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Lord of the Fire Lands (Tales of the King's Blades Series #2)

Lord of the Fire Lands (Tales of the King's Blades Series #2)

4.6 10
by Dave Duncan

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As unwanted, rebellious boys, they found refuge in Ironhall. . .Years later they emerged as the finest swordsmen in the realm—

The Kings Blades

Once bound, a Blade's life is no longer his own. Only death can break the gilded chain of enchantment that binds the bodyguard to the man he is sworn to defend. And never in living memory has a candidate


As unwanted, rebellious boys, they found refuge in Ironhall. . .Years later they emerged as the finest swordsmen in the realm—

The Kings Blades

Once bound, a Blade's life is no longer his own. Only death can break the gilded chain of enchantment that binds the bodyguard to the man he is sworn to defend. And never in living memory has a candidate refused the honor of serving his king. . .until now.

Young Wasp never intended to be a rebel. Yet, at the sacred ceremony of binding, he follows the lead of his friend Raider, and together they spurn the wishes of King Ambrose himself. Now Raider and Wasp are outlaws hunted by the very Blades whose ranks they were a breath away from entering, and joined together by a destiny that binds them more securely than any knot tradition and sorcery might tie. Amid the turmoil their "treachery" has inspired, Wasp and Raider must undertake a desperate journey into the heart of the dreaded Fire Lands. And the outcome of their terrifying confrontation with dark truth and darker magic in this realm of monsters, ghosts, and half-men will ultimately determine the fate of two kingdoms.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Distinguished by its sophisticated structure and themes, Duncan's exceptional sequel to The Gilded Chain will satisfy both fantasy fans looking for high adventure and those more interested in rich characterizations. For five years Raider and Wasp have been training to become Blades, expert swordsmen who are magically enhanced. But when the two are offered the highest of honors--to serve the king of Chivial himself--they refuse. As Raider's reasons for this unprecedented decision are explored, Duncan flashes back to present the history of the marriage of a "civilized" Chivian duchess to the king of the "barbarous" Baels, who have long terrorized Chivial. Raider and Wasp's rejection of the king has made them outlaws, so they must flee Chivial for Baelmark, where they face a situation explicitly like Hamlet's (king dead, queen mother married to her brother-in-law), though Duncan skillfully develops this section as a genuine, unique drama rather than as an arch reference to the Bard. His depiction of Bael culture, which is based in language and custom on Beowulf's time, is assured and creative, authoritative but without unnecessary ostentation. His Baelish villains may be two-dimensional, but the other characters display an appealing combination of fallibility, morality (of various sorts) and charm. Plot twists based on hidden identities and allegiances are surprising yet well prepared. The interesting magical system features eight elements, adding the evocative Love, Time, Death and Chance to the traditional Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Duncan can swashbuckle with the best, but his characters feel more deeply and think more clearly than most, making his novels, especially this one, suitable for a particularly wide readership. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Raised in a special training school for the sole purpose of serving their king as his magic-bound Blades, Raider and Wasp scandalize their academy by refusing the honor. Choosing instead to travel far from the Kingdom of Chivial, the two companions seek to redress a longstanding grievance that has its roots in the forbidding land of the Baelish barbarians. The second installment (following The Gilded Chain) of the adventures of the elite warriors known as the King's Blades demonstrates Duncan's talent for innovative fantasy. Swashbuckling action and high adventure make this fast-paced tale a good choice for fantasy collections. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A companion volume to Duncan's sword-and-sorcery yarn, The Gilded Chain (1998), the action more or less contemporaneous to the previous tale's. Ambrose, like all the kings of Chivial, is defended by his Blades, expert swordsmen magically bound to their wards. Candidate Raider, however, refuses the binding ritual, as does his young friend Wasp (Raider saved his life in a terrible fire). Raider explains that since he's already enchanted—made fireproof— the Blade-magic would kill him. He also claims to be Radgar, King Ambrose's cousin, his mother Lady Charlotte having been abducted and wed 20 years ago by AEled, King of Baelmark. The Baels inhabit a chilly land of volcanic islands and, Viking-like, go raiding for booty and slaves; they speak (literally) Old English. Charlotte's abduction caused a protracted and ruinous war. Eventually, five years ago, Ambrose sent a peace delegation, and among the party was ex-Blade Sir Geste. Seemingly he betrayed Ambrose to the Baels, but in actuality he plotted with AEled's brother Cynewulf. Geste murdered AEled; Cynewulf magically beguiled Charlotte and then set the palace ablaze. Fireproof Radgar escaped and, knowing nothing of Ambrose's intrigues, concealed himself as a trainee Blade. Now, Ambrose binds Wasp to Radgar, hoping he'll quickly make a fatal error. Wasp, though, grasps the situation and kills Ambrose's watchdog, a fellow Blade. Radgar and Wasp escape to Baelmark, where the scene is set for a scintillating reprise of Hamlet. Again, quite orthodox compared to Duncan's hitherto wacky scenarios, but, even so, distinctive and markedly superior to most of the competition.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Tales of the King's Blades Series , #2
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.51(w) x 9.58(h) x 1.25(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"The he King is coming!" The excited cry rang out over the sun-bright moorland and was picked up at once by a half-dozen other shrill trebles and a couple of wavering baritones. Alarmed horses tossed heads and kicked up heels. The cavalcade on the Blackwater Road was still very far off, but sharp young eyes could make out the blue livery of the Royal Guard, or so their owners claimed. In any case, a troop of twenty or thirty men riding across Starkmoor could be no one but the Guard escorting the King to Ironhall. At last! It had been more than half a year.

