The King's Blades are uber-skilled swordsmen magically bound for life to their chosen noble. In IMPOSSIBLE ODDS (4.5), Dave Duncan's stand-alone addition to his long-running Blades series, the best are otherwise occupied and the runners-up finally get their chance. When Grand Duke Rubin requests Blades to help regain his dukedom from upstart sorcerer Volpe, circumstances result in his being assigned two men who have not yet completed their training. Complementing these two are Bellman, prevented by injury from becoming a Blade, and Trudy, who can sense, and therefore protect against, sorcery. Complicating matters further, the grand duke turns out to be the magically disguised grand duchess, determined to discover what has happened to her husband and young son. Duncan excels at old-fashioned swashbuckling fantasy, maintaining a delicate balance between breathtaking excitement, romance and high camp in a genre that is easy to overdo. This is page-turning adventure with fun characters, crackling dialogue and a smart, twisty plot. (Nov., 365 pp., $24.95)

Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum