Returning to the halls of Ironhall has proven to be deft move on the part of Dave Duncan. This follow-up to the earlier trilogy Tales of the King’s Blades is a welcome addition to the lore of the King’s Blades. Duncan told a solid, complete story in the three previous books. Though Paragon Lost: A Chronicle of the King’s Blades is in the same world, Duncan has written the novel such that readers unfamiliar with the earlier tales can easily enjoy this latest chronicle.
The initial trilogy dealt primarily with the lands of Chivial and Bael, in Paragon Lost, Duncan turns the points of the Blades to the land of Skyrria, seemingly modeling on Russia during the reign of the Czars. Taking place about a decade of the events chronicled in the previous three books, Paragon Lost again features the Blades including some a familiar character and echoes of the characters in the previous volumes.
The reader need not worry if they haven’t read the three books, Duncan has laid out a very approachable story to newcomers and of course, to readers of the previous Blades tales. Paragon Lost opens on the land and home of Sir Beaumont, the eponymous Paragon. While hie has been exiled by King Athelgar; his services as a Blade supreme are called upon again. by his Kingdom represented by Sir Durendal, a familiar character to readers of the previous novels, attempts to convince Beu that Chivial, and more importantly, the Blades need of their former Paragon. Before we can learn too much more about Beau’s current situation, Duncan brings us back to when Beau initially shows up at Ironhall’s gates and takes us through his development as a Blade. I really liked Duncan’s approach here, the thrusting of current events at the reader followed by the events leading to the “now” works very well.
Through Beau’s development into the Paragon of the King’s Blades, we learn more interesting intricacies of the Blades, meet more Blades, more of how their binding works and more of their history. This is something the Czar of Skyrria, Igor desperately wants to know as well. A very violent and tyrannical leader, Duncan doesn’t stray too far from the stereotypical “evil monarch” in drawing the character of Igor, however, he nonetheless, gives us a well drawn antagonist in the form of Igor. Igor asks for an envoy of Blades to come to him to escort the young princess, Tasha, back to Chivial to marry king Althegar, which would in turn create a bond between the two distant nations. Duncan admirably complicates matters and adds dashes of chaos and sword-swinging to make this a well-rounded tale of heroic fantasy.
Duncan successfully employs the recurring theme of loss and recovery throughout the novel. As we find out very early, Beau’s ties to the Blades are seemingly lost, the reason behind Durendal contacting Beau is the loss of another Blade. There are other instances of loss that Duncan touches upon in this novel, and in the hands of a less skilled writer, this continual theme could have been trite and overused. Not so with Duncan, he returns to this theme just enough so that I was not brow-beaten and enjoyed connecting the instances of this theme.
To sum up, Duncan has added a first-rate tale to an already superb saga. Paragon Lost is an exceptional example of Heroic Fantasy with dashes of Sword and Sorcery. With the rich history of the Blades hinted at in the four volumes Duncan has thus far given us, one can only hope that he extrapolates at the hints of the many Blades whose chronicles are yet untold.
Reviewed by Rob H. Bedford
© 2002 Rob Bedford