Book Review: Swords and Scoundrels

Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight, The Duellist Trilogy #1

Two siblings.

Outcasts for life.... together.

What could possibly go wrong?

Vocho and Kacha are champion duelists: a brother and sister known for the finest swordplay in the city of Reyes. Or at least they used to be-until they were thrown out of the Duelist's Guild.

As a last resort, they turn reluctant highwaymen. But when they pick the wrong carriage to rob, their simple plans to win back fame and fortune go south fast.

After barely besting three armed men and a powerful magician, Vocho and Kacha make off with an immense locked chest. But the contents will bring them much more than they've bargained for when they find themselves embroiled in a dangerous plot to return an angry king to power....

There are a lot of book with which you will make me happy. Books themed with roguish characters are one of them. So when I came across Swords and Scoundrels, well my choice was easy. Julia Knight is best know for her romantic inspired books, of which she has written quite a few already as well as the Urban Fantasy series Rojan Dizon which she wrote under the pseudonym if Frances Knight. With the Duellist Trilogy and Swords and Scoundrel Julia Knight returns to the element of when she fell in love with fantasy, the medieval King Arthur setting. 

As the titles already says, Swords and Scoundrels, the book is full of it. The story picks up with just two of those types of people with that weapon of choice. Meet Vocho and Kacha, brother and sister , who once were the best duelists in town. Well they once were the official bests duelists but they got thrown out of the Duelist Guild and are technically not duelists anymore. But they still will whoop you in any duel. Not having the steady income and other perks of the Duelist Guild they had to resort to other means of income. Vocho and Kacha have turned highwaymen. Robbing from the wealthy to sustain themselves and find a way back into the guild and civilization as they knew it. So one evening when Vocho and Kacha are robbing an carriage it all goes south. They often get tipped on what kind of wealth is in the carriage, but this time there is something extra. A magician. Powerful men and women who control arts that you don't want to mess with. The magician in question is guarding a box and this is what draws Vocho's attention. In the end Kacha and Vocho do get away with their lives, but just barely... Now the question remains of why there was an magician in the first place and why he was guarding that particular box. Now they await the hardest task, opening the box and making sense of it. Petri, a noble who was on the carriages and tasked with defending it, has to retrieve what Vocho and Kacha stole. They are old rivals and lovers so you can imagine that there is quite a pressure on both sides. Because what they all don't know is that the box contains a lot of power, not like a bomb but in a different way. So much that it could topple the current regime and bring other people to power... 

When you look at the story, in many ways it is classic Epic Fantasy. Julia Knight addresses each of the elements in precisely the right way. Swordfights, kings, magic, rogueish characters, a hint of a love story and courtly intrigue. you can check all of those elements. When I started with Swords and Scoundrels the first thing that fell to note was the ease of the writing. That doesn't mean that it is a plain story though. The writing style has a nice flow to it and I found myself reading along it easily. World building wise there is a lot of exposition in the current time line. Yes the chapters somewhat alternate between the current line in which Vocho and Kacha are figuring out what is in the box with that of a past time line where you all that went wrong. This gave a grande worldbuilding feeling about not only the characters but also the city of Reyes. I really liked the alternation of the time lines, it gave so much more grip on the whole story. 

As for the characters of Vocho and Kacha, they really are a pair to be honest. They are brother and sister, Vocho being the younger brother and Kacha the older sister. For me Julia Knight has described the perfect love-hate relationship that you have as brother and sister. They are rivals and Vocho due to his male hormones a bit more than Kacha will ever be. Theyboth go pretty far to show who is best in fighting, but they will always remember just what the other is capable off and perhaps do fear the other for the strengths that they have and they self lack. They have a lot of funny and humorous moments but also those of danger more than a few times. At the end of the day it becomes clear that no matter their rivalry they can fully and blindly rely on each other and this is what makes bond strong. Next to Vocho and Kacha there is another character that is placed in the middle. Petri, the noble, as I said he is charged with bringing the box back. His relation was very close to Vocho and Kacha, with Kacha a bit more than with Vocho. Every action he does he does in name of the king but with both parties drawing closer. It becomes hard to stay through to you allegiance...

Swords and Scoundrels is a fast paced and very adventurous book. And this is what I look for in Epic Fantasy, fast moving plot and a lot of fun to read. From the start I was taken into the world of Swords and Scoundrels the premise with a brother/sister duo who see eye to eye most of the times and can be very rivalry the other times works just perfectly. For me it was a great start, looking forward to the sequel! 


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