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The Jaguar Knights: A Chronicle of the King's Blades    by Dave Duncan order for
Jaguar Knights
by Dave Duncan
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Award-winning Canadian author Dave Duncan is noted for many excellent fantasies. The Jaguar Knights is a new entry in his King's Blades series. In the medieval land of Chivial, Sir Wolf, the 'King's Killer', is summoned by King Athelgar. There is no love lost between Sir Wolf and the King due to past events which Athelgar still holds against the senior Knight. In turn, Wolf has reason to mistrust the King. Sir Wolf and Dark Chamber Inquisitor Dolores Hogwood journey to the castle at Quondam to investigate the abduction of Baroness Celeste, the source of attacks and deaths at the impregnable fortress, and the injuries of Wolf's younger brother, Sir Lynx.

King Athelgar banished his mistress, the beautiful Marquesa Celeste to the remote fortress at Quondam. There she bore the King's child, but the babe died at birth. It is believed that Celeste's abduction was the sole reason for the gruesome assault. The attackers are described as huge, killing monsters armed with 'glass swords, catlike claws, fangs, and covered in fur'. Their weapons are designed like a cat's paw carved from dark wood, and the ends have inset teeth of black stone as sharp as razors, similar to obsidian, volcanic glass. Sir Lynx's shoulder was crunched by one of the assailant's jaws. Of the warriors' headgear Lynx says, 'I'm not sure now that it was a helmet. A sort of spotted mask covering his whole head ... but it bit me!'

Sources reveal the existence of remote Hence Land - islands discovered by Distlish sailors and claimed for the ambitious King Diego of Distlain. Wolf concludes that the assailants of Quondam originated in the remote tropical empire of Tlixilia, home of the 'jaguara' (jaguar knights) and eagle knights, a people possessed of astounding conjuration powers. Wolf and his companions hope to form an alliance with Tlixilia against Distlain, rescue Celeste, and locate Lynx, who is already on the trail of his ward, the Baroness. Sir Wolf struggles to solve the mystery of the attackers, and in the process learns that Chivial is threatened. His quest leads him into dangerous lands, against magical enemies, and to new discoveries. He finds answers beyond the wildest of nightmares.

Dave Duncan's thrilling action makes the unbelievable believable in this unusual fantasy. I appreciated his dedication, 'to all the wonderful people who still buy books and so make books possible; and especially to the band of faithful who have journeyed through the years with Rap, Wallie, Durendal, and the rest of my imaginary friends.' I recommend The Jaguar Knights as a light, but extremely out-of-the-ordinary fantasy read.

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