From Publishers Weekly
Canadian author Duncan explores the perils and pitfalls of dynastic politics in this swashbuckling fantasy, the fifth entry in his popular King's Blades series (after 2002's Paragon Lost). When Grand Duke Rubin of Krupina asks King Athelgar of Chivial for help in regaining his duchy, he's promised two of the King's Blades, peerless swordsmen mystically bonded to their wards. Given the shortage of trained Blades, though, Rubin will have to make do with Ranter and Ringwood, two senior boys. They, meanwhile, have to make do with Rubin, a deposed noble of uncertain prospects to whom they will be pledged for life, and his companion, Baron von Fader, an acerbic old man. Getting Rubin back to the throne of Krupina involves fending off shadowmen, preserving secret identities, uncovering traitors and penetrating impregnable fortresses. The author makes an admirable attempt to introduce a mature ambiguity in the book, enhancing the sense of mystery surrounding Rubin. However, the differing perspectives on the characters can get confusing, and two long digressions to establish background slow the action to a crawl. The novel is a thinking reader's Prisoner of Zenda, which may be missing the point.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
An exiled Grand Duke Rubin arrives at Ironhall, which by this point in Duncan's Chronicles of the King's Blades is almost a character in its own right, not just a setting. Rubin's mission is to recruit Blades to rescue his duchy from an evil sorcerer who can communicate with and use the abilities of the dead. Live Blades are in somewhat short supply, and that is only the duke's first problem. The next is that the duke is really, in the best tradition of Shakespeare, a duchess in disguise, and that little gender issue has to be satisfactorily resolved before anything else can be done. When it comes time for the traditional fantasy quest, the questers at hand constitute a distinctly raggle-taggle band, and the number of new mysteries to be solved reminds one of Dumas and his musketeers. This is all told with great verve, so as to please faithful King's Blades fans and win new ones for an underrated saga full of familiar fantasy elements treated with wit and ingenuity. Roland GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
About the Author
Dave Duncan is an award-winning author whose fantasy trilogy, The Seventh Sword, is considered a sword-and-sorcery classic. His numerous novels include three Tales of the King's Blades -- The Gilded Chain, Lord of the Fire Lands, and Sky of Swords; Paragon Lost, a previous Chronicle of the Kings Blades; Strings, Hero; the popular tetralogies A Man of His Word and A Handful of Men; andthe remarkable, critically acclaimed fantasy trilogy The Great Game.