This second cowritten installment of Legends of the Riftwar (after Feist's 2006 collaboration with William R. Forstchen, Honored Enemy) finds Rosenberg's engaging mercenary trio, Durine, Kethol and Pirojil, drafted to escort the bed-hopping Lady Mondegreen and her current lover, ambitious Baron Morray, to a summit conference in the city of LaMut. As the intrigues thicken, the Three Swords find themselves permanent guards to the baron, and are soon promoted to captain and tasked with keeping the peace among bored and idle baronial retainers. Then the aging Baron Mondegreen dies, and Morray and Lady Mondegreen are found in bed together with their throats slashed. The Swords, suspicious of everybody-including one another-go looking for the murderer. The numerous characters are well-drawn and use their brains rather than relying on too-easy magic. Fans of the earlier Midkemia books and past adventures of the Three Swords (Not Exactly the Three Musketeers, etc.) will find much to enjoy in this intelligent high fantasy.
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The third volume of Conclave of Shadows shifts focus from Tal Hawkins, who has overcome Kaspar, duke of Olasko, and wrought quite thorough vengeance upon him. But the ex-tyrant of Olasko is a survivor, though he first appears to have no other virtues. He makes shift as a farmhand, then as a common laborer, and while looking at the world from underneath, detects a good many things not visible from higher quarters. One, or maybe several, of these is a menace compounded out of dark magic of a sort thought buried too far in Midkemia's past to be threatening. Feeling loyalty to Midkemia, or at least to the portion of humanity living there, Kaspar uses his hard-bought knowledge to begin fighting the menace. The complexity of characterization here may surprise some, though not those who have followed Feist's work over the years and seen steady, across-the-board improvement in it. A must, of course, for rapt readers of Talon of the Silver Hawk (2003) and King of Foxes [BKL Ja 1 & 15 04]. Roland Green
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