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The Gilded Chain:
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As unwanted and rebellious boys, they find refuge in Ironhall....Years later they emerge as the finest swordsmen in the realm--A magical ritual of a sword through the heart binds each to his ward--if not the king himself, then to whomever else the monarch designates--with absolute loyalty.And the greatest Blade of them all was--and is--Sir Durendal.But a lifelong dream of protecting his beloved liege from enemies, traitors, and monsters is dashed to bits when Durendal is bonded till death to an effete noble fop at his king's orders. Yet Destiny has many strange and inscrutable plans for the young knight--for a mission, a contest, and, perhaps, a treasure await him in a faraway land. But he soon finds himself enmeshed in treason and foul intrigues, compelled to betray the king he had hoped to serve. The Blades have ways to protect their own, but death and madness haunt the path to salvation--and few ever return unscathed. As unwanted and rebellious boys, they find refuge in Ironhall....Years later they emerge as the finest swordsmen in the realm--A magical ritual of a sword through the heart binds each to his ward--if not the king himself, then to whomever else the monarch designates--with absolute loyalty. And the greatest Blade of them all was--and is--Sir Durendal.But a lifelong dream of protcting his beloved liege from enemies, traitors, and monsters is dashed to bits when Durendal is bonded till death to an effete noble fop at his king's orders. Yet Destiny has many strange and inscrutable plans for the young knight--for a mission, a contest, and, perhaps, a treasure await him in a faraway land. But he soon finds himself enmeshed in treasonand foul intrigues, compelled to betray the king he had hoped to serve. The Blades have ways to protect their own, but death and madness haunt the path to salvation--and few ever return unscathed.
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Duncan (The Great Game) raids some of the juiciest eras of European history for this classy opener to his King's Blades series. In the sorcery-ridden land of Chivial, the grim Ironhall nurtures unwanted boys, transmuting them by muscle-building, weapons-training and fearsome magic ritualizing into an elite corps of swordsmen, each spiritually bonded to defend a master unto death. Bound first to an outrageous fop, then to a Henry VIII look-alike monarch, rebellious knight Durendal pursues adventure and the horrifying secrets of immortality. Duncan's people are marvelously believable, his landscapes deliciously exotic, his swordplay breathtaking. Initially, the narrative disconcertingly alternates between dashing young Durendal and righteous Chancellor Roland, but all soon becomes satisfyingly clear. "Durendal," the sword that legendary Roland used to smite his Saracen enemies in France's national epic, binds swordsman and statesman into one irresistible hero in this handsomely crafted commentary on honor and betrayal. (Nov.)

"Fast-paced...Sharp humor and swashbuckling action add charm and vigor to this fantasy adventure." --" Library Journal"Good characters; fine plotting; a lean and supple narrative."--" Kirkus Reviews

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