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*Swords: An Artist's Devotion* by Ben Boos- young readers fantasy book review
Swords: An Artist's Devotion
by Ben Boos
Ages 8-12 96 pages Candlewick September 2008 Hardcover    

Author and illustrator Ben Boos has been drawing swords since he was a child, and this beautifully illustrated book about swords took him several years to complete. Using more than twenty-five books for reference and his own artistic talents, Boos has created a stunning book visually showcasing the history and importance of one of the oldest and most respected weapons in the world.

Divided into fourteen chapters of six pages each, Swords has so much to look at and admire. Every chapter contains the names of many swords and their various features, and the different ways the swords have been created and used over the years.

People from all over the world have used swords during times of war and times of peace. Whether used as a powerful symbol or a weapon in combat, the author celebrates the sword's history and geographical origins in chapters on Warriors, Raiders, War Maidens, Villagers, Soldiers, Knights, Kings, Samurai, and Ninjas. Other chapters show examples of curved swords the sultans from the Middle East and western Asia used, and the throwing swords that war chiefs may have used in battle. The chapter on Silla knights contains illustrations of fighting styles, and the chapter on Landsknechts shows a few of the swords preferred by these old Europe mercenaries, such as the katzbalger sword and the zweihänder sword.

Readers will see how the sword has changed over the years and learn the names of many kinds of swords and their different components. The first chapter shows seven illustrations of Bronze Age swords and four examples of Iron Age swords. Close-up illustrations of the hilts from Celtic and Viking swords zoom on a more detailed view, and on the following page an excerpt from Beowulf accompanies a drawing of a sword shown from five different angles. The Raiders chapter shows an example of a ring sword and its ‘snake in the blade’ design, and the Soldiers chapter shows examples of the part of the blade called the tang and explains the purpose of a cruciform guard and pommel on a sword.

Rendered with digital media, the illustrations are in color, and several pages feature ornamental borders. The text is often written in boxes, with subheadings appearing in bold text. Labels are clear, sword names are explained in brackets when necessary, and information is presented in a logical way. At the end of the book, the author provides a select bibliography and a note on his inspirations.

Although this book was created for children, teenagers and adults from the public library where I work have shown interest in it, looking at the illustrations and asking questions about the book.

A former artist for Blizzard Entertainment, and developer of computer games, author and illustrator Ben lives in California with his family.

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