I have a blog called “Zane Grey and me”. This is my review of the first book he wrote, “Betty Zane”. Betty Zane is one of Grey’s ancestors and also the heroine of this historical novel. It does not pretend to be unbiased or historically correct, but Zane has tried to make it as correct as his white male privilege allows.
Popular Graphic Arts; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-2355
Charles Francis Press, New York, 1903
Parents’ Magazine Press, 1947
In this busy progressive age there are no heroes of the kind so dear to all lovers of chivalry and romance. There are heroes, perhaps, but they are the patient sad-faced kind, of whom few take cognizance as they hurry onward. But cannot we all remember some one who suffered greatly, who accomplished great deeds, who died on the battlefield–some one around whose name lingers a halo of glory? Few of us are so unfortunate that we cannot look backward on kith or kin and thrill with love and reverence as we dream of an act of heroism or martyrdom which rings down the annals of time like the melody of the huntsman’s horn, as it peals out on a frosty October morn purer and sweeter with each succeeding…
Ryke’s face was soot-stained, and his wrists were skinned raw where he had torn them twisting in his chains. His head ached.”
From this moment we are in the company of Ryke, a man who remains in a state of shock through the story. All of his friends, his leaders and his place in the world and loyalties have been torn from him. He thought he understood war, but he had never seen it from the side of the loser. War is much more brutal and bloody when you are not the winner. Why he has been kept alive when the rest of the Keep (excluding the women who were raped and kept on as chattel) was killed is a mystery to Ryke.
Then Col Istor (master of the invaders) shows him why. Errel, Prince of Tornor until the invaders took the keep, is still alive. Given a beating, but still alive. In return for keeping him that way, Ryke must pledge his service to Istor. Ryke gives the only pledge he feels capable of keeping. It is accepted.
“I’ll serve you,” he said, “with loyalty, as long as Errel’s left alone and unharmed.”
The Northern border is a land where the gap between male and female is immense. As is usual in such societies, women are meant for marriage, childbirth and possibly healing of the kind wise women did. Men, well, men. I am glad Elizabeth A Lynn wrote this book the way she did. Ryke’s prejudices are challenged. Lynn shows us that prejudices do not necessarily change even when confronted with evidence and anecdotes. This has been my experience as well, and I find it just as frustrating as Sorren and Norres expressed.
“The other was unimportant. It happened to all women. In war you could not even call it rape.”
Ryke is used to being in “middle management”. He likes leadership, but only to a certain extent. Beyond that, he prefers having another person tell him what to do and, to a certain extent, what to think. Errel (Prince to Ryke) is supposed to fill that spot, but Errel is not willing to play along. He challenges Ryke to think for himself and to make his own choices. Ryke hates that. At times I have wanted people to choose for me. Often I wonder if that is the way most of us want the world to be. If others choose for us, perhaps we have less responsibility? But I would not choose to have Ryke’s fear of choice. In the end, neither would he.
P.S: I have not been able to find a link to Elizabeth A. Lynn anywhere.
P.P.S: “The art of the chearis, as it is described, resembles in some aspects the Japanese martial art aikido, created by Master Morihei Uyeshiba. This imitation is deliberate. Writers must write what they know. In gratitude for that knowledge, the author respectfully wishes to thank her teachers.” (Dedication page)
Rosemary Edghill does her usual cracking job writing The Warslayer.
“A terrible power has been unleashed in the land of Erchanen. Long was it prisoned upon the peaks of Grey Arlinn, until foul mischance freed it once more. Now it stalks the plains of Serenthodial, and Great Drathil is no more than an abode of shadows. We are a simple gentle people, without the arts of war, and we knew that only the greatest warrior who ever lived could help our people in their hour of greatest need. You are she.”
Quite understandably, Gloria (Glory) McArdle is a bit skeptical to being approached by three apparently insane (like all conventioneers) fans who are taking fandom to the extreme. What she gets instead is a new world.
It isn’t often a stuffed elephant gets to have a major supporting role, but Gorden, the elephant, does. Glory depends on him for comfort in all the strangeness and he is also in an essential place when one of the Allimir needs him. Or at least Vixen thinks that when she and Belegir are seeking the will of the Oracle. Comfort objects are important tools in emergencies and daily life. I think it is safe to say that Vixen’s new life is traumatic.
Vixen also brings her highly impractical costume including a real and blunt sword. It was thought that, for the sake of realism, the role as Vixen required learning to fight with a real weapon. Well, kind of fight. She discovers that her choreographed moves are of little use and improvisation is a must. In fact, having been an Olympic gymnast is far more important to Glory’s survival.
“The terrace directly below was still clear. It was an eight-foot drop. Glory turned away from the stairs and jumped.
They hated having her do her own stunts on TITAoVtS, because if she got hurt, production stopped dead, but in fact she was damned good at it, and the stuntpeople had taught her a few helpful tricks. She held the sword well out from her body and threw herself into a forward somersault, landing on her feet, crouching to absorb the impact – just like the vaulting horse, that – and backing up quickly against the wall. …”
Getting back to Earth after her arrival on Erchane requires the help of the Oracle. Belegir, the head wizard, goes with her as a guide. When they get there, Glory discovers that the Alimir aren’t as peaceful as they had told her. The walls of the temple are full of paintings of Allimirs’ killing.
“You-told-me-you-didn’t-do-things-like-that-” she growled in a low husky feline rumble, leaning over until she was staring right into his eyes. “You said you didn’t know how!”
