Dave Duncan,
The Jaguar Knights
(Eos, 2004)

The Royal Blades of Chivial are renowned for their swordsmanship and unswerving loyalty to their wards. Of course, they have no choice about the latter, being magically bound to those they serve; they must protect their wards or go mad. Sir Wolf is the finest swordsman of the current Blades and has gained a reputation as an assassin for the king, even though he has no respect whatsoever for the man.

When a former mistress of the king is kidnapped from the lonely castle where she has been exiled, Sir Wolf is given the task of finding out what happened. How did the strangely dressed kidnappers get into the keep, how did they escape again with Celeste and where did they go? Supposedly helping Wolf in this task is an enigmatic Inquisitor and his own brother, Sir Lynx, who was the only survivor of the Blades bound to Celeste.

Despite his reputation as a remorseless killer, Sir Wolf is a likeable character, just trying to get through life, protect his brother and survive until the king should release him from his service. He is an honorable man, though he does not expect honor in others, unless they happen to be his fellow Blades.

The story's action begins in an alternate, post-Renaissance Europe, but does not end where one might expect. Instead, it takes an abrupt left turn, heading west to the Hence Lands (this world's version of the New World).

Not so much a page-turning mystery as an adventure story, The Jaguar Knights is an enjoyable novel. Although it is part of an extensive series, no prior knowledge of this world is necessary to enjoy the story.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 19 March 2005

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