Swords: An Artist's Devotion

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Overview

Be smitten by the sword! An extraordinary young artist brings the history of this noble weapon — and its skillful masters — into stunningly sharp relief.

Brave men and women have taken up the sword since ages of old, and a fascination with this formidable weapon grips dedicated followers to this day. Here is a celebration of swords and swordsmen that spans time and place — from ancient warriors such as Beowulf to medieval knights; from stealthy ninja and samurai to legendary ...

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Overview

Be smitten by the sword! An extraordinary young artist brings the history of this noble weapon — and its skillful masters — into stunningly sharp relief.

Brave men and women have taken up the sword since ages of old, and a fascination with this formidable weapon grips dedicated followers to this day. Here is a celebration of swords and swordsmen that spans time and place — from ancient warriors such as Beowulf to medieval knights; from stealthy ninja and samurai to legendary maidens of war. Illustrated with breathtaking intricacy, SWORDS reflects the passion of a true devotee, offering lavish background details on design and use as well as exquisite spreads showcasing specimens in all their shining glory.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
It might be difficult to think of swords as beautiful but, as presented in this gorgeous picture book, they are. Offered in 14 chapters that focus on the kind of warrior who would use the different types of swords, each chapter provides a short definition of who each type of warrior was and where each would have lived. For example, in chapter 3, we learn about the "War Maidens," specifically Queen Boudicca of Britain who faced down the Roman legions. The pages that follow in each chapter talk about specifics of the swords and blades pictured as well as other weapons that might have been used by that warrior; amazingly detailed illustrations of the various instruments of war help to show what they would have looked like or how they might have been used. Other chapters in the book include: "Samarai," "Korean Silla Knights," "Warriors (with a special emphasis on Vikings and Berserkers)" and "Landsknechts." The author tells us that the book results from his lifelong interest in swords; as the author and illustrator notes, the "book covers a broad expanse of both history and geography, serving as a repository of memory, inspiration, and imagination." This amazing picture book will be a great addition to any library. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 6 Up

This absorbing, large-format collection of sketches, paintings, and historical notes on sword craft is not called an artist's devotion for nothing. Boos's treatment of his subject is reverential and his artwork is outstanding, combining meticulous attention to detail and a designer's sense for layout. The spare text provides just enough information but generally allows the illustrations to speak for themselves. Each chapter covers a different period or place in the history of the sword, including the Iron and Bronze Ages, the Middle Ages in Europe, Japanese samurai and ninjas, the Silla knights of Korea, African sword craft, Islamic designs, and more. Although the author, a former video-game designer, "would have it known that [his] qualifications are modest," he manages to portray an incredible variety of styles, from hilts to blades to the intricate metalwork that makes each sword not just a weapon but also a work of art. It's easy to get caught up in his enthusiasm, and the right reader will spend hours poring over every loving detail. Give this to fans of history, art, or swordplay fantasies.-Rebecca Donnelly, Loma Colorado Public Library, Rio Rancho, NM

Kirkus Reviews
An unabashed browsing item, this big, square album is chock-full of digitally painted images of knives and swords, laid out in generic arrays with every nick, notch, decorative motif and gleaming highlight rendered in lovingly realistic detail. Though arranged in chapters according to type of user ("War Maidens," "Landsknechts," "Ninja" and so forth) and sometimes (there are many wordless spreads) even supplied with perfunctory descriptive captions, the sheaves of blades and galleries of elaborate guards and hilts are strictly eye candy. Detail junkies will revel in the specialized vocabulary run amok: Such more or less obscure terms as tang, wakizashi and blood groove (which, disappointingly, has "nothing to do with blood") litter the pages, ripe for the picking. Armchair warriors, junior members of the Society for Creative Anachronism and budding graphic artists will be riveted. (bibliography) (Nonfiction. 9-16)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763631482
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 9/9/2008
  • Pages: 96
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.40 (w) x 11.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Ben Boos (1971-2011) worked as an illustrator and designer for the bestselling Diablo video game franchise. He was also the author-illustrator of Swords: An Artist Devotion and Fantasy: An Artists Realm.

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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Ben Boos

Q. How and when did you become interested in art?

A. My father was an artist, so in my earliest memories, I can recall him working at an easel. The smell of paint and the jumble of art supplies inspired me from the get-go. In fact, I remember getting in trouble as a wee little guy after drawing on the walls and the undersides of furniture. Imagine a crazy crayon mural of dinosaurs fighting with bears and sharks! It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Drawing became a lifelong habit. Creating artwork was an escape hatch through which my mind could wander away from any uninteresting task, yet it was also a pursuit that required me to develop discipline and focus. My interest in art has led me here and there in the world. First I made a living doing freelance illustration, and later I found a career making computer games, which I did for eight years.

Q. How did you make the leap from video games to books? Do you find creating books different from or similar to working on video games?

A. During work on a few of the Diablo games, I began vividly daydreaming of writing and illustrating my own book. Finally, I felt enough conviction that I quit my job. Creating Swords was similar to working on video games in that it was a real production. I had to stay disciplined and focused, or I would wind up dallying too long in one area while leaving other areas unfinished. My video game experience really helped me time the development, and I’m happy to say that the book was delivered just on time.

