A fun, fast-paced young adult fantasy adventure

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Blade of Secrets is a fun, fast-paced young adult fantasy adventure with an unconventional strong female protagonist. It’s a classic quest to keep a powerful magical object from falling into the wrong hands. Tricia Levenseller manages to put a fresh spin on this old and beloved fantasy trope.

It’s got sword-fights, clever strategizing, haphazard plans, mad dashes from one near disaster to another, creative magic, a band of misfit heroes on the run, reluctant allies, plot twists, and morally good yet imperfect main characters. All these familiar fantasy genre tropes done right have me nostalgic for my old favorite fantasy reads.

Finally, we have a female protagonist, Ziva, who not only stands up for herself, her sister, and what’s right, but also ends up the leader of our misfit bunch despite her social anxiety. Add to that action that keeps you on the edge of your seat and some wonderfully wicked plot twists, and you’ve got one memorable story.


Ziva just wanted to forge magical weapons in the solitude of her forge until she’d made enough money for her and her sister (the only family she’s got left) to go live where no one knows them or will bother them. When she took a too-good-to-be-true commission to make a broadsword for a warlord, she outdid herself and accidentally made it too powerful to let fall into wrong hands. It could strike down enemies from afar and steal secrets of those it cuts. Unfortunately for Ziva, she also appears to have made it virtually indestructible. Whoops! On the bright side, she found the perfect name for her problematic blade: Secret Eater.

When Ziva discovered the warlord had dastardly and dangerous plants, she and her sister, Temra, went on the run with the sword until they could find a way to destroy it. They hired the handsome mercenary, Kellyn, to provide protection as they travel. They also let Petrick, a scholar of magic (in a world with few individuals capable of magic) that wanted to document how Ziva’s magic works, tag along in the hopes that he would point them towards a way to destroy the sword. (They definitely didn’t let him come just because he could cook. That would be ridiculous.) Ziva, Temra, Kellyn, and Petrick are all well-rounded, full of surprises, loveable, impressive, and imperfect. By the end of the book, they’re three-dimensional and connected by emotionally complicated, messy, meaningful relationships. These loveable adventurers run from one disaster to another, fighting and thinking their way out of trouble.


Ziva is a semi-agoraphobic magical blacksmith that, despite her social anxiety and tendency towards panic attacks, is no pushover. She’ll brave her fears for her sister anyday. She also can’t help getting snarky when she’s mad (even if there’s some social-anxiety-driven panic afterwards). She’s got a real passion for her blacksmith work and the way she imbues weapons & other metal objects with unique magical properties is unpredictable, fascinating, and just plain cool.

I think most introverts (and people in general) can relate to some of Ziva’s struggles: second guessing yourself, wishing to retreat to your own place where you don’t have to interact with new people, being afraid of venturing out into parts of the world you don’t have much experience with, and having trouble finding people you relate to.

It was great to see Ziva come into her own and start to become a leader despite her anxiety. Levenseller also avoids the common mistake of having the protagonist’s social anxiety magically disappear part-way through the book. The anxiety is something she continues to struggle with even after gaining some confidence and braving the world beyond her comfort zone. She may struggle less than she used to after some character growth, but she doesn’t have a personality transplant. Her bravery, growth, and accomplishments are all the more impressive for it.


There is some love-triangle-free romance. The primary romance is between Ziva and Kellyn. It’s got banter and sparks and sweetness and all the feels. A decent amount of drama too. The romance isn’t rushed and there’s no explicit content (at least in this book).


After a twist roller coaster of a ride, there’s a big climactic showdown full of surprises and action. Things get surprisingly morally and emotionally complicated near the end.

While the main plot arc is (mostly) resolved at the end, you’re left in suspense about the fate of one of the main characters. It’s quite the cliffhanger, but it didn’t feel forced, manipulative, or depressing. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

WARNINGS: violence, death, panic attacks, death of parents (mentioned, not shown), social anxiety, phobias