You can be forgiven if you went right past Ken Hood’s Demon Sword when you were browsing the fantasy shelves in the ‘90s. It looks god-awful terrible, with one of the ugliest covers I’ve seen on a non-Baen novel, a lurid teaser quote (”HIGHLAND WITCHERY AND THE BLACK ARTS CLASH IN A EUROPE RULED BY TARTAR HORDES!”), and it’s by a new writer in the middle of a fantasy boom. I think I probably actually shook my head at how bad it looked.
But it’s a trick, because it turns out Ken Hood is actually Dave Duncan (who was at that point writing faster than he could be published, apparently), and this is actually a pretty decent book. In fact, along with the two sequels — Dave Duncan/Ken Hood’s Demon Rider and Demon Knight — it turns out to be a highly enjoyable series.
This time around, Duncan is doing (as you might guess from that lurid quote) alternate history fantasy. The first book, set in a Scotland rebelling against a more sinister England, is the most conventional of the three. The second book, set in southern Spain; and the third book, set in Renaissance Italy, are both more unconventional (and therefore more conventionally Duncanesque, I suppose) and interesting.
The series doesn’t have a proper end — unsurprisingly, its sales were terrible, so plans for future volumes were shelved — but it has enough closure that you won’t feel as if you were left hanging. These books are out of print, but if you like Duncan’s fantasy, they’re worth rounding up.