So I’ve written up some of the Dave Duncan novels I’ve read over the last few years, but it turns out that he’s an incredibly prolific writer, and I still have a substantial backlog of Duncan books to write up here. So let’s get to it.
We’ll start off with Against the Light, which is a fantasy historical novel, more historical in feel than fantastic as it deals with religious persecution and rebellion. I liked it quite a bit, but I think it does have one flaw: It ends at a point that would be great if it were the first book of a trilogy, but it’s not. It’s a stand-alone and that’s all there’s going to be. I’m generally in favor of endings that merely point the way toward a conclusion without dragging out the obvious, but in this case, I think there’s still more to be written.
Continuing in the historical vein, we have Speak to the Devil and When the Saints, which take place in an Eastern European-esque nation in what would be an early-modern (gunpowder, but still castles) setting. It’s got political intrigue, a war, religion-tinged magic, and secret histories. Good stuff, but… it felt a bit off to me. World-building is normally Duncan’s strong suit, but here it felt very ad hoc, more like Zelazny than Duncan. And the plot was similarly all over the place—if you want to look on the bright side, you can call it “unpredictable” (certainly I never knew what was going to happen next), but it seemed like it could have used more structure.
And finally, we come to King of Swords and Queen of Stars, which are set in a combination of modernity and what we might as well call Faerie. The books deal with protagonists who have discovered that they aren’t quite human, and in fact belong (sort of) to a race of immortal-ish beings who live in basically-Faerie. And so Faerie turns out to be full of intrigue and danger, as you’d expect, and the plots move along quickly and cleverly and definitely well worth reading. Interestingly, these feel a lot like Duncan’s very early A Rose Red City, only more vicious.