Paragon Lost (Chronicle of the King's Blades Series #1)by Dave Duncan
Many legends have emerged from the shadows of Ironhall, yet surely none can surpass the greatness and glory predestined for Sir Beaumont—possessor of the purest and strongest of hearts, and a mind as quick, keen, and accurate as his sword. But the day he sets out in the service of the elderly Lord Wassail turns to a black one, and young Beau's journey ends in
Many legends have emerged from the shadows of Ironhall, yet surely none can surpass the greatness and glory predestined for Sir Beaumont—possessor of the purest and strongest of hearts, and a mind as quick, keen, and accurate as his sword. But the day he sets out in the service of the elderly Lord Wassail turns to a black one, and young Beau's journey ends in horror and blood . . . and disgrace. Banished from the King's Blades, he now faces a grim future as a homeless pariah, a creature to be shunned and despised. But redemption can come from unexpected directions and in unrecognizable guises. Approached in secret by the legendary Durendal, now Grand Master of the Order, the dishonored paragon is offered one last chance to win back his weapon and his place among his brothers in arms. But to do so, Beau must ride alone back through the icy gates of Hell . . . and do battle with the Devil himself.
Read an Excerpt
At Gossips' Corner
"Isabelle!" Mistress Snider screeched. "Are you deaf?"
Isabelle was not deaf, but she would have had good cause to be, working in this kitchen. On one side of her Nel was chopping up salt pork with a hatchet, on the other Ed pounded dried fish with a mallet -- it took hours of pounding and soaking to make it even close to edible. At her back, Lackwit was powdering salt just as loudly. Lids danced and clattered on boiling pots, the pump handle squeaked, drudges were rattling sea coal into the great brick ovens and raking out ashes. The door, left open to admit cool air and flies, led to the stable yard where the farrier was shoeing a horse. Deaf? Not at all.
"And what're you doing with all that cinnamon?" The old harpy waxed louder and shriller. Mistress Snider was tall and stooped, tapering from grotesquely wide hips up to a small, mean face shriveled around a beak nose.
"I am making a dipping sauce as you told me to!" Isabelle shouted back. "Cameline sauce, with ginger and raisins and nuts, with cinnamon and pepper, but how you expect me to do it with no cloves, no cardamon -- "
"Not so much cinnamon! You think we're made of money here? Stale bread and vinegar, that's what makes a sauce, girl. Use up some of those herbs before they rot completely. A man wants you! A gentleman is asking for your husband." The old horror canted her head to peer at Isabelle with one glittery eye, oozing dislike. "And be quick back. I need that sauce done right. And soon!"
With difficulty, Isabelle held back some truths as unpalatable as Mistress Snider's food. The woman skimpedridiculously, but all Chivians tried to get by with inferior ingredients smothered in peppery sauces. In Isilond, one began with a good piece of meat and used only enough seasoning to bring out its natural flavor. She wiped her hands on her apron.
"He's waiting in the King's Room. You hurry back. Don't expect me to pay you when you're not working."
No, Isabelle would be paying her for the privilege of speaking with a potential client. She set off on the perilous trek to the door, watching out for scavenging dogs and people hurrying with hot pans, for her balance was not as certain as it used to be. Fortunately, the baby never made her nauseated, although she lived in that horrible kitchen from before dawn until after nightfall. She had nightmares of giving birth there. But a gentleman looking for Beau might mean a client and real wages, instead of the pittance he earned in the yard by day and serving beer at night.
Leaving the reek of boiling cabbage, she went into the big taproom with its smoky fog of yeast, people, and cheap candles. Gossips' Corner was, first and last, a tavern, where beer flowed like water -- "and for good reason," Beau said. Located in the heart of Grandon, not far from Greymere Palace, Gossips' Corner was a universally recognized address for people to rendezvous or leave messages or even dine, although Isabelle could never understand why anyone who had any choice should choose to do that. It offered rooms by the night or the week or the hour -- she and Beau lived there, in a garret five floors up. It provided music and singing and gambling. Those who sought to buy a horse, hire a servant, pick pockets, or contract odd jobs could usually be accommodated.
The City Watch, bought off by Master Snider, turned blind eyes to shadier services: girl or boy companions in the rooms, sinister conjurations not offered by honest elementaries, recovery of recently stolen goods, collection of debts, or other forms of assault. Today the taproom was as noisy as the kitchen, with a dozen carpenters competing in hammering. Riots were commonplace in Gossips' Corner, but last week's had been unusually vigorous, climaxing in a party of public-spirited Baelish sailors attempting to burn the place down.
The King's Room was a cubicle for private conversation. Furnished with a timber table and two benches, it was just as cramped and pungent as the taproom outside, but the pebbly glass in its diamond-pane windows let in a fair light. The solitary occupant rose as she entered, an unexpected courtesy. A gentleman, certainly. His hose, doublet, and skirted jerkin were of fine stuff and beautifully tailored -- not quite in the latest mode sported by court dandies, but quite acceptable on an older man -- and his knee-length cloak was a magnificent gold brocade, trimmed with a collar of soft brown fur that tapered all the way down the edges. Yet he was clean-shaven, in defiance of current fashion, and the silver hair visible below his halo bonnet seemed clumsily cut. He bore his years well, standing straight and tall.
He bowed. "Lady Beaumont? Good chance to you, my lady."
Isabelle shut the door. "I am Mistress Cookson, may it please your lordship." People who claimed a rank above their station could land in the stocks. Was he one of the King's spies?
He pursed his lips in disapproval. "Then pray be seated, mistress. I do believe we have business to discuss. And if you are to be Mistress Cookson, then I shall remain Master Harvest for the nonce. May I offer you some wine, or order some other refreshment?"
He would have paid dearly for the bottle of Snider's best that stood on the table with four goblets. Isabelle declined the wine, but she did sit down, determined to get her money's worth. The Sniders would dock half her day's pay for allowing her a few minutes to meet with this man under their roof, despite having charged him for the use of the room.
The man not-named-Harvest returned to his bench and studied her with coal-dark eyes ...Paragon Lost. Copyright © by Dave Duncan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I am so sorry to give this book a bad rating. I was really excited about reading it. I even chose it over 3 others that I have in waiting. After 123 pages I said forget it. I just could not get into it. All the names and towns were so confusing. After awhile I could not figure out which was which. Sorry guys. Maybe another time.
Of all the King's Blades books this is my favorite. I could not put it down. It is funny and thrilling all at the same time. Highly recommended.
If you liked The Gilded Chain then you will enjoy this novel. A quick read that deserves to be savored.
Every King needs guards that are loyal to and willing to give up their lives in service to his majesty. In the kingdom of Chivial, the king¿s Blades are bound to their liege through a secret magical spell and to whomever the king binds them to as well. Sir Beaumont is the Blade with the best skills and is an excellent planner. His schemes are always successful, a trait that irritates his king. Beau is bound by King Athlegar to Wasseil for the trip to Skyrria whose ruler Czar Igor is a madman willing to do anything to learn the binding spell for the king¿s blades. Beau uses chicanery and sleight of hand to successfully complete his mission and the king, instead of being grateful, dismisses Beau from his services. This is an excellent swords and sorcery fantasy starring a protagonist who is right so much of the time, it is easy to see why he grates on the King¿s nerves. Skyrria feels like czarist Russia as a place where everyone has a hidden agenda, spellbound dogs are killing Igor¿s enemies and the people are afraid to say a word for fear of being killed. Chivial is too tame for the likes of Beau and it is hoped that he will appear in another king¿s Blade adventure living in a place like Skyrria. Harriet Klausner