Excellent book. Duncan displays his prototypical flare to take common fantasy themes (like magical warriors) and turn it ninety degrees. This is less a book about magic and quests (also there is an awesomely creepy battle in it and some other amazing scenes), and more a book about the costs and benefits of loyalty and faithfulness. A great start to his King's Blades series.
Duncan is clearly using Tudor England as the setting for this book and King Ambrose couldn't be more like Henry VIII, but there are differences, of course.
In this world magic is everywhere and unwanted boys go to Ironhall to become the finest swordsmen in the world. When they are ready, each is bound by a magic ritual to either the King or someone he designates. At the end of the ritual, the ward, the one who the Blade will serve, thrusts a sword through the candidates heart. When it is removed, the successful candidate is alive, healed and bound to his ward in absolute loyalty. Every Blade would far rather die than allow his ward to be hurt or captured.
This book follows the life of Durendal, a brash young boy who becomes the greatest swordsman of his century and has adventures that make him a legend before he is thirty.
However, his time as a Blade doesn't start off well, when he is bound to worthless effete courtier who is unlikely to ever need him to draw his sword.
This is an absorbing fantasy with characters feel substantial. I read a review that said the characters were generic, but it certainly didn't strike me that way.
I really enjoy this series, and this first book is a great introduction to the King's Blades books.
This is a series worth reading. This book the first about the King's Blades, knights pledged to protect their beloved lieges whom they are bonded till death to. Full of enemies, traitors and monsters and great sword fights.
For me, Dave Duncan was a new find and I am glad I found this book. Not a deep read, but not fluff either. How does a honest man, a "Paragon", live with his ethics intact while being soul bound to the King, who uses all the machinations the Court allows him to use?
The book has a few unexpected twists along the way, but they just add to the story.
I do wish there was more information about "The white sisters" available, but maybe in another story.
A stand alone tale, but I see other books by Duncan that also talk about "The King's Blades", and I can easily see how easy it would be to create a series.
A passable - but not great - fantasy novel. Unless I learn that the later books in the series are better written, I won't be reading any more of them. This just wasn't up to the standards of Tolkien or Donaldson, and I have many other things to read. Oh well.
I love the premise, and the first part of the book was great. The epic journey that takes over the plot later on just didn't do it for me, though. I'm not sure I managed to finish this book; maybe the end ties it all together.
I liked this fantasy about loyalty, friendship, and the dark side of immortality. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Monster War.