This is one of those books that caught my attention right away, which is a rare thing for me. It typically takes me about 20% to start to get into a book and begin feeling invested. I was at that point around 5% for Brave Foolish Souls. The world building was exciting and atmospheric and helped immerse me into the story quickly. This is a city dominated by rivaling groups of masked swordsmen, they’re known as the Bravadori and are renown for their skill and lethality. All of the Bravadori masks are based around an animal, and their names coincide with what mask they were. The Galloping Turtle, the Crazy Racoon, the Preening Owl etc, each of the masks are highly decorative and colorful which creates a vibrant and surreal scene.
Arturo, one of the main characters, has traveled to the City of Swords based on dreams and hearsay. He believes the Bravadori to be a group that defends the weak, protects those that can’t protect themselves, and are part of the Queen’s retinue. They are supposed to work as an assurance that someone out there will protect the people and behave in an honorable fashion. Arturo wants to be a Bravadori but he doesn’t exactly have the persona of one you’d expect to join their ranks. He ducks for cover the first time he encounters them, hiding under a tomato stand watching them fight, debating whether he should approach them or not. Although he does have a Knack that slows down time and allows him to see what people are going to do, (very useful for fighting) he is very timid when it comes to approaching the Bravadori. When he finally does, things don’t go as well as he hoped – he’s laughed off every time, and his moniker changed from Hungry Wolf to Starving Pup.
He slowly realizes after coming to the city that the Bravadori function more like gangs, challenging each other over territory and slights to each other’s members. They maim each other and occasionally kill each other as well, although death isn’t typically desired outcome. They don’t fight for honor, or the weak, or to help protect people. They fight for their own interests in order to gain a reputation and accumulate wealth.
A man from The Wilds comes to the city seeking aid, he had also heard tales of heroes living the City of Swords and hopes he can recruit them to help his village. But, when he arrives he’s bluntly told no one will be helping him. That is until he runs into Arturo. Arturo doesn’t just decide to help, but he tries to guilt the other Bravadori into remembering their roots and coming to the aid of people who need it. That doesn’t go well either.
Arturo was my favorite, but there are other memorable POV’s in this as well. Yizel is a Shaven, someone who has lost her Mask as a Bravadori and is largely shunned by the rest of society. There are places she can’t go, and if she doesn’t shave her head herself, others will pin her down and do it for her. She’s been working as a hired sword for the Mouse clan and has a few missteps, including killing someone from the rivaling clan. She’s on thin ice, but she needs the money so she can survive. The Crazy Racoon is sort of a wild card who belongs to the Paw clan, he’s used as a scare tactic and due to his reputation, most flee before even trying to fight him. He’s a barely contained murder machine that is far too gleeful at the thought of murdering people.
The writing and pacing for this were fantastic. There was a bit of head-hopping at the beginning, within the first 10% there were already 3 POV’s, but it didn’t slow me down because I found them all to be fascinating. This author tends to writer shorter to medium length books and manages to pack a lot inside them. Words aren’t wasted and everything has a purpose which also helps speed things along. Like in previous books, this one has interludes that are mini-stories within the story, and like in earlier books I absolutely loved these side stories. It’s such a creative way to do what is essentially an info dump about the world, but make it so damn entertaining and different that it just works, and works well.
You don’t have to have read the other books in the series to understand what’s going on, the entire series is meant to be stand-alone, but once you get attached to this world it’s really neat seeing it over and over again from different perspectives.
Overall, I loved this one, this could be my favorite book in the series so far and I’m so excited to read the next one. This has a lot of parallels with other stories that revolve around meeting your heroes. About expectations that weren’t met and dreams that seem farther away than ever. It never fails to get me because I’ve had a few of those moments myself and it was pretty heartbreaking.
- multi pov
- sword fighting
- magic use
- mexican culture
- atmospheric writing
- fast paced stories
- Plot: 13/15
- Characters: 14/15
- World Building: 14/15
- Writing: 13/15
- Pacing: 13/15
- Originality: 14/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 10/10
Final Score: 91/100 – 5 stars highly recommended!