"The King is coming! The King is coming!"

"Silence!" shouted Master of Horse. The sopranos' riding classes always teetered close to chaos, and this one was now hopeless. "Go and tell the Hall. First man in is excused stable duties for a month. On my signal. Get ready-"

He was speaking to the wind. His charges were already streaming over the heather toward the lonely cluster of black buildings that housed the finest school of swordsmanship in the known world. He watched to see who fell off, who was merely hanging on, who was in control. It was unkind to treat horses so, especially the aging, downat-heel nags assigned to beginners; but his job was to turn out first-class riders. In a very few years those boys must be skilled enough and fearless enough to keep up with anyone, even the King himself-and when Ambrose IV went hunting he usually left a trail of stunned and mangled courtiers in the hedges and ditches.

There went one...and another...Ouch! — a bad one.

No matter, young bones could be repaired by conjuration and the mounts seemed to be surviving.Unrepentant, Master of Horse rode forward to rescue the casualties. On this blustery spring afternoon in the year 357, the moor had masked its ancient menace behind a deceptive glow of friendship, soft and green and smelling of clover. The sky was unbelievably blue. Broom was bursting into yellow glory. There could be few things finer in all creation than having a reasonably good mount and an excuse to ride it flat out. As the race faded into the distance, he could see that the piebald mare was going to win, thanks more to her own abilities than the skills of her rider, Candidate Bandit.

Ten minutes after the sighting, the winner thundered in through the gate and yelled out the news to the first people he saw, who happened to be a group of fuzzies engaged in rapier drill. "The King is coming!"

In seconds the word was everywhere, or almost everywhere. The candidates — sopranos, beansprouts, beardless, fuzzies, and especially the exalted seniors who wore swords — all reacted with indrawn breath and sudden internal tenseness, but even the instructors narrowed their eyes and pursed their lips. The Masters of Sabers and Rapiers heard it on the fencing ground, Master Armorer in the Forge. Master of Rituals got the word in a turret room, where he was studying arcane spells, and Master of Archives in a cellar, where he was packing ancient records into fireproof chests. All of them paused to ponder what else they need do to prepare for a royal visit. The answer, in all cases, was absolutely nothing. They were more than ready, because it had been seven months since Ambrose had come to the school. In all that time, only one candidate had been promoted to Blade. The question now — of especial interest to the seniors — was: How many would the King harvest this time?

The lowest of the low was the Brat, who was thirteen years old and had been admitted to Ironhall only two days previously. On the theory that a man can get used to anything, he had concluded that this must be the third worst day of his life. Down on his knees, he was attempting to wash the main courtyard with a bucket of water and a small rag — an impossible task that had been assigned to him by a couple of beansprouts because trying to drive the Brat crazy was the juniors' traditional pastime. Having all survived Brat-hood themselves, they felt justified in giving what they had received. Few of them ever realized that they were being tested just as much as the Brat was and would be expelled if they displayed any real sadism.

An elderly knight passing by when the shout went up told the Brat to run and inform Grand Master. Grand Master was the highest of the high, but the Brat felt comfortable near him, safe from persecution. Grand Master did not dunk him in a water trough or make him stand on a table and sing lewd songs.

The old man was in his study, going over accounts with the Bursar. He displayed no emotion at the news. "Thank you," he said. "Wait, though. Bursar, can we continue this another time?" Then, as the other man was gathering up his ledgers, he turned back to the Brat and absolutely ruined his third worst day. "His Majesty will undoubtedly bind some of the seniors tomorrow night. You have heard of the ritual?"

"He sticks a sword through their hearts?" the Brat said uneasily. It was a sick-making thought, because one day it would happen to him.

"Yes, he does. It is a very potent conjuration to turn them into Blades. Don't worry, they always survive." Almost always. "But you will have a part in the ritual."

"Me?" the Brat squawked. Conjury? With the King present? That was worse than a hundred water troughs, a thousand....

"Yes, you. You have three lines to say and you lay the candidate's sword on the anvil. Go and find Master of Rituals and he will instruct you. No, wait. First find Prime and make sure he knows about the King." Prime, after all, must have more interest in the royal visit than any other candidate, for his fate was certain now. Whoever else the King took, Prime would be first...

Meet the Author

Dave Duncan is an award-winning author whose fantasy trilogy, The Seventh Sword, is considered a sword-and-sorcery classic. His numerous novels include three Tales of the King's Blades — The Gilded Chain, Lord of the Fire Lands, and Sky of Swords; Paragon Lost, a previous Chronicle of the King’s Blades; Strings, Hero; the popular tetralogies A Man of His Word and A Handful of Men; and the remarkable, critically acclaimed fantasy trilogy The Great Game.

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Lord of the Fire Lands (Tales of the King's Blades Series #2) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
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Good Read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was an amazing novel. I couldn't get enough of it. I read for hours on end and I never wanted to put it down. I think anyone with interests in action, sorcery and mind-twisting events is very sure to love this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Definitely a recommended read! I was impressed that the other two books 'The Guilded Chain' and 'Sky of Swords' were the same story by another person's perspective. If you read this book...please read the other two. I lost many hours of sleep because I could not put it down. The story is of two young men who are about to enter the ranks of the kings men. Destiny binds these two men and they become outlaws. They ultimately determine the fate of the 2 kingdoms at war