The Crooked House

I finished The Crooked House a few days back. This is #2 in Dave Duncan’s King’s Daggers series. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Sir Stalwart. It just didn’t have the same life as the first book.

In part, I think it was because Duncan didn’t have the fun of introducing his characters and telling us their origins. Nor the mystery that the first book contained (as the threads of two lives became intertwined).

But also… no one really did anything. The protagonists made some bad decisions (in order to get into trouble) but never really made good ones to get themselves out. Events just played out more or less in their favor without their really doing anything to make these events come about. Because of this, the book read more like a vignette than a novel. It was still enjoyable, but not nearly as much fun as Sir Stalwart.

Now I’m into Robin and the King by Parke Godwin. This is a book that has sat on my shelf for so long that its no longer in print, sadly. It’s the second in a series by Godwin, the first being Sherwood. The first book tells the story of Robin Hood the Outlaw. The second follows Robin in later life, once again in trouble with the King, but this time as a politician rather than an outlaw.

Well, I’ll save anymore until I finish it, which might take some time because whenever I pick it up and read a chapter, I’m spurred to put it down and fire up Dark Age of Camelot and range about the lands practicing my period anglais.

Sir Stalwart

My g/f came home from the library with a treat for us. I mentioned The Gilded Chain a few days ago… this is the first novel in Dave Duncan’s The King’s Blades series. Well, Duncan also has a young adult series set in the same universe; he calls this one The King’s Daggers. Sir Stalwart is the first book in that series, and it was a delight to read.
I’m one of those oafs who gets really uncomfortable at the idea of reading a “kid’s book” but I’m glad I got past that barrier this time. The only thing that really identifies this as a young adult novel is its relative brevity and the fairly straightforward plot line. I assumed, going in, that there wouldn’t be an violence or real evil being shown, but I was wrong about that. True, at times the ‘camera turn’s away’ from a particularly violent act, but we see the setup of it and the results, and our imaginations fill in the rest.
The story revolves around Stalwart, 5th in line to become bound and a member of the Blades. But instead of following the usual course of a candidate, he is whisked away from Ironhall (where boys train to become Blades) and becomes the only unbound member of this elite troop, and sent on a covert mission. Aiding him (unknowlingly) is Emerald, a White Sister of as few years as Stalwart. To say more would be to ruin the book.
It’s a fast read; perfect for a long day at the beach or a rainy weekend. If you enjoyed The King’s Blades series, don’t overlook The King’s Daggers.

The Crystal Shard

A few days back I mentioned The Crystal Shard by R. A. Salvatore, in a somewhat disparaging way.

I just finished the book, and in the end, I’m glad I did. Salvatore didn’t have a pro’s polish when he wrote this book back in 1988, but he did spin a decent yarn.

My biggest gripes with him have to do with the common stuff that new authors trip up on… characters being omniscient, and items suddenly appearing out of nowhere to help out our hero.

An example of the first: “Gillain could tell by the barbarian’s glazed stare that he’d spent the night in revelry and the throbbing in his head would cause him to move slower than his usual lightning quick reflexes would account for. It was also obvious that the grak eggs he’d eaten for breakfast had been a tad off, and his guts were cramping up, causing him to hunch over and this limiting his reach.” (OK, I exagerate a tad.)

An example of the second would be someone’s cloak catching fire at a campsite, and him dousing it in the nearby river… except that before that moment, the river was never mentioned, even though the party had been at this campsite for several pages now.

You get the idea. So that’s the bad. The good is, as I said, it was a fun story, culminating in an epic battle that was trying to be something like The Battle of Helm’s Deep. Tolkien has nothing to fear from Salvatore (or at least, from the Salvatore of 1988) but if you enjoy your sword and sorcery fiction heavy on the swords and skull-bashing, you’ll probably enjoy The Crystal Shard. I put it aside at one point and I’m glad I came back to it.

Do note, however, that it’s a D&D book and there are places where you can almost here the die being rolled. 🙂


Ack, it’s been a week since my last confes.. last update. Better bring things up to date.

I was sick last Friday and over the weekend, so not much happened worth talking about. At the same time, we were moving our servers from one data center to another, and since I was home sick when the move happened, things did not go well. I came in to work on Monday to find that one site had been down all weekend, search wasn’t working on the other, and two servers hadn’t been reconfigured.

Suffice to say, work’s been fairly hellish this week. 🙂

But, next week, I’m on vacation! Not going anywhere special, but still, a chance to chill out is very welcome.

Game-wise, I’ve been renting a bunch of games from Blockbuster, though none worth noting. I became obsessed with Warcraft III and played through the campaign of that. It’s a tribute to the game that when I was done, I still wanted more. And now, this week, I’ve started a new character in Dark Age of Camelot… a highlander mercenary on the Nimue server.

Suddenly, I’m enchanted again.

So that brings us up to date. Oh, I’ve gone back to reading that D&D book, The Ice Crystal or The Enchanted Crystal or The Enchanted Ice or whatever it is… I needed something to read that wouldn’t keep me up at night, and this is doing the trick quite nicely. Got Parke Goodwin’s Robin and the King on deck, though!

The Gilded Chain

I just finished The Gilded Chain: A Tale of the King’s Blades by Dave Duncan.

What a wonderful, wonderful book. Duncan has put together a fantasy world that’s heavy on the swords and relatively light on the sorcery. The King’s Blades are swordsmen who are bound to the king by a conjuration; its somewhat derivative of Mercedes Lackey’s Companions of Valdemar, or Anne McCaffrey’s riders and dragons of Pern, except in this case both parties are human. But really, the binding is just a plot device and a motivator, and the real story here is about the men themselves (what I’m trying to say is, the men act like men, not like some kind of ensorcled automatons). And if I say any more than that, I’ll ruin at least one surprise, so I’m not even going to touch on the plot. You’ll have to trust me.

This book isn’t heavy with meaning and no scholar will ever decree it an ‘important book.’ It’s just a well-paced yarn, full of surprises, hard to put down, and well worth reading. It gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from me.


OK, I’ve been nagged about a lack of blog entries, and as per the comment from the g/f below, I’ll have to admit that I’ve been addicted to G4TV, the new ‘gaming channel.’

It’s a really strange mix, this channel. Sometimes, I cringe, fearing someone will come in and see me watching this channel designed for 5 year olds. Other times, it gets hip to the fact that there are a ton of gamers in their late teens and beyond.

As best I can figure, they have two writers. One of them is a girl of about 19 (Tina Wood, I believe), and the shows she writes are pretty ok. The other shows are written by some faceless fellow (Tina is actually the host of one of the shows, too, which is how I know how old she is) and he’s really bad. Lots of jokes so corny they make your stomach lurch, lots of over-active hosts, as if the writer though the games were just a gimmick to get people to watch the host.

But what makes it all worth watching is tons of video footage of the games in action. After watching G4 for a weekend, reading a review and looking at screenshots ain’t going to cut it no more…

Happy 4th!

That ranger woman is starting to vex me greatly.

Here’s to a great game like Warcraft III being released just in time for a long weekend! Woot!