David Duncan pens a worthwhile fantasy saga in The Gilded Chain. Review by Violet Kane

Book Cover
Fantasy fans looking for a satisfying read, but not a multi-book epic commitment, will be pleased with this novel.

Duncan explores the order of the King's Blades in this story. They are an elite cadre of trained swordsmen. Their skills come from talent and hard training, but their dedication and loyalty come from magic. During the years of their training, the blades move up through a series of ranks, until reaching the level of Prime, where they may be called to service by the king. The young and brash Durendal seems destined for greatness, until the Prime ahead of him is killed in the magical binding ceremony that cements his loyalty to his ward—a ward who seems an unimportant fop, granted a Blade by the king for mysterious reasons. Durendal becomes Prime and must swear his loyalty to the un-glorious host. But as political treacheries unravel, Durendal learns the power and the pitfalls of the binding magic. He carves out a reputation for himself at court, despite the attempts of the king and royal enemies to manipulate him.

The Gilded Chain is rather short by fantasy standards at 350 pages, especially considering the scope of this saga. The book follows Durendal from his Blade training as a youth to the twilight of his life at age sixty. Some fantasy fans may find the time jumps and the brisk pace to be jarring, considering the genre's typically detail-laden tales. I, however, applaud Duncan for telling an efficient story and not wasting the reader's time on unnecessary scenes or transition-fillers. When he sets out on a two year journey to a city far across the world, he is not afraid to jump two years over a chapter break from the departure to the arrival. The time jump to his golden years seems a little rushed, but the benefits of getting a whole story in a single, economically-sized volume is worth taking a few leaps. Duncan manages to tell a character-based story with magical intrigue, but without burdening readers with laborious world-building.

Fans of classic magical fantasy will enjoy this unique find: a story that doesn't waste the reader's time. Perhaps more fantasy writers will take a page from Duncan, and produce self-contained stories under 500 pages.

Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.

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