Justus's Reviews > The Gilded Chain

The Gilded Chain by Dave Duncan
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Dec 18, 10

Read in December, 2010

A swords & sorcery fantasy books with echoes of the Three Musketeers that does some things well and some things poorly.

What Duncan does especially well is trim out the bloat that usually infests fantasy. In a single book we're given a lifetime of adventures from possibly the greatest King's Blade of all time, from his first misguided binding to his final geriatric retirement.

While Duncan does end up tying a couple of the threads together in a loose way, essentially what we're presented are a series of short stories taken at various points in Durendal's life. This is initially jarring -- mostly because I went into the book with typical fantasy expectations and I had to recalibrate those -- but not a bad thing.

The plot(s) tend to be of the non-epic variety. That, combined with the decades long time-span, means that we are given glimpses of an evolving fantasy world. Too many fantasy worlds are totally static -- the elves have ruled the Elvish Forests for 10,000 years blah blah -- which is hard to reconcile with what everyone knows about how real societies work. Granted, we're only given the barest glimpses of it in this book but sweeping political reforms play a bigger role than Fighting Evil in The Gilded Chain.

What ultimately drags the book down to a mere 2-stars are the wafer-thin characterizations. Duncan is so intent on the break-neck plotting that apparently there was no room for giving any depth to any characters. Durendal's long-suffering wife Kate remains a cipher, the great nemesis isn't treated much better. Even Durendal himself doesn't have much meat on his bones other than his magic-and-habit-infused desire to serve his King.

I've tried two of Duncan's books now and been underwhelmed both times. Maybe I need to stop trying and just move on to other authors.
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