Sky of Swords


Dave Duncan


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

January 10, 2011

was disappointed by this book, and surprised. Disappointed because I enjoyed the first two entries of the King's Blades trilogy, and surprised because I thought Dave Duncan was an accomplished professional author, yet this book was amateurish, poorly plotted and uninteresting. How could Duncan produce something this bad? Was he desperate to pay the rent? I thought Duncan was an author I could trust to deliver an entertaining read, but now I would hesitate to pick up another book by him. Sky of Swords should be avoided by one and all.

Although this is marketed as the third book in the Tales of the Kings Blades series, it is not really about the fabulous swordsmen. Yes, the reader is introduced to some new swordsmen, Winter, Dog, Audley, and Abel, but they don't show up until around page 140 or so, and from then the Blades mostly stand around and act like bodyguards. Sky of Swords is not a story featuring the Blades, instead, it is the story of princess Malinda, the daughter of evil King Ambrose.

The first hundred pages of Sky of Swords covers the same plot line that we already read at the end of Lord of the Fire Lands (book 2 of The King's Blades). True, this time we see those events from Malinda's perspective, rather than Ragnar's, but it is tedious to trod scenes we have already visited. Despite the new perspective, this story plays out the same, a retelling of the same story from Lord of the Firelands in Sky of Swords does not have a Rashomon effect, where a different narrator reveals a substantially different plot line.

Once the story moves beyond rehashing the Lord of the Fire Lands plot, it meanders into a routine story about whether or not Malinda can become a Queen of Chivial. Unfortunately, Malinda is not a sympathetic character. Frankly, her evil father, King Ambrose, was a much more entertaining character. Malinda is meant to be a heroine, but I simply found her dull; the problem of whether or not Melinda wins the throne did not excite much enthusiasm in me. Even worse, Duncan gives cameo appearances to Durendal and Ragnar (the heroes from the first two books in the series) but their appearance results in bad endings, as if Duncan wished to mar their reputation with the reader. Did Duncan suddenly hate his own creations to inflict such unnecessary poor endings for them? I had to check this book out two extra times from the library before I could finally trudge through to the ending.

A big problem with this book is that there is no new magical invention by Dave Duncan. I thought the first book (The Gilded Chain) was the best because of the epic journey by Durendal and Wolf Biter to the city of enchanted swordsmen. The second book also display some creative magic by Duncan as he describe the fire lands of the Baels. But in this third book there isn't any new magical invention. It is a humdrum routine tale Malinda's attempt succeed to the throne after the death of Ambrose (I thought the subplot regarding Dog was embarrassingly bad - did Duncan really mean to write that?). The only new "magic" at the end of this book occurs at the deus ex machina ending. The ending is the worst part of this book, Duncan may as well have written "... and then they all awoke to find it had all been just a dream!" Yes, the grand climax to this story is that bad. I was really disappointed and recommend skipping this book entirely.