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The Gilded Chain

(The King's Blades #1)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  3,082 ratings  ·  121 reviews

As unwanted and rebellious boys, they find refuge in Ironhall....Years later they emerge as the finest swordsmen in the realm—A magical ritual of a sword through the heart binds each to his ward—if not the king himself, then to whomever else the monarch designates—with absolute loyalty. And the greatest Blade of them all was—and is—Sir Durendal.

But a lifelong dream of

Paperback, 418 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by Harper Voyager (first published 1998)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  3,082 ratings  ·  121 reviews

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Nov 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths Reviews

The Gilded Chain begins the six book series The King’s Blades by Dave Duncan. (If one includes the companion young adult trilogy The King’s Daggers, then there are nine novels in this fantasy world.) The unique thing about The King’s Blades series is that every book is a stand alone tale set in the same world but with brand new characters and different adventures; something that all readers weary of long multi-volume, interconnected fantasy works should
Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy fans
Recommended to Werner by: My wife (as a Christmas gift)
Shelves: books-i-own, fantasy
Note, Aug. 4, 2016: I edited this review just now to correct a misspelling of one word.

When my wife gave me this book for Christmas, back in the 90s (I've got so many unread books piled in stacks that they tend to sit around a long time, alas!), my initial guess, having no prior experience at all with Duncan's work, was that the King's Blades series would be fantasy based on the Three Musketeers tradition in pop culture. That's not the case. The setting is a pre-technological world with
Jul 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: All fans of fantasy novels
Shelves: fantasy
The novel "The Gilded Chain" is a high fantasy novel by Dave Duncan. I recommend it! It is by no means perfect. However, it's a page-turner and a good read. It is the first installment of the "King's Blades" series.

The Plot

The setting for this novel is a fantasy world separate from but much like our own Europe during the middle ages. There exists a knightly order called "The Blades" which recruits youngsters and then, through a mixture of magic and training, forges them into the finest
Scott Marlowe
Apr 29, 2010 rated it really liked it


*** This review originally appeared on Out of this World Reviews. ***

The Gilded Chain by Dave Duncan is the first in his six book King's Blade series. While the story in each novel takes places in the same world, each work stands alone as a tale unto itself. This first book tells the story of Durendal, a waif with little future who is recruited to become a King's Blade, a swashbuckling swordsman bound by magic to serve either the king or whoever the king so chooses.

The enchantment is
May 12, 2013 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
What a great book! Everything that a sword-and-sorcery novel should be. Even the minor characters seemed fully realized, and the major ones all the more so. The plotting was also excellent...I really enjoyed the way the story unfolded. I will definitely be reading on in the series, and am even considering upgrading my Kindle edition to a physical book, which, giving my shrinking shelf space, is a rare thing these days!
Sep 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Really had a good time with this one. It has everything: swords, sorcery, politics, a little romance.... The pacing is quick. The characters are engaging. Looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've read this 3 or 4 times over the years but I still love this series. It's pretty standard fantasy but it's full of nostalgia for me.
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
The Gilded Chain The Gilded chain could have been a decent book. It had an interesting premise, a group of men trained to be Blades, the best swordsmen in the kingdom, magically bonded to protect one individual until their ward dies or their bond is broken and they retire. I liked how the author attempted to handle this topic, he starts out with the main character, Durendal, thinking there is nothing wrong with this arrangement, but as the book continues, he seems to become more aware of the ...more
Terry (Ter05 TwiMoms/ MundieMoms)
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terry (Ter05 TwiMoms/ MundieMoms) by: Werner
Through the first half of the book I thought it was going to be a three star read. I just never quite connected with the characters. The premise of the story was great. A place called Ironhall where young boys, often misfits, came and years later they emerge as the most skilled highly efficient fighters in the land…called Blades. Through a very brutal and chilling magical ritual, each boy will be bound to a Ward and the Ward is chosen by the King. The boy who has been there the longest is always ...more
Dec 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
OK plot, well written, good worldbuilding, BUT: The female characters were handled so badly that it was noticable and annoying. I've read lots of books describing societies where women have less power than men, so that's not the problem. But the women were mostly invisible, or when they appeared they were described so briefly that you could practically hear the author muttering "Let's get boring this female stuff out of the way so I can return to important things". Minor spoiler:
(view spoiler)
Jul 21, 2006 rated it it was amazing
This is my third time reading this book, yet it has been a long enough that I only remembered the general plot, and not much of the specifics. It was interesting reading it this time as I know more history, and was now able to appreciate that Henry VIII was the obvious inspiration behind the character of the king. This book is a fast paced, entertaining, yet fairly grisly, standalone tale, but the true brilliance of it can only be appreciated when you read all three books in the series.
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016, own
First in a series of loosely connected novels, The Gilded Chain is a good old swords & sorcery tale, fast-paced and engaging, that follows the life of Sir Durendal, one of the finest swordsmen the realm has ever seen, over many decades of his life through training, service, quests, intrigue and conspiracies. An enjoyable read with plenty of action.
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it
An amusing story that kept my attention. Solid read. =)
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Quite solid heroic fantasy, without being outstanding. It's the first in the King's Blades series but all of the books work well as standalones with different characters.

