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Paragon Lost
Reviewed by Candace Myers, © 2002

Format: Book
By:   Dave Duncan
Genre:   Fantasy
Released:   October 2002
Review Date:   October 17, 2002
RevSF Rating:   9/10 (What Is This?)
With one notable exception, I have never been a die-hard Dave Duncan fan. I found all his novels enjoyable, just not riveting enough to go on my "AUTHORS TO BUY IMMEDIATELY OR DIE TRYING" list. The notable exception, and a series on my list, is his Tales of the King's Blades books. After he published the last of the series, "Sky of Swords"[please italicize], and moved on to another, I had given up on sequels. I have never been happier to be wrong. (Actually, I hate to be wrong, but I've made an exception this once.) The latest addition to the series is Paragon Lost. To my pleasure, Duncan's hiatus from the series in no way affected the novel. It has the same flair and zest as the first three.

The Tales of the King's Blades series, for those not in the know, is sword and sorcery fantasy at its very best. The books revolve around young boys, usually what we'd call juvenile delinquents, who get dropped off at Starkmoore, the world renowned sword-fighting academy. If they graduate, the boys look forward to becoming Blades, unsurpassed swordsmen magically bound in unswerving loyalty to their ward who is usually, but not always, the King. As exciting as the academy action is, the plot always becomes more intriguing and action-packed as the boys become Blades and set off on their adventures in service to King and country.

In the new book, Paragon Lost, the future blade is known as Beumont. Unusually, he and his two companions are not bound to the King. Instead, their ward is a man in the King's favor. Their mission: to travel halfway around the world and fetch home a bride. The plot is action packed, full of romance, danger, and plenty of derring-do. But, what truly makes this book special, is the smooth prose, well-developed characters, and fascinating world building.

In Paragon Lost, the reader is sucked into Duncan's world and does not want to leave. Duncan's world development is impeccable. So much so, the novel actually reads more like a historical book and less like pure fiction. Several different forms of monarchy, from benign systems with checks on Kingly control to bloodthirsty dictatorships, are revealed with an almost Behind The Music style. The plot never falters, the book never grows boring, and no character could truly be called a cliche -- he gives them too much depth for that (even the bloodthirsty minions are more interesting than the norm).

The book is just a good read; in fact, I only noticed one minor flaw. The book is told in present day then slips into a flashback for most of the novel. My one cavil is that the descent back into present day to end the novel hit me a little abruptly. Fortunately, the sensation only lingered for the first few paragraphs and then the fun sucked me right back in.

Overall, the book is a thrilling and well-written pleasure. If you are a fan of The Three Musketeers, sword and sorcery, or even find yourself fascinated by the more exciting historical accounts of monarchy, this book is a must have.
Candace loves swords. In fact, she's going to take up fencing. Well, she would if it didn't involve effort and sweat. Maybe playstation has a sword game?

 
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