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Crescent Blues Book ViewsThree moon gifAvon Eos (Hardcover), ISBN 0-380-97461-4
The second volume in Duncan's stand alone series about the King's Blades follows the same premise as the first (The Gilded Chain). Rebellious teenage boys enter the academy known as Ironhall and emerge five years later as their world's finest swordsmen. During a magical graduation ceremony, a sword through the heart binds each Blade to the king or a "ward" of the king's choosing. This bond lasts until death and sometimes beyond. 

Book: Dave Duncan, Lord of the Fire LandsNevertheless, the Blades always approached the binding eagerly -- until Raider refuses to take the oath and his friend Wasp follows his lead. Raider and Wasp first came to Ironhall as refugees of the Baelish War but not as equals. Hidden traitors killed Raider's father, the Baelish king, while the Baels killed all of Wasp's family.  

Nevertheless, these children of old enemies forge an unbreakable friendship in the rigors of Ironhall, which fate seems determined to foster. Events and the king conspire to force Wasp to accept the binding thrust and Raider for his ward. Now bound by magic, steel and genuine regard, Raider and Wasp travel to the Fire Lands to unravel the past, unmask the traitors and pay old debts. 

Book: Dave Duncan, The Gilded ChainLord of the Fire Lands starts and ends great, but it slows considerably in the middle where it becomes a tale told rather than a plot unfolding. I guess it disappointed me even more, because it didn't deliver a true tale of the Blades. Wasp, the only Blade involved in the main narrative, proves to be only a secondary character. 

Despite what I considered Lord of the Fire Lands' shortcomings, Duncan delivers an interesting, intelligently written, creative read. I plan to grab the next Tale of the Blades and read it from beginning to end, just as I did this one, and I wouldn't hate to hesitate to recommend this book to lovers of fine fantasy and tales of derring-do, war, kingly wiles, and fire drakes.  

Patricia White 

Patricia White is the Sapphire Award-winning author of A Wizard Scorned. Her current book, the western Edwina Parkhurst, Spinster, is available from Hard Shell Word Factory.

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