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When the Saints    by Dave Duncan order for
When the Saints
by Dave Duncan
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Dave Duncan's When the Saints follows Speak to the Devil as a second entertaining romp of a historical fantasy adventure. It's set in the Kingdom of Jorgary and focused on the Magnus family, headed by Ottokar and with a long history of loyalty to the crown. The family has long produced Speakers, who hear Voices that tell them how to peform magic. The clergy calls it Satanism, though Churchmen secretly use Speakers, as do high government officials like chief minister Cardinal Zdenek, the Scarlet Spider.

In the first episode, Anton Magnus, a recent recruit to the royal Jorgarian hussars, brought his younger brother Wulfgang with him to the capital. He acted recklessly, forcing Wulf to use magic (something he had previously avoided). Misunderstanding the souce of the magic, Cardinal Zdenek appointed Anton Count of Cardice, and ordered him to defend Castle Gallant and Jorgary's northern border, where the Wends massed to invade. He also required Anton to wed the previous Count's daughter, Madlenka Bukovany. Unfortunately, Wulf and Madlenka fell in love. The remaining Magnus brothers eventually found their way to the castle but Marek (another Speaker) was killed. Speak to the Devil ended with Wulf on 'the Inquisition's most-wanted list', and an invading army camped near the castle.

In When the Saints, Wulf gradually learns of a guild of free Speakers, the Saints, ruled by Lady Umbral. She sends an advisor, Justina (a Speaker), to the castle. Justina warns Wulf to keep his abilities secret and never to tweak (use his talent to manipulate minds). Sybilla, a young Speaker mentored by Justina, helps Wulf against the enemy army, but they have their own Speakers in play. He is also embroiled in a struggle between Cardinal Zdenek and another powerful cardinal to marry off the lovely, sixteen-year old Princess Laima of Jorgary. The realm's king lies near death and his heir, Crown Prince Konrad, is generally viewed as 'a worthless brat'. Officials hope to rule either through him or his sister.

Dave Duncan masterfully develops both his plot and his fantasy world in complexity in When the Saints. Along the way, Wulf learns a great deal about his magic and loses another brother. He contracts with a cadger to control his talent, and attracts even more powerful enemies. As always with a Duncan fantasy series, I can't wait for more.

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