- Mass Market Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Avon Books; 1st Printing edition (November 9, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0380800985
- ISBN-13: 978-0380800988
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.5 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,069,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sir Stalwart (Book One of the King's Daggers) Mass Market Paperback – November 9, 1999
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From School Library Journal
YA-A new series set in the same world as Duncan's "The King's Blades" (Avon). Here, teenaged boys are trained at Ironhall to become superb swordsmen who are magically bound to serve the King of Chivial. The monarch is currently in danger because of a tax on sorcery guilds. Blades and White Sisters, women who "sniff" out magic, have foiled several attempts on his life that used magic, but the would-be assassins are getting more clever. Thus, Candidate Stalwart and Emerald, a disgraced White Sister, will be used as bait in a plot to entrap those who are trying to murder the king. Duncan's writing is fast paced and engaging. Stalwart teeters convincingly between teenage angst and adult responsibilities. Emerald is no hapless damsel in distress. Although they triumph in the end, and she receives the reward she desires, the primary villains escape and further adventures are assured. This is a solid introduction to a new series. The focus stays on Stalwart and Emerald, the two teenaged characters. The magic and customs of Chivial are explained for those new to this world. The book contains an excerpt from The Gilded Chain (Avon, 1998), the first book in "The King's Blades" series, which may pique the interest of readers who enjoyed this story.
Susan Salpini, Purcellville Library, VA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Classy...irresistible... handosmely crafted...Duncan's people are marvelously believable, his landscapes deliciously exotic, his swordplay breathtaking." -- Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Duncan is a true master of his craft." -- -- SF Site
"Duncan is a true master of his craft." -- SF Site
"Sharp humor and swashbuckling action add charm and vigor to this fantasy adventure fast-paced." -- Library Journal
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Now, if you have never read any of the King's Blades before, there are some gaps in this story line that will not make as much sense for you. The concept of Soldiers who are magically indentured to their King and thereby granted exceptional skills and unfailing loyalty is cool. The rest of the books in this series seems to go into more detail on that.
Sir Stalwart focuses on one particular Soldier(blade to be) and the mission for which he becomes famous. Duncan does a good job of building a complete character and surrounding him with exposure to other legendary characters and the solid foundation of the King's Blades series. This makes for an enjoyable, fun read if you have already been immersed in the series. The quirks and strengths that make Stalwart who he is are central to the story line.
I really enjoy the way that Duncan creates new main characters for each installment in the series. He doesn't just write the same guy with a different name and that makes it fun to explore. It's not Epic Fantasy, but it's fun when you are taking a break between the Erikson and Wurts' series that demand so much concentration.
Sir Stalwart is clearly written for the younger reader, with a shorter word count and less complex, complicated plot. But it's still vintage Duncan: breathless excitement, great characters and fresh, exciting prose. So few authors these days seem to know how to string words together in an excitingly visual way. The booskshelves are crammed with dull, pedestrian, ordinary prose. Not Duncan. He really knows how to paint a picture with words ... other writers would do well to read his books with an eye to seeing how good prose is written.
While I regret the inevitable condensation of this tale, I still highly recommend it to all action fantasy fans of any age. Roll on the next installment!
Stalwart (called Wart) is one of the King's Daggers, one of the young men trained to become the elite Blades when they are older. Unfortunately, he is also shrimpy and sweet-faced, though he is an expert swordsman. When a senior Blade shows up, Wart is not bound through the magical sword-striking ritual, but he is initiated into the Blades through only his word, so he can be sent on a secret mission. Elsewhere, the White Sister Emerald sees a giant spider, and is expelled from the order when she refuses to deny the spider's appearance.
She ends up travelling to another city with the disguised Wart as her driver, but senses that he is not what he claims to be. And when they stop at an inn, Emerald meets a woman with a hideous good-luck charm and a sad-faced doctor who asks for her help. She and Wart soon become enmeshed in a frightening tangle of sorcerers, rogue White Sisters, and a political plot that stretches to the King himself.
Duncan shifts effortlessly into kids/YA territory, with minimal awkwardness. This book is essentially a clean, profanity-less version of his adult Blade tales, with the same fast pacing and heavy machinations. He doesn't dumb down anything for the kids, and so adults will probably enjoy "Sir Stalwart" as much as their kids will. The only signs of transition problems are things like Wart thinking "Oh, vomit!" (at an all-boys academy, he didn't learn to swear?) or the comment "Peculiarer and peculiarer" (an awkward homage to Lewis Carroll?).
His fantasy world is very like medieval Europe, with some not-so-subtle differences. The idea of the Blades (who obey their king because of a magical ritual where they get stuck through the heart with a sword) is exceptional, and plenty is done with this idea. The White Sisters are also given some more dimension, a nunlike order that has the ability to detect magic. Duncan displays that even they are subject to political pressure, even if the means to an end are wrong.
Wart is a likeable hero: He shows fear, courage, irritation, cockiness, humility, and occasionally rage that overshadows everything else. In a reversal of "you can't judge a book by its cover," his sweet boyish exterior hides a passionate swordsman with a somewhat seedy past. Emerald (also known as Lucy Pillow) is a good counterpart as the cool-headed voice of reason, a strong female character with a brain -- and perhaps a future love interest in Wart. Sir Snake will catch attention and interest of the readers, while the repugnant Thrusk will have readers hoping that Wart dispatches him in a particularly gross way.
Fans and newcomers to the Blades series will love this fast-paced, high-intensity fantasy thriller. A great read.