Swords and Scoundrels (The Duelists Trilogy) - Julia  Knight

This is one of those times when the ability to give half a star on Booklikes is a distinct advantage over Goodreads - when a book like Swords and Scoundrels makes you feel mean if you give it three stars but doesn't quite merit four. 

 

Anyway, the basic premise of Swords and Scoundrels is that it's set in a city which runs on clockwork, so every few days most of the streets and buildings shift around, with one of the exceptions to that being the headquarters of the Duellist's Guild. In theory, they stand outside the government and work for whoever pays them, so when the monarchy is overthrown by the followers of the city's Clockwork God, they manage to survive relatively unscathed. 

 

The main characters all have a link to the Guild, with the main focus of the storyline being on Kacha and Vocho, brother and sister who end up being taken into the Guild and trained - this institution has a history of taking on both the children of nobles and those of the poor, as long as they vow allegiance to the Guild above all. The relationship between Kacha and Vocho is a difficult one at times, since Vocho wants desperately to be the best but his sister is the one who everyone always seems to favour. However, when Vocho is being hunted for the murder of a priest who he was supposed to be guarding, Kacha goes on the run with him and believes in his innocence. 

 

Anyway, Swords and Scoundrels is a solidly-written first book of a trilogy (where all three have been published, so no waiting around!) but doesn't break much new ground when all is said and done. There's some good characterisation, though I wasn't particularly convinced by Kacha of all of them, finding myself instead unexpectedly sympathetic to her ex-, the former noble Petri who just doesn't seem to have much luck at all. However, I think what kept this book from getting 4 stars for me was the use of flashback chapters, which was relied on a little too heavily for my liking in order to justify events in the present day.

 

Still, if you're looking for a fantasy trilogy, you could do much worse - the next book in the series is Legends and Liars, which looks like it pretty much runs straight on from the end of this one. I may well check it out if the library has it, but I don't envisage reading it otherwise.