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King's Shield: Book Three of Inda    by Sherwood Smith order for
King's Shield
by Sherwood Smith
Order:  USA  Can
Daw, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

King's Shield is the third - following Inda and The Fox - in a thrilling fantasy series by Sherwood Smith. The first book led readers through prince Indevan-Dal's childhood in Iasca Leror, his exile to a life at sea for the good of the kingdom, and a painful coming of age there. Inda, a very young military genius and natural leader, eventually broke the pirate Brotherhood of Blood and took action against Venn invaders who had been harrying shipping with their eye on Iasca Leror. As The Fox ended, unbeknownst to Inda, his friend Evred ascended the throne and married Inda's sister Hadand. Inda also landed on the coast, after nine years of exile, to warn his homeland of an imminent Venn invasion.

As King's Shield begins, Inda lands, accompaned by his older lover, Venn Dag Signi (a sorceress acting against certain elements amongst her own people) and his close friends and followers, the 'astonishingly beautiful' Taumad and Jeje who loves him. Inda reunites with old friends, is devastated to learn of his brother's murder, and rides hard for the capital, where Evred seeks a solution to the defense of the north of the kingdom. There Signi is treated with distrust but Inda welcomed with open arms and given command of the armies. Evred informs him that he's now heir to Choraed Elgaer and is to marry his close childhood friend Tdor. The story moves on to show preparations for war, and a gallant defense - to the death - of Castle Andahi by all its people, aside from the smallest children, who are sent to take refuge in caves.

As Inda and Evred lead the army north, an assassination attempt is foiled, and Inda works hard to adapt his naval tactics to land warfare - but it's his out-of-the-box genius that will ultimately make the difference. Smith also shows readers some of the convoluted Venn politics surrounding the use - and abuse - of magic. Along with the build-up to war, it's a story of complicated relationships. Tdor adores Inda, who loves her in return, but is also committed to Signi. Evred has passionate feelings for Inda, who sees him only as friend and monarch. There are sacrifices and great losses on both sides in a story that essentially underlines the futility of war, while portraying individuals with indomitable courage engaging in it. As Signi agonizes, 'War is terrible, it turns everyone into murderers.' And Inda finally returns home to Choraed Elgaer.

In her Inda series, a must read for fantasy lovers, Sherwood Smith gives us a brilliant military fantasy set in a complex, well realized world filled with ambition, individual and national, conflict and magic. Her stories are painted with broad brush military strategies and national politics as well as finely drawn relationships between individuals. I hope to see more of this rich world and its engaging inhabitants.

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