Monday, June 6, 2016

Review: Of Pens and Swords by Rena Rocford

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.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was a book that I very much wanted to like, and I even started out liking it a lot, but it didn't hold up.

The premise was good (a retelling, so to speak, of Cyrano de Bergerac) and one that I don't think has been done often, unlike certain fairy tales. There were some good traits, but it started falling apart due to the cons outlined below.


The chapter header illustrations were pretty. They reminded me of drawings you might see in a textbook demonstrating the various moves a fenced might do. They would've been even better if they had done that. Illustrations at the beginning of every chapter, but each one showcasing a different ability.

The passages in the first part of the book that talked about fencing expectations and the weapons used were fascinating. I don't believe I've ever read a book about fencing, so this new knowledge was welcome.

Cyra's disability is not one that I've read about often. It was interesting to see it brought up and how Cyra deals with life as someone with only one hand.


The transitions between Cyra's thoughts needs a little work. At times she sounds like she's about to trail off instead of being focused on the moment at hand.

She's reading as immature, which is annoying because I would think that someone who's suffered a maiming like her and who is determined to make it to the Olympics via fencing wouldn't sound or act so childish.

The "friendship" between Cyra and Christine makes no sense. I understand that Cyra has to put up with Christine because of the tutoring job, but Christine makes this semi-transition from the new mean girl to the friend character that you can't help but hate because she's rude, whiny, and doesn't have a redeemable bone in her body.

Christine's voice is weird, too. Her speech pattern sounds off, like she's trying to pretend to be someone else and is failing. The words are stilted at best, cliche at worst.


The book started out well and continued as such for a little while, but the annoying parts piled up and ultimately the book suffered. Luckily it was a fairly short one, so not much time will be wasted if you decide to pick it up.

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