Cover image for Impossible odds : a chronicle of the King's Blades
Impossible odds : a chronicle of the King's Blades
Duncan, Dave, 1933-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : EOS, [2003]

Physical Description:
365 pages ; 24 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.0 20.0 88325.
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The Blades are back! Once again acclaimed fantasist Dave Duncan leads us past the imposing gates of Ironhall -- training ground for elite warrior swordsmen unequaled in any time or realm -- to witness the astonishing ascendance of three most unlikely heroes.

Deposed by a foul usurper, the Grand Duke Rubin is on the run and in desperate need of protection. While the King has decreed that new Blades will be magically bound to the guard, not one of the rough youths being readied at Ironhall yet possesses the seasoning and maturity to accept such an assignment. Left with no choice, the Grand Master approaches two with an offer of early bonding and probable death: Ranter, strong but arrogant, dense, and rude, and Ringwood, eager and impetuous, who might make a fine Blade -- someday. Since they will need much help -- and luck -- to survive what better, more skilled Blades have not, a third is enlisted into their threadbare ranks: the candidate Bellman, who, though barred from the Blades by injury, may have some small talent for espionage.

Joining the Duke's entourage along with a courageous and prescient White Sister named True, the trio of would-be champions begins an astonishing journey filled with trials and horrors, intending to restore a rightful ruler to the throne or die in the process. But before them waits an army of the dead -- a dark fraternity of shadowmen, savage and unstoppable, who slaughter in the service of a despicable fiend driven by greed and the blackest of hearts. And the Duke, whom the Blades must protect to the last drop of their lifeblood, is not the liege they imagined -- but rather the guardian of strange and twisted secrets ... and a hidden identity that threatens to plunge their noble enterprise into total confusion and even graver peril.

Author Notes

Dave Duncan was born in Scotland in 1933. He graduated from the University of St. Andrews in 1955 and moved to Canada. He worked for 31 years as a geologist in the petroleum industry. He started writing novels in 1984 and became a full-time author in 1986. He has written over 40 novels including the series The Seventh Sword, A Man of His Word, A Handful of Men, The King's Blades, The Great Game, Years of Longdirk, King's Daggers, and Seventh Sword. He has also written under the names Sarah B. Franklin and Ken Hood.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

An exiled Grand Duke Rubin arrives at Ironhall, which by this point in Duncan's Chronicles of theing's Blades is almost a character in its own right, not just a setting. Rubin's mission is to recruit Blades to rescue his duchy from an evil sorcerer who can communicate with and use the abilities of the dead. Live Blades are in somewhat short supply, and that is only the duke's first problem. The next is that the duke is really, in the best tradition of Shakespeare, a duchess in disguise, and that little gender issue has to be satisfactorily resolved before anything else can be done. When it comes time for the traditional fantasy quest, the questers at hand constitute a distinctly raggle-taggle band, and the number of new mysteries to be solved reminds one of Dumas and his musketeers. This is all told with great verve, so as to please faithfuling's Blades fans and win new ones for an underrated saga full of familiar fantasy elements treated with wit and ingenuity. --Roland Green Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Canadian author Duncan explores the perils and pitfalls of dynastic politics in this swashbuckling fantasy, the fifth entry in his popular King's Blades series (after 2002's Paragon Lost). When Grand Duke Rubin of Krupina asks King Athelgar of Chivial for help in regaining his duchy, he's promised two of the King's Blades, peerless swordsmen mystically bonded to their wards. Given the shortage of trained Blades, though, Rubin will have to make do with Ranter and Ringwood, two senior boys. They, meanwhile, have to make do with Rubin, a deposed noble of uncertain prospects to whom they will be pledged for life, and his companion, Baron von Fader, an acerbic old man. Getting Rubin back to the throne of Krupina involves fending off shadowmen, preserving secret identities, uncovering traitors and penetrating impregnable fortresses. The author makes an admirable attempt to introduce a mature ambiguity in the book, enhancing the sense of mystery surrounding Rubin. However, the differing perspectives on the characters can get confusing, and two long digressions to establish background slow the action to a crawl. The novel is a thinking reader's Prisoner of Zenda, which may be missing the point. (On sale Nov. 4) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