It's a swashbuckling story, vaguely inspired by The three Musketeers and by the swords & sorcery genre. The book follows the life and career of Durendal, perhaps the greatest of the King's Blades. The Blades are a knightly order which recruits young boys, often troublesome ones or ones without family but who show athletic
Sep 02, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: unable-to-finish
This story broke every rule in writer's class.

Show, don't tell -

Constantly you read about what Durendal has done instead of him actually doing it... "He's the greatest", "He's saved the King twice", etc. Yet it's told to you rather than you actually reading about it.

Real lack of character building -

From the start our protagonist simply moves through the story and you're supposed to like him. He's the greatest because you're told so... Could the author not give our protagonist something to show
Julie Thomas
Sep 30, 2019 rated it liked it
I don't get why people rate this book so high. It was okay, thrilling there at the very end, but overall just some vignettes of one guys life. Some instances are written in detail and then others are told in aftermath form like an infodump. Plus I'm biased against the setting: fantasy court drama with a king and politics. THere wasn't a lot of that in there but it didn't help. I would have liked to hear more how the binding feels to the Blade. WE get a little at first, then the character is told ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: bpl-s-overdrive
(Weird) full disclosure: I had somehow gotten it into my head that this was a gay romance novel. It is NOT. I probably would not have picked up an old school fantasy novel to read next, but that would have been silly because it turns out it has been too long since I read a book that is just straight up about magic and knights.

This is a very standard issue, fun to read, fantasy novel that might be a smidge dull in the initial set-up if you are not really confusedly trying to figure out what made
Feb 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This was surprisingly pleasing classic fantasy I read on a pure lark, and really enjoyed. It is not earth-shattering but the world-building was decent, the moral struggles and the magical bindings were good. The author wasn't great at writing women, and to his credit as a result he did not try! I am often not very into fantasy involving mostly men any more, but I enjoyed this one quite a bit- and will likely read the next one. It has nothing groundbreaking, not particularly progressive, but just ...more
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My Rating Scale
1 - Strong Do Not Recommend (Very Rare)
3 - Weak Recommend (Majority)
5 - Strong Recommend (Rare)

Dave Duncan is one of my favorite writers. His material may not have the depth of other authors, but he is prolific and enjoyable.
Paul Mccauley
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one of Duncan's better ideas and I really enjoyed it. Who ever heard of a bodyguard taking a sword through the heart to begin his service? The elite warriors in this book do! Plenty of good action and likeable characters to get to know.
Sep 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, donated-to-lfl
it was a story of honor it had magic as the unique element to keep the guardsmen supportive beyond even their good sense it had a unique plot but was told rather slowly
Feb 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Read this a number of years ago. I really liked it back then and enjoyed it more last time.. It was a fun read and an interesting story.
Apr 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't like how years jumped around.
Jared Bird
Mar 21, 2014 rated it liked it
So, this book is much more about swords than chains, but yet it's called The Gilded Chain?

Anyways, this book is simultaneously exciting high fantasy and political drudgery. That's not to say that politics can't be exciting (in fact, the first segment is all politics, but I found it to be interesting... until the plot line ended just as the intrigue and conflict got juicy. That was really poorly done, in my opinion).

The story is divided into several parts, which each contain individual plots that
Joel McCree
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of my all time favorites....a classic.
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I could nitpick but what would be the point. All the important elements are there. The world, while based off medieval Europe, is actually fairly detailed. The magic system fascinates me and is that perfect blend of familiar and totally unique. The plot twists pleasantly and builds wonderfully. Normally I hate main characters, but I love Roland Durendal! I can not recommend this book more highly.

For the full review visit us at
Nov 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
If there is one thing Dave Duncan does well, it's his descriptions. From a large harbor master breaching the crowd like a whale to a king's belly filling a wheelbarrow to a lantern-wielding lackey preceding a night-bound carriage and watching for potholes, these are the things that bring me back to Duncan.

Even so, Duncan does things that detract from the story; most notably are the names. Whether it's the name of a place or a person, Duncan provides far too many alternate names for the reader to
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Originally from Scotland, Dave Duncan lived all his adult life in Western Canada, having enjoyed a long career as a petroleum geologist before taking up writing. Since discovering that imaginary worlds were more satisfying than the real one, he published more than 60 novels, mostly in the fantasy genre, but also young adult, science fiction, and historical.

He wrote at times under the pseudonym

Other books in the series

The King's Blades (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Lord of the Fire Lands
  • Sky of Swords
  • Paragon Lost
  • Impossible Odds (The King's Blades, #5)
  • The Jaguar Knights
  • Sir Stalwart
  • The Crooked House (The King's Daggers, #2)
  • Silvercloak
  • One Velvet Glove (The King's Blades, #10)
  • The Ethical Swordsman: A Tale of the King's Blades (Tales of the King's Blades #11)