Perilous Seas by Dave Duncan

Rap the stableboy joins a merchant crew still intent upon rescuing Queen Inosolan, who is crossing a haunted wasteland in order to appeal her case to the four wardens.

Perilous Seas is the third book in Dave Duncan’s A Man of His Word series, and again I’m impressed at the skill with which Duncan crafts his narrative. He continually places his characters in severe jeopardy, taking the kinds of risks that fantasy authors so often fear. It’s almost as if the work it takes to build an alternate universe is too precious to dismantle. They’re afraid to damage, when in fact the best stories come when the world is shattered into irretrievable pieces.

Duncan has also pulled off something quite extraordinary in sustaining the connection between Inos and Rap. Oftentimes writers will set up this kind of relationship, where it’s obvious that two people are meant to be together, no matter what twists and turns the story takes. And then the author leaves them in a state of puppy love, so that when they do get together in the end it’s hard to imagine them actually having an adult relationship, let alone a marriage. Here, Inos and Rap are separated by a whole continent, and yet their relationship is developing and deepening without them even knowing it. Their very separation is bringing them together.

Yet it’s impossible to foresee how Duncan will pull this off. There are so many obstacles separating Inos and Rap, and they’re the kind of obstacles that can’t be easily done away with. Duncan has managed to build a tremendous amount of trust in me and I can’t wait to finish off this series.

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