Tor, Aug 17 2010, $27.99
Honce has been at war for years as two rivals battle for the throne with each indifferent to the plight of peasants trapped in the deadly combat. Self-anointed King Yeslnik the Fool flourishes on blood and guts from the unmerciful war while his chief opponent Laird Ethelbert is perhaps slightly less inclined towards violence causing collateral damage.
Yeslnik’s other major opposition comes from Dame Gwydre of Vanguard, who cares about the people, but is somewhat helpless as she is trapped inside the Church of St. Mere Abelle with the mystic monks; though due to magic jewels and the swordsmen, they are safe. She considers an alliance with Ethelbert, whom she deems is the lesser of two evils, but his assassins murdered Jameston Sequin and attempted to kill Bransen Garibond the Highwayman.
Bransen opts out as he is bone wary of war. He intends to takes his pregnant wife and leaves but he meets Gwydre who tries to help the beleaguered people. Instead of vanishing, he escorts her to meet the king’s general Bannagran, the Bear of Honce to see if between them they can bring peace.
The final tale in the epic First King saga (see The Highwayman, The Ancient and The Dame) is a rousing winner as R.A. Salvatore continues to effortlessly blend magic and medieval type warfare inside an action-packed military-political fantasy. The key cast is powerfully drawn as betrayal and expedient shifting alliances between enemies is the norm. This series is one of the best over the past few years because of the deep look at political fantasy in a kingdom at constant civil war.