The Sword and The Sunflower, Mark Bradford

For the first time in a long time, I find myself unsure as to how to approach my review of a recent read I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.

There are so many factors to consider. The Sword and The Sunflower by Mark Bradford is not in line with our typical readership, but I truly hope that our followers consider this read because it’s definitely worth the time. Although we have introduced non-romance novels in the past, like Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches series (which then shortly after hit the small screen and has become a huge mainstream success), this book too is one that delves in a fantastical, dystopic world and is written by a man. Some may not agree with my sentiments, but I firmly stand in the belief that there’s a fundamental, stylistic difference between male and female authors. That isn’t to say that one is better than the other; they are different and to grow as a reader, it’s good to step out of your box and be exposed to different styles, craftsmanship and genres.

This book is not a fast read, albeit not difficult. It’s detailed and requires you to truly see and experience the descriptiveness with attentiveness. It brings you on a journey that is unlike others and you find yourself thrown into an immediate circumstance that has you asking questions about the plot and the characters from the get-go.

It is a story about life’s crossroads. About events that are beyond one’s control and how you tackle life’s adventures and hurdles thrown your way. It’s sprinkled with magic and the elements of the unknown. It’s set in medieval times, yet a period that proceeds a technological era not much different than the world we live in today. It forces the reader to question existentialism, world structures, cultural development and religious fervour. It’s not just about a coming of age of the individuals we meet, but of entire populaces and the world at large.

The topics are deep and interwoven throughout is the bond and love that two people find for one another, as father and daughter.

The concept that nothing is by chance, yet everything is determined by ultimate free will and choice is deeply philosophical and is the underlying message throughout. I also felt as though the message was one of cyclical proportions. Life lessons are repetitive regardless of time and space. Regardless of culture and belief. That in the end of all journeys, it is always about owning one’s truth and one’s story regardless (and in part due to) one’s destiny, location and coming to terms with accepting who they are in every leg of said journey.

Stojan is formidable. He is stoic (as described often) and torn with the loss of a daughter and the man he’s become because of it. Ana becomes his grace and in so doing, also becomes tethered to him and shaped into a force to be reckoned with because of this step-in father figure who allows her the opportunity to blossom into the sunflower she was always meant to be. Interestingly, there is no mention of mothers and the few women we are introduced to are of the Aboriginal descent and are strong forces. If anyone is familiar with Aboriginal customs and history, this book will be greatly appreciated. If anyone is privy to the world of symbolism and magic, the concept of the Raven (and I would argue the Crone when you meet the only female Aboriginal who plays a significant role) will not be lost on you.

There is magic. There is a profound questioning of faith and social understanding. There are characters that come and go that are nothing short of phenomenal in their own rite. The struggle between finding one’s humanity in the face of social change is profound. The battle between good and evil (both individually and within a social and cultural structure) is a recurring theme. Truth, honesty, introspection and growth are all explored in this fantastic book.

I couldn’t recommend this book enough. I actually believe it should be read at the high school level for young adults as well. It forces the reader to question, grow and learn to question the world around them and the world living within themselves.

Must read. πŸ–€πŸ–€πŸ–€πŸ–€πŸ–€