Deborah Chester,
The King Betrayed
(Ace, 2003)

Deborah Chester has written the trilogy The Sword, The Ring and The Chalice, and added to it with Queen's Gambit. I would have enjoyed The King Betrayed much better if I had read the preceding novels, as she does not give a synopsis of the previous occurrences or even a glossary of the many particular terms she uses throughout the book, assuming (probably correctly) that most readers will be familiar with the story. Once a tale reaches a trilogy, however, I do feel that the author should give some sort of precis about the characters and plot so far. I was preoccupied wondering why the queen was bearing weird changelings, what an "Eldin" was (although there is no explanation, the king is evidently part Eldin) and what the "Nonkind" creatures are. While I grasped at the small reference to the return of the Chalice of Life, a review of its powers would have been helpful, as would those of the Ring of Solder and perhaps how the king acquired the magic sword Mirengard and his magic armour.

This irritation aside, the book is full of suspense and excitement, and makes me want to read the previous books to acquaint myself with the full story. One of the main characters is Tashalya, presented as a spoiled and precocious child; she has unknown magical gifts that begin to manifest, and her initial uncontrolled use of these when swayed by her own emotions gradually alters as the story progresses. Tashalya develops into an admirably brave, if extremely stubborn girl.

I thought a weak point of the story was the reaction of the queen -- who, after all, has the power of the Sight -- as the love between herself and the king changed to disappointment, despair and hatred. The author's descriptions of the cruelty, the fights, the journey and the time spent on the second world are excellent, and the reader is entranced with the fantastic Chief Believer, his fire-knights and the creatures of the dark.

Although a typical fantasy story of good against evil, black against white, Dark against the Light, the author keeps the reader in suspense and entertained until practically the final page, which is refreshingly unusual and a key point in this genre. My advice is read it, but not before reading the preceding books.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 8 May 2004

Buy it from