Q. Why did you want to write a book about swords? How did you get the idea?

A. I didn’t choose a definitive topic until after I quit my job. I hoped that my headfirst plunge into the unknown would spark the “big idea” that I was counting on. I’ll admit that was a crazy plan. The existential panic kicked in right on cue, and I went on the thrill ride of a lifetime as the project somehow magically fell into place. A dear friend and coworker gave me a beautiful sword as I parted company with Blizzard North. The kind gesture and generous gift stuck in my mind, until one day I had an “Aha!” moment.

I channeled as much of my energy into illustrations as I could, struggling to capture the vivid pictures that filled my mind. It was eye-straining work, but thankfully, with subjects as knights and ninjas, it wasn’t hard for me to find ample inspiration. To tell the truth, it was a blast, like reliving a part of my childhood. I really tried to make the book I would have loved to have owned as a child, and yet I also crafted this book for people (like myself) who have never outgrown their fondness for the sword.

Q. Why do you think people today are still so fascinated by swords?

A. Great question! I know I’m not alone in my fondness for swords. My friends at Blizzard North were sword nuts, and from what I can tell, so are millions of others. The sword is certainly a fantastic weapon and a mighty invention. With steel, we can rival the tooth and claw of any beast. The sword is a brutal, effective weapon, and yet I don’t think that’s the reason people love it. There is something more at work here. The sword is a blazing symbol -- of strength and honor, of power and principle, of art and discipline, of science and craftsmanship, and of justice and truth. In the modern era, millions of people still gird themselves with virtual swords and wade into imaginary battle every day. The sword represents empowerment and the ability to stand up and fight for what is right and true. A sword somehow romantically hints at a readiness for adventure and the unknown, a possible showdown with adversity, and the potential for glory and reward. That’s why I think the sword has timeless appeal.

Q. Are your illustrations based on actual historical swords, or are they works of imagination?

A. There is certainly a flavoring of imagination added to my swords. In terms of hilt shapes and blade types, my illustrations are very accurate, but I also extrapolated and used a bit of imagination to create new specimens that seemed appropriate for a given culture and era. I worked out variations of ornament and detail until I felt I had created something familiar but somehow new. My dream was to envision treasures that have never been found, and by reconstruction and a bit of artistic interpretation, I hoped to present what these lost specimens might have looked like.

Actual artifacts represent such a tiny fraction of the glory that once was! Like fossils, they give a mere peephole into our history. What creatures existed but never fell into a tar pit or a mud hole? Swords that didn’t get buried just so in a bog often didn’t get preserved at all. What wild ornament have we not gotten to see? What beauties have we not yet dug up? This is the stuff that gets my interest and imagination fired up. Of course, I kept close to reality, based on my understanding of genuine historical examples. I didn’t want to offend purists with overstretches of the imagination, so I tried to restrain myself as best as I could. For those seeking a deep and rigorous history of the sword, I have included an extensive list of sources, from the works of the late great scholar Ewart Oakeshott to the living master of medieval swordsmanship, John Clements.

Q. What are you working on now?

A. I’m already hard at work on the next “artist’s devotion” book! It has been another adventure too, just like the first project. This time around, I’m drawing on my love of all things related to fantasy. My fascination with Tolkien and C. S. Lewis will be involved. I really get to populate this new book with some exciting stuff: monsters, treasure, heroes, weapons, and lavish ornament abound!
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 23, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    This is a book that truly brings the art of historical weaponry

    This is a book that truly brings the art of historical weaponry to the reader in beautiful illustrations that highlight and clarify the intricate details and shapes of the various types of swords. An oversize book, it truly does justice to the subject.

    I will donate this book to our local Christian school library, and I foresee this being a frequent check-out by the boys.  But then, of course, I see their daddies also pouring over its pages once it is in the home.

    The array of swords, knives, and other such weapons are covered in 14 chapters including but not limited to: Warriors, Raiders, War Maidens, Villagers, Soldiers, Knights. Kings, Samurai, Ninja.

    I can see this book used and studied for the sheer artistry of each illustration. I can also see that the interest of a reader would be drawn to the historical value of this piece because the author has done his research homework thoroughly. 
    The use of swords throughout history has indeed been bloody and yet some cultures hold to the belief that the sword is a sacred instrument.

    The combination of such intricate beauty with destruction in its use is mindboggling but none-the-less factual – swords are beautiful and swords are destructive.

    DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of Swords from Candlewick Press in exchange for this review. Opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2010

    My middle-school son loves this book

    My 8th-grade son loves swords--he draws his own designs constantly, and even thinks about making them when he gets older. Seeing as I wasn't going to buy him any actual swords, this book is as close as it gets to his dream come true. The drawings in this book are truly spectacular, and very cool. There are depictions of many different cultures and time periods of swordcraft, and just enough of a brief description and some history to be educational and engaging without being boring. I highly recommend this for any upper-elementary through high schooler who loves swords and sword art.

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