The Complete Book of Swords
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The Complete Book of Swords

by Fred Saberhagen
Release date: 1985
Type: speculative fiction
Genres: fantasy, collection

An omnibus edition of The First Book of Swords, The Second Book of Swords and The Third Book of Swords.

The Swords were forged on a lifeless, wind-scoured mountaintop, with fire drawn from the earth's belly, and metal that fell from the sky. They were tempered with human sweat and human blood by the hand of the god Vulcan, Master Smith.

There were Twelve Swords, created as the playing pieces in a whimsical game of the gods. Into each Sword was placed an awesome power – to vanquish in battle, or slay by even more horrible means... to deceive an enemy's eyes, or destroy his soul... to bestow unfailing luck, or heal...

Only one man had seen the Forging of the Swords of power, a human smith named Jord. And for the arm that Vulcan took from him that unforgettable night, Jord received one of the Swords. It would be his legacy to his son.

Mark grew up with the Sword hanging on his father's wall. He knows well its keen edge and its unearthly perfection. But he does not realize its power until Duke Fratkin's men arrive one day to wrest the Sword from Jord. As Mark watches, the Sword strikes out, screaming with an inner fury that cares little for the safety of its wielder. When the fight is over, the Duke's men are dead; but Jord and mark's older brother, too, have fallen.

Carrying the Sword with him, Mark flees the Duke's vengeance, heading for the lands of the Kind sir Andrew. Along the way, he joins forces with the dragonhunter Nestor – owner, too, of a Sword – and his two assistants, the big, simple-seeming Ben, and pretty Barbara.

But they do not find the peace they seek at Sir Andrew's. For mighty forces are on the move, set in motion by hunger for the mastery over their fellow men promised by the Swords: the cruel Duke Fratkin; the Silver Queen, Yambu, leading her magical inhuman army; the greedy Blue temple, anxious to find the Swords it once owned; and the Dark King himself, ruler of demons, reeking of evil – and armed with the most fearsome Sword of all.

In the years of struggle that follow, Mark and his companions are drawn inexorably toward the climactic moment when the Swords will meet in battle – and Mark will be forced to join in a game even the gods can no longer control.

(updated 2011-06-25)

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