David John Duncan was born on the 30th of June, 1933, in Newport-on-Tay, Scotland. Duncan was an award-winning, renowned Scottish-Canadian sci-fi and fantasy writer.
Duncan, as we said, was born and grew up in Newport-on-Tay, Scotland. Duncan went to the High School of Dundee. He continued his education by studying geology at the University of St Andrews. In 1955, Duncan graduated and decided to have a change in the scenery, so he moved to Calgary, Alberta. In 1960, Duncan became an official Canadian citizen.
Duncan worked in the field where he acquired his degree, geology, by boasting an outstanding three- decade career in the petroleum industry. However, at the age of fifty-three, Duncan decided that he wanted to work as a full-time writer, so he made the change. In 1986, he made his very first sale for the book A Rose Red City.
For the later part of his life, Duncan lived in Victoria, British Columbia, along with his spouse, Janet. The pair married in 1959, and they had two daughters, a son, who, themselves, had four grandchildren between them.
Sadly, Duncan passed away on the 29th of October, 2018, aged eighty-five. In honor of the talented mind that Duncan had, we can now take a look at the best Dave Duncan books. You can also learn more about his other book, that you won’t find here, in our The Monster War book review.
Best Dave Duncan Books
The King’s Blade Book Series
- The Gilded Chain, published in 1998.
- Lord of the Fire Lands, published in 1999.
- Sky of Swords, published in 2000.
- Paragon Lost, published in 2002.
- Impossible Odds, published in 2003.
- The Jaguar Knights, published in 2004.
- Sir Stalwart, published in 1999.
- The Crooked House, published in 2000.
- Silvercloak, published in 2001.
- One Velvet Glove, published in 2017.
- The Ethical Swordsman: A Tale of the King’s Blades, published in 2019.
The series is unique in the manner that each book features a different cast of characters, though they are all set in the same, shared world. We covered the second book in our standalone article, take a look at our Lord of the Fire Lands book review.
A knightly order exists referred to as The Blades. The Blades recruit younglings and when the time is ripe, by way of magical practices and rigorous training, they are made to be the mightiest warriors of the land. They do not require any kind of sleep.
These warriors are, in turn, bound to a certain character whom they must protect by all means; this character is called a ward. The blade – the warrior – bears a connection to his ward, akin to a kind of sixth sense. The only way that one can be ‘freed’ from their duty to their ward is if the same ward lets them go.
Most prominently, a blade is bound to protect a king, a prince, or some such person. Durendal is our main character and we see the course of and the aftereffects of the transformation into a blade.
Surely, each book is a classic in its own right, and more than worthy of being named as the best book by Dave Duncan.
The Seventh Sword Book Series
- The Reluctant Swordsman, published in 1988.
- The Coming Wisdom, published in 1988.
- The Destiny of the Sword, published in 1988.
- The Death of Nnanji, published in 2012.
The story starts out with our protagonist Wallie Smith. Wallie feels an odd pain, almost as if he’s dying. Wallie goes to the hospital. The faces of the doctors and the senseless noise that everyone caused at his apparent death seems engraved into the memory of Wallie, but Wallie just woke up. He’s no longer in the hospital, but in a wholly different world. To be more precise, Wallie is in the body of a barbarian swordsman. He is with a very odd man, a priest, who keeps talking of some Goddess and an attractive slave-girl.
Wallie is stumped and with no clue on what to do. He finds out that the reason he finds himself in the brawny physique of a barbarian is because the very same Goddess that the priest spoke of needed a swordsman for herself. So, she wrenched him away from the certainty of death.
If he succeeds in doing what she asks of him, he will be granted whatever it is that he wants. If, however, he fails, things will not go well for Wallie.
Many readers came to know the writing of Duncan from these very same books. It is clear that the overwhelming majority stayed with his dazzling, witty, comical writing precisely because these are probably the best books by Dave Duncan.
