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The Gilded Chain
Dave Duncan
Avon EOS Books, 352 pages

A review by Wayne MacLaurin

Buy this book.

OK, now that it's obvious that I liked The Gilded Chain, let me move on to why....

Dave Duncan's work has always been original and loads of fun to read. This time out, Duncan takes a step away from his trademark backdrop of intriguing uses of magic and concentrates on telling a story.

Sub-titled "A Tale of the King's Blade," The Gilded Chain is just that. It is the tale of the best swordsman in the land of Chivial. The Blades, as they are known, are the finest swordsmen in the land, bound by magic to serve their wards with absolute loyalty. Durandel is the best of those knights and his story is filled with intrigue, adventure, tournaments, and dark magic. Of course, to become the greatest knight, Durandel does have to overcome a couple minor obstacles. Being bound to "an effete noble fop" does make the goal of charging into battle at the side of your liege a bit of a challenge, and having to deal constantly with a vicious inquisitor who is convinced Durandel is destined to betray his king, does make life interesting.

Duncan, never one to tell a simple tale when a more complex one would be even better, has put together a truly great story. He has taken what could have been a uninspired rehashing of every sword-swinging hero motif and molded a tale that draws more from the characters and the depth of the story line than it does from bloodshed and swordplay. Of course, there is lots of swordplay: after all, this is a story of a swordsman. However, what makes The Gilded Chain great is the depth of the characters and the elaborate detail which fills the story. Duncan has a rare talent with words and uses them to his advantage.

Chapter One starts out with...

"Roland considered drawing his sword and sliding it into Kroman until the blade would go no farther, then talking it out again -- by another route, for variety. That would be an act of public service he should have performed a lifetime ago, but it would create a serious scandal. Word would flash across all Eurania that the King of Chivial's private secretary had been murdered by his lord chancellor, sending courtiers of a dozen capitals into fits of hysterical giggles. Lord Roland must behave himself. It was a pleasing fantasy, though."
...and it only gets better. Duncan is a true master of his craft.

Buy this book, you won't regret it.

Copyright © 1998 by Wayne MacLaurin

Wayne MacLaurin is a regular SF Site reviewer. More of his opinions are available on our Book Reviews pages.

The Gilded Chain
Dave Duncan
Dave Duncan is a former geologist and recipient of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Achievement Award. His previous works include two four-volume sagas, A Man of His Word and A Handful of Men. He lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Dave Duncan Website
ISFDB Bibliography

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