Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Interesting Words: Sky of Swords

View this book on Amazon.com 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 Sky of Swords.

anteroom: a large entrance or reception room or area

argent: a metal tincture used in heraldry to give a silvery appearance

coiffure: the arrangement of the hair (especially a woman's hair)

commissariat: a stock or supply of foods

cortege: the group following and attending to some important person

cynosure: something that strongly attracts attention and admiration

galliard: A gay, lively dance

garderobe: a wardrobe or its contents

harridan: a scolding (even vicious) old woman

kirtle: a long dress worn by women

misprision: A neglect, negligence, or contempt

pillory: a wooden instrument of punishment on a post with holes for the neck and hands; offenders were locked in and so exposed to public scorn

pique: tightly woven fabric with raised cords

poltroon: an abject coward

seneschal: the chief steward or butler of a great household

sumptuary: regulating or controlling expenditure or personal behavior; sumptuary laws

trousseau: the personal outfit of a bride; clothes and accessories and linens

Sky of Swords by Dave Duncan

Sky of Swords by Dave Duncan is the third novel in the King's Blades series. In book two, Lord of the Fire Lands, the reader is left hanging at the end as history inexplicably unfolds in a different fashion compared to what was told in the first novel in the series. Duncan not only has some explaining to do, but, as a writer myself, I was curious to see how he was going to handle this inconsistent situation. I wasn't disappointed in the storytelling or the characters, but I was a little at the ultimate conclusion. Still, I'll give the author some credit: it was something you don't often see done in a fantasy novel, and while I did see where things were going about halfway through, the ride getting there was still fun.

In this installment our point-of-view character is Princess Malinda, daughter of the King of Chivial, which is the principal realm we are concerned with in book one of the series. Similar to how Lord of the Fire Lands was laid out, the story is part past, part present, but always told from Malinda's viewpoint. The novel opens with Malinda locked in prison, accused of high treason against the king. Of course, we know from the second book that the king, her father, is dead, and so the question of who is the current king is just one of many as the story unfolds.

It's interesting that Duncan chose Malinda as the primary viewpoint character. While she shows up in the previous two novels, it is mostly as cameo roles. In those, she is depicted as a spoiled child with little depth. This changes in Sky of Swords as she is forced to grow up fast or crumple beneath the political and royal weight laid upon her. Durendal (the hero and main character from the first novel) once again is present, this time as a secret advisor as Durendal must fear for his own life: Calls for the disbanding of the Blades grow louder after the king's death; anyone associated with them past or present must be wary. But Malinda casts a bold strike when she Binds four Blades to her, thus creating a group called the Princess's Blades.

Sky of Swords is an adventure novel first and foremost, but contains more court and political drama than the first two novels as Malinda must contend for the throne with a cousin and half-brother. Malinda is a likeable character whose personality we learn is quite different from her previous portrayal as we come to realize Duncan's characters are not always the most reliable narrators.

I liked Sky of Swords, but I did find the final solution to setting things right a bit of a letdown. Not to give anything away, but it was a very Superman-like ending. Still, it was a fun read and I'm looking forward to jumping into the next novel, Paragon Lost.