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    SKY OF SWORDS by Dave Duncan (see his website)


    EOS, October 2000

    Princess Malinda has tried to do the right thing but doing so has lead to tragedy. Largely bracketed by her trial for murder and treason, Malinda's story unfolds. Scorned by her powerful father, married for politics, unable to save her sick brother, plunged into a world of civil war that she would do anything to avoid, Malinda continuously tries to find a way out--only to plunge into greater disaster.

    Author Dave Duncan's (see more reviews of novels by Duncan) creation of the King's Blades--a group of men sworn and spelled to protect their wards, raises SKY OF SWORDS above the average fantasy. While compelled to be loyal, the Blades suffer from a terrible weakness--the loss of their ward plunges them into violent insanity. When Malinda is unable to prevent a royal murder, the entire force of King's Blades plunges into an insanity that results in mass destruction and in the weakening of the trust between the Blades and the people. Without this trust, the Kingdom cannot stand.

    Of Duncan's characters, Dog stands out from the genre stock. Devoted to Malinda, he swears he will die for her, yet his oafish exterior hides a sensitive (but far from stupid) interior. His loyalty to Malinda gives her the chance to save the Kingdom--if this can be done at all.

    The novel's conclusion lacked the sensitivity and power of the remainder of the novel. Malinda seemed oblivious to the terrible sacrifices so many made to enable her to reach this final goal. Still, although I would have liked to see a more powerful sense of loss, and although many readers will guess the path before the decision is made (or even before the book is halfway complete when Malinda launches her world on the path to destruction), Duncan makes the trip enjoyable.

    Three Stars

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