A Man of His Word Book Series
It is clear, by know, that Dave Duncan loved writing series. After all, he was exceedingly good at them, and this one is no exception. The A Man of His Word series is comprised of the following four books:
- Magic Casement, published in 1990.
- Faery Lands Forlorn, published in 1991.
- Perilous Seas, published in 1991.
- Emperor and Clown, published in 1991.
Duncan’s A Man of His Word series is a happy reunion with a more shining, more lovable period in fantasy writing. This was the time when we wanted the good characters to win, for the bad ones to lose, and for the exhausted, relentless heroes to get their happy ending. For more info about the first book of the series, check out our Magic Casement book review.
Rap and Princess Inosolan were born and grew up on the rock of Krasengar, situated in the north of their world – Pandemia. Where they live, braving the winters and, essentially, keeping themselves alive deters them from busying themselves with the situation in the faraway reaches of their world.
As the duo grows up, they convive even more, becoming best of friends, though their friendship is marred by the distinct love that childhood friends are subject to. Complications arise as the two are dragged into the ongoing events of the wider world. Inosolan gets into the trouble, as Rap, her tireless knight in shining armor, traverses the plain and does not stop, in spite of all the perilous dangers that are set up, until he saves the princess.
From the very first page, one is drawn into the duo’s dynamic and cannot help but feel for them during their downfalls and laugh with them as they triumph.
The books are superbly written. We drift from Inosolan’s point of view, to that of Rap, without losing a beat. Truly one of the best books that Dave Duncan has written, to date.
A Handful of Men Book Series
- The Cutting Edge, published in 1992.
- Upland Outlaws, published in 1992.
- The Stricken Field, published in 1993.
- The Living God, published in 1994.
Though one would not expect this, A Handful of Men is actually a sequel to the A Man of His Word series. That, however, does not mean that much of the same occurs. In fact, what remains from the original series is the world of Pandemia along with several key characters. A Handful of Men boasts even more intriguing worldbuilding, more layered characters, and many conundrums and quandaries to test the wills of the heroes.
From the first series to this one, a total of fifteen years have elapsed. The world has changed, the characters have changed, but what lies ahead is more daring a change than any prior.
The World of Pandemia is approaching its 3000th millennium. From great rumors one learns that it is prophesized that in this time an egregious disaster is to befall the land. As so happens, something dangerous occurs during each millennium’s turn, but Rap is not interested in empty talks. To him, it is nothing more than fear mongering. A god, however, comes to Rap one night and tells him that the prophesized cataclysms are, in fact, coming, and that the only one that can stop them is Rap, himself.
The endlessly interesting sage goes on from there, as Pandemia is burned by new disaster after new disaster. Rap and Inosolan, along with many younger heroes, all work to save the land from the perils that befall it.
The Great Game Book Series
The shortest series that Duncan wrote is The Great Game series, spanning only three books. The trilogy consists of the following:
- Past Imperative, published in 1995.
- Present Tense, published in 1996.
- Future Indefinite, published in 1997.
Main character, Edward, is the run of the mill British youngster living in the period of Edwardian England. Edward’s parents were colonial workers that met their demise in Africa. Edward has gone to a private school so as to learn how it is that he can lead the empire. The bells, though, begin to toll and a time of war is ahead. Edward signs up to fight for his country and his people.
What’s problematic is that in a wholly different place and time, Edward is the prophesized Liberator, though his name in this world is Exeter. In this world, Edward is said to be the one to bring death to… death, itself.
In the second book, amid a muddy field, during the tragic time of the first World War, a stranger is plopped into apparent existence from out of nowhere. This stranger, our dear Edward, has quite the story to tell, and tell it, he does.
The troubles, sorrows, and plights, encumber on Edward and by the time that the third book comes around, his friends begin to think he is insane. What they do not know is that if Edward is unsuccessful in the battle against the god of death, many lives will be lost.
The story of Edward is a paramount, heartfelt one, one that only Dave Duncan could have written. Another timeless work that Duncan wrote, sure to amaze readers from all ages, is the Alchemist series.