Interesting Words: Lord of the Fire Lands

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One of the things I often do as I'm reading a novel or short story is keep track of words whose definitions I do not know or that I find interesting. Either way, these interesting words are ones I feel might be of use in my own writing. That, and it's good to expand one's vocabulary every once in a while.

Read my review of Lord of the Fire Lands.

adjudicator: a person who studies and settles conflicts and disputes

baldric: a wide (ornamented) belt worn over the right shoulder to support a sword or bugle by the left hip

burgher: a member of the middle class

cabochon: a highly polished convex-cut but unfaceted gem

connivance: agreement on a secret plot

cordwainer: A worker in cordwain, or cordovan leather; a shoemaker

coronet: a small crown; usually indicates a high rank but below that of sovereign

creel: a wicker basket used by anglers to hold fish

demesne: territory over which rule or control is exercised

deportment: the way a person behaves toward other people

despot: a cruel and oppressive dictator

dormer: a gabled extension built out from a sloping roof to accommodate a vertical window

dory: a small boat of shallow draft with cross thwarts for seats and rowlocks for oars with which it is propelled

elocution: an expert manner of speaking involving control of voice and gesture

estuary: the wide part of a river where it nears the sea; fresh and salt water mix

fo'c'sle: living quarters consisting of a superstructure in the bow of a merchant ship where the crew is housed

haberdasher: a merchant who sells men's clothing

harangue: a loud bombastic declamation expressed with strong emotion

heriot: a payment or tribute of arms or military accouterments, or the best beast, or chattel, due to the lord on the death of a tenant

hummocky: a small natural hill

moorland: open land usually with peaty soil covered with heather and bracken and moss

muniment: A record; the evidences or writings whereby a man is enabled to defend the title to his estate; title deeds and papers.

piebald: having sections or patches colored differently and usually brightly

priory: religious residence in a monastery governed by a prior or a convent governed by a prioress

rapacious: excessively greedy and grasping

smock: a loose coverall (coat or frock) reaching down to the ankles

spume: foam or froth on the sea

squelch: walk through mud or mire

tanist: a lord or proprietor of a tract of land or of a castle, elected by a family, under the system of tanistry

tarn: a mountain lake

tattoo: a drumbeat or bugle call that signals the military to return to their quarters

thegn: a thane

trusses: a framework of beams forming a rigid structure

weathercock: weathervane with a vane in the form of a rooster

wimple: headdress of cloth; worn over the head and around the neck and ears by medieval women

witan: sage, adviser

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Lord of the Fire Lands by Dave Duncan

Lord of the Fire Lands by Dave Duncan is the second in the King's Blades novels. While it largely stands on its own, it is still intertwined with events that take place in the first novel, The Gilded Chain. In fact, Duncan drops a bomb at the end of Lord of the Fire Lands which directly contradicts events that take place in The Gilded Chain. At first, I had to wonder if I was remembering things wrong (I'd just finished the first book, so I was pretty sure I hadn't), or if I'd missed some subtle hint that would explain why history was not about to follow the path set out in The Gilded Chain. In the end, I realized Duncan had just dropped one of the biggest hooks I'd ever seen for wanting to rush out and buy the next novel in the series (that being Sky of Swords).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's stick with Lord of the Fire Lands first.

Our main characters are Raider and Wasp, both King's Blades in training who are called into service by King Ambrose. This is what King's Blades do. It is what they are recruited for, what they train for, and what they most want to do in order to bring honor to themselves and to their liege. There is no greater privilege for a Blade than to serve the King. Problem is, both Raider and Wasp refuse their liege.

What unfolds is a story narrated by Raider, whose real name is Radgar, who we come to learn is not of Chivial. Radgar hails from Bael, the Fire Lands, whose people are the sworn enemies of the Chivians. The first part of the novel is consumed by this narration, which is done very well and shows us that the Baels are not the fire-eating barbarians the Chivians believe them to be. Instead, they are colorful and sophisticated in their own way, but chillingly cold in others, as in when they "enthrall" Chivian captives, effectively turning them into soulless shells. Much of this story unfolds through Radgar' father's eyes, and so it is only when Radgar comes into his own that we jump back to the present.

From the telling of Radgar's story, Ambrose knows he can never let Radgar return home, and so he devises a hurried plot to lock the boy up for the rest of his life. Radgar, accompanied by his now sworn Blade, Sir Wasp, escapes, returns to Bael, and there tries to claim what is rightfully his.

It is then, as the novel concludes, that Duncan drops his bomb. I won't go into what it is, as giving it away could be considered a bit of a spoiler. But it's significant enough that I immediately started reading the next novel in the series, Sky of Swords.

My impression of Duncan continues to improve with this latest novel. His stories are enjoyable, engaging, and very well-written. He tends to use a lot of words from Old English; my Kindle's built-in dictionary is perhaps its best and most used feature. I started reading Sky of Swords immediately after finishing Lord of the Fire Lands and, in fact, just finished it this morning. Look for that review next.