What a marvellous read. This is set in the same world as the Clocktaur War books, but not connected. Halla is a widowed poor relation housekeeper who has kept house for her great uncle. When he dies she finds she is the sole beneficiary of his will, which doesn't please his (closer) relatives. They lock her into her own room so that she will agree to marry her odious cousin. She knows her life will be worthless once they get their hands on the estate. Enter Sarkis, an immortal barbarian swordsman trapped in an enchanted sword and doomed to protect wielder after wielder – for eternity. When Halla draws the sword, Sarkis finds himself defending her against everything from her own in-laws to bandits and evil priests. The story may be relatively simple, but what lifts this head and shoulders above the crowd is the sparkling dialogue and the repartee. Halla is not well educated, but she questions all the time and genuinely wants to know the answers, but also she's developed a protective I-am-a-stupid-female mode when she runs off at the mouth and generally confounds and bewilders people into thinking she's insignificant. Sparks fly between her and Sarkis who is a grim barbarian type with more of a heart than he realises, despite being – you know – dead and immortal at the same time. Halla and Sarkis are simply fabulous characters. I couldn't stop reading. I raced to finish it, and at the same time didn't want it to end. It does look as though it's the beginning of a trilogy. I can't wait for the next one.