When the Grand Duke Rubin seeks assistance from the elite group of swordsmen known as the King's Blades, two candidates receive the honor of serving as bound warriors to their new master-only to discover that the Grand Duke is actually a woman, the Grand Duchess Johanna. Hoping to reclaim her throne from a wizard who can control the dead, the Grand Duchess and her blades embark on a series of adventures that lead ultimately to the unmasking of a traitor and a battle to the death against unearthly foes. Duncan's latest tale (after Paragon Lost) of warriors bound by ritual magic to those they serve and protect deserves a wide readership and belongs in most fantasy collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Impossible Odds A Chronicle of the King's Blades Chapter One At the Break of Day "Enter!" Grand Master said. Sir Tancred did so and closed the heavy door behind him, moving with the feline grace of an expert fencer. He had changed out of his mud-soaked traveling clothes into fresh, crisp livery, and no one could have known from the look of him that he had spent the better part of a day and night on horseback. His silver baldric marked him as Deputy Commander of the Royal Guard; his presence here at Ironhall, far away from Grandon where the King was, meant that something was seriously awry. "All bedded down?" Grand Master inquired dryly. "My charges are. Your two are falling all over themselves getting dressed."Tancred's thin smile was a formality, not denying the underlying worry. "Unless they decided I was just a nightmare and went back to sleep." Grand Master grunted and turned back to stare out the window at the first glow of sunrise on the wild crags of Starkmoor. Early-morning chill dug into his bones, making him shiver and pull his cloak tight about him, yet in fact his study was still warm from the previous day's heat. Tancred was not even wearing a cloak over his jerkin, and that display of youthful vigor made Grand Master feel old. He was old, Lord Roland, although he rarely had to admit it, even to himself. He was too old to be dragged out of bed in the middle of the night, too old to deal with unexpected, unwelcome visitors, and too old to tackle a monstrous problem created by a fool of a king. "I regret that I brought such trouble," Tancred said quietly. This was their first chance to talk privately. "Not your fault." It was Grand Master's fault. Yes, the King was being totally unreasonable and Leader was a worrywart, but the responsibility was Grand Master's. If his duties required him to refuse direct orders from his sovereign, then he should be prepared to do so and take the consequences. It was guilt that gnawed at him this morning, not age. In a long life of service, he had rarely known such a sense of failure. "Exactly how many warm bodies does His Majesty expect me to produce?" "Beg pardon ... the warrant." Sir Tancred stepped closer to hand over the baleful paper, a single sheet that might dispose of many young lives. "He left the number blank. He said to tell you at least one, but he knows you don't like to assign less than three private Blades at a time. No more than three, he said." "How considerate of him! As soon as possible, I assume? Ram the swords through the boys' hearts and throw the lot of them on the first ship out of country by this time tomorrow?" "Even sooner!" Sir Tancred smiled, although he must be shocked to hear such sarcasm from a man renowned for his discretion. Idiot king! Athelgar certainly knew that Ironhall had no boys ready to graduate as Blades, because it was only two weeks since he had made his semiannual pilgrimage to the school to harvest the latest crop of seniors, binding them to absolute loyalty with the ancient, arcane ritual. Grand Master had wanted to release six candidates and had reluctantly included another three to please Sir Florian, who was anxious to build up the Guard's numbers. The previous Commander, Sir Vicious, had preferred to keep it lean -- as Grand Master himself had, back in his own time as Leader, forty years ago. Florian saw safety in numbers, which was his privilege. But then, just a week later, the King had decided on impulse to appoint a new ambassador to Baelmark. The hapless designate, Lord Baxterbridge, had arrived at Ironhall with a warrant for three Blades. Grand Master should have dug in his heels then, but how could he condemn a man to go off to that nest of bloodthirsty pirates without adequate protection? Diplomatic immunity carried no weight in Baelmark. Only steel and the skill to use it mattered there, and the season on ambassadors never closed. So Grand Master had released three more candidates, very much against his better judgment. And today another warrant. It took five years to turn an outcast rebel boy into a Blade and even Prime Candidate Ranter had been in the school for less than four. Not since the worst days of the Monster War, forty years ago, had Ironhall suffered such a dearth of trained, competent seniors. " Eagle did look somewhat sparse," Tancred remarked caustically. Eagle was a dormitory with a dozen beds and only three occupants -- Ranter, Ringwood, and Goodwin. Two of them had not been billeted there a full week yet. A moment ago Grand Master had been feeling sorry for himself because he had lost half a night's sleep. How much worse this morning's awakening must have been for Ranter, being shaken awake by the Deputy Commander! He would have known instantly that his stay in Ironhall was at an end, his adolescence over. Ringwood could still hope that he would not be needed, but both of them had reasonably looked forward to another year of security and instruction, time to mature personally and physically, to perfect the deadly skills they would need as Blades. They were entitled to all that, and Grand Master had failed them. He realized that Tancred's comment had really been a question about Candidate Bellman, who was none of his business. Bellman was another worry, but this mess had nothing to do with him. "Goodwin didn't waken?" Grand Master asked. "Still snoring when I left." After a moment, Lord Roland's anger erupted again. "Tell me, Deputy, was Leader not consulted about this warrant? Did he not remind His Majesty that Ironhall presently has no candidates ready for binding?" Impossible Odds A Chronicle of the King's Blades . Copyright © by Dave Duncan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Impossible Odds by Dave Duncan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.