Jyosh awakens to learn that a mysterious lightblade master, who also commands an armada of sky ships, is spreading destruction across the land, he’ll face a trial by fire against forces far more frightening than he could ever dream.
And forged from that fire, a Light Ascendent will rise.
Lightblade is the novel that marks the start of a homonymous series, written by Zamil Akhtar. A progression science-fantasy proposal, an authentic mix of genres that I had the pleasure of reading as part of the SPSFC semifinals; and that has surprised me for the good, as progression elements are really well integrated into the plot, being used for more than a simple training aspect for the main character.
Our main character, Jyosh, dreams of breaking his slave chains; and has acquired in the black market a modified dream stone that instead of giving him pleasure or love, will be used to train him in the use of a lightblade.
His final goal is to kill the emperor, despite not remembering why; and once the slave field where he is trapped is attacked, Jyosh will only care about surviving, taking a path that will take him closer to war, putting him in a position to reach his goals.
With this premise, we have a progression story, in which the main character is able to improve his abilities and gain new by training. In this case, the author chooses to integrate it with the dream stones, a kind of mystical dispositive where the time goes slower, giving Jyosh time to practice and polish his abilities, with the help of the instructor program.
Despite the main purpose being to justify the leveling up of the character, Akhtar also uses it to bring some philosophical questions, about identity and reality, improving one of the aspects I tend to find less enjoyable in the genre.
Outside of this, we have a cast of characters that get relevance in the story, but without losing the focus on Jyosh, as the story is told using a 1st POV; making use of the duality between dream and vigil. Most of the secondary characters play an important role in Jyosh's development, especially the special instructor his stone has.
Said that, I find pacing dragging a bit, especially in the sequences that are inside the stones, probably as a consequence of their nature. It balances with the faster fight scenes, especially once Jyosh is skilled enough to use his skills outside the stone.
Worldbuilding is original, blending some technological elements into a fantasy world, with a rich imaginarium of creatures. The combat system is mixed with magic, taking light as the base, not the hardest one, but not exactly a soft system.
Lightblade surprised me for the good, as progression tends to be a genre I don't enjoy as much as others, but the world definitely got me in. Zamil Akhtar proves that with good prose and imagination, you can create awesome things.
When Zamil was fourteen, he moved from the dry, dune-spotted Arabian peninsula to the hilly, arctic wasteland that is Western Massachusetts. He despises the cold, isn’t very fond of the sun, and prefers spending all day indoors mashing the keyboard in the hopes something great will come of it. When not dreaming up dark and fantastical journeys, he enjoys binging horror movies, wasting precious time arguing about international relations on Reddit, and occasionally traveling somewhere exotic. He currently lives in Dubai with his loving wife and his badly-behaved pet rabbit.