The ideas were there (magically bound nubile young swordsmen to serve as guardians for the King and anyone he wants!), but the execution was messy. The novel takes place over a long span of time and, contrary to what one may think, this actually makes it more
difficult to get to know the main character(s).
We start with Durendal as a young man filled with thoughts of glory and adventure in the name of his liege lord. With an ungraceful swordthrust to the heart, he becomes the babysitter of the newest Royal Mistress's brother. His life will be boredom and willing serving wenches, woe!
As he is our protagonist, naturally something awful happens to him and his ward. After this is given a good three or four pages, we kind of ... move forward into the future? All his growing up and maturing and getting past the magically-induced pain is glossed over and Durendal is suddenly a man.
This is a trend that follows throughout the book - there's one large adventure (strangely enough, also ends in tragedy!) and then Durendal's life is just one long telling without a whole lot of showing.
The one character I really liked died, of course. Poor Wolfbiter, you were wasted.