The Gilded Chain

The Gilded Chain - Dave Duncan

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 problems with this setup. Unfortunately, what was the only thing I really liked about this book, was swept under the rug by the end of the book. Durendal's back at the keep, recruiting the next generation and I honestly think the author could have done more with this. There was so much potential for conflict and it felt like the author brought up the issue and then tried to sweep it under the rug at the end because he didn't know how to deal with the moral issues he brought up.

I really had issues with the pacing in this novel. There were sections that were just rushed, like the tournament, saving the King's life in the field, and dissolution of the magic guilds. This is all relevant to who Durendal is as a character. He's famous amongst other Blades for these things and the author devoted, maybe three pages to each of these events. Meanwhile we get a large chunk of the book devoted to the Blades prowess with the ladies. At one point, when Durendal receives his Blade Quarrel, he worries about how he will deal with it when Quarrel gets one of their servant girls pregnant. Not if, when, because it's expected a Blade will sleep with all the women. And women are just so impressed by Blades,they'll leap into bed with them; I spent a large chunk of this book rolling my eyes. On top of the nonsense above, we get this nice quote:

"He had seen no women, but he had not looked into the kitchen..."

What about the bedrooms, did you check the bedrooms Durendal? They're surrounded by Blades, so where else would they be.

The abilities of the Blades were inconsistent. At the beginning of the book it's stated that any non-Blade swordsman doesn't have a chance against a Blade in a fight, they're just too good. Obviously multiple fighters against one Blade will eventually overcome him, but one on one it's not considered a fair fight. Durendal is considered the best Blade in recent years, easily able to beat anybody Blade or not. Then we get to the tournament, which is one of the events that led to Durendal's fame. He's beaten by a non-Blade, Aldane, at rapiers. Durendal then goes up against Aldane, in a final
match and right out states that he has no chance against him. He does eventually win and everybody treats it like some great feat, but earlier in the book we're pretty much told his victory against any single non-Blade is a forgone conclusion.

The political maneuvering in this book, struck me as childish compared to some of things you see in WOT or ASoFI. When Durendal is named as Chancellor, Montpurse, the previous owner of the title, is offered up as a sacrificial lamb to the counsel. The King and Durendal know that the council is going to call for his head, but believe that he doesn't deserve that, he doesn't. So they sit down and discuss how they can save his life. Their solution is to offer him up for questioning because that'll appease the council. They do this knowing that questioning by the Inquisitors will lead to his eventual death. So in an effort to keep him from being charged with treason and being beheaded, they give him over to questioning which will  eventually lead to his death. And it's not even the questioning itself that kills him, the spell that they use on him is so awful that they decide it'll be kinder to kill him in the end. I guess that's better??? Take that council members, I just gave you exactly what you wanted.


I honestly can't think of a single reason to continue this series.