Well, once upon a time, the Allimir had been a murdering horde killing everything in their way. Kind of like humans. Then, somehow, the old hero, Cinnas, banished War from Erchanen. But that enchantment only lasted one thousand years. And this magic was what the Allimir wanted Vixen to repeat. Like many of us they wanted another to deal with the consequences of their actions. I guess that fits with how my generation seems to feel about the future of the Earth. NOT our problem! Please solve and fix our mistakes and intentional shit. Because that is how we humans are, isn’t it? But Gloria is fully aware of her limitations.
“Well, cheer up. You’ve got me, now. When She sees that, She oughtta wet herself laughing. C’mon.”
The style of story, sword and sorcerery, kind of gives the ending away. As with most adventure stories the odds seem impossibly stacked against Vixen.
The Warslayer is an odd, yet profoundly pleasing, adventure tale with lots of action, humour and food for thought. Definitely recommended.
Don’t you ever laugh as the hearse goes by,
For you may be the next to die.
They wrap you up in a big white sheet
From your head down to your feet.
They put you in a big black box
And cover you up with dirt and rocks.
And all goes well for about a week,
Until your coffin begins to leak.
And the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle on your scalp,
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes.
A big green worm with rolling eyes
Crawls in your stomach and out your sides.
Your stomach turns a slimy green,
And pus comes out like whipping cream.
You spread it on a slice of bread,
And that’s what you eat when you are dead.
And the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
They crawl all over your dirty snout.
Your chest caves in, your eyes pop out,
And your brain turns to sauerkraut.
They invite their friends and their friends too,
They all come down to chew on you.
And this is what it is to die,
I hope you had a nice goodbye.
Did you ever think as a hearse goes by,
That you may be the next to die?
And your eyes fall out, and your teeth decay,
And that is the end of a perfect day.
He looked out the front windshield and could see nothing but the desert and the dust kicked up from the Humvee at the head of the column. He shuffled back into the seat and struggled to get comfortable as the music switched to the next track. As a roaring drum solo kicked off the wailing electric guitars, there was a massive explosion and the lead Humvee burst into a fireball.
As usual, I get hung up on the “baddies” in a story. In Song of The Ice Lord, the Ice Lord is our baddie, most likely a spirit/god/demon of destruction and hunger. Not hunger for food, but hunger for everything. The Ice Lord seems to be driven by a desire or need to devour all it touches. Once a place has come into contact with the Ice Lord, it is completely destroyed by it/him/her and its armies. The Ice Lord’s method of gathering armies is through fear, the fear of being devoured. Thinking about the Ice Lord made me think about humanity’s hunger and destructiveness. We are good at that. Sadly, too good. Perhaps we will be lucky and find ourselves a Lodden and Maran to save us from ourselves.
War is one of the many mysteries I struggle to understand. I do realize that humans are incredibly territorial. As a breed, we seem to want to expand our own lands and ideas of right and wrong, even if that means killing other humans. The Skral, Sharan and Gai Ren are no exception to this. What started out as one people developed into competing tribes and nations. At regular intervals they would attack their neighboring countries, city-states or tribal competitors. When the Ice Lord arrives on the scene a few people from each nationality escapes and they are taken to the islands of the Skral. These, usually competing, people band together in an attempt to dethrone the Ice Lord without destroying every last remnant of themselves and their cultures. Changing alliances. What a bizarre phenomenon and terribly confusing to my asperger brain. One of my thoughts on reading this was the same as the thought whenever I hear of this happening in the real world: “How long will it take before they are killing each other again?” Historically speaking, not very long at all.
Song of the Ice Lord is in many ways a terrifying story. Horror it ain’t, not in any kind of manner. But its way of nailing the future of nations (historical and current) makes me want to shout: “can’t we just be friends, please, and stop all of this destruction”. A girl can dream.
The flow of words was very different to the other stories in this series. Most of that probably has to do with the insertion of the three short stories, all three important in the context of the over-all story.
Cover art by David Palumbo Cover design by Rebecca Silvers Interior layout and design by Ross E. Lockhart
God’s War, huh. On Religious Tolerance you will find recent religious conflicts around the world. I counted 25. While most of those wars are across religious lines, some of them (Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia) are, like the 3000 year long World War on Umayma, about interpretations of a faith. As far as we can tell, the people on Umayma had the same origins and values upon leaving Earth. If a time ever comes when humans are able to terraform and populate another planet, war will probably ensue as soon as people manage to settle down. Humans do seem to like their wars.
Terraforming (or engineering) a planet would be a long and complicated process. The time span required and the amount of genetic tinkering needed for humans to be able to live on a far flung planet has to be staggering. While every person needs some degree of engineering in some fashion to survive, there are inhabitants of Umayma who have changed more than others.
Bugs and their magicians are two. Something in their genetic make-up makes certain people able to communicate with bugs. Talking to bugs could be useful here on Earth. On Umayma, bug-talking is vital to existence as bugs are used in most arenas of life. From food, to fuel, to engines, to clothing, to lighting, and so the list goes on. Magicians are not equal. One of our main characters, Rhys, is less equal in the area of bug-control than others.
Shape-shifters is the other strange product of tinkering (possibly). There is a legend that they are a product of the union of Angels and humans. Hurley doesn’t tell us that shape-shifters have been made by genetic engineers, so my understanding is just a guess.
“The war still raged along the ever-changing border with Chenja. Nyx started up her storefront with the dancer and tech in Punjai, a border city at the heart of the bounty-hunting business. While she was in prison, Punjai had been swallowed by the Chenja for six months, the “liberated” by a couple of brillian Nesheenian magicians and an elite terrorist-removal unit. All of the city’s prayer wheels were burned and the old street signs were put back up. There had been air raids and rationing and a couple of more poisoned waterworks, but, as ever, the war was just life, just how things clicked along – one exhausting burst and bloated body at a time.”
Three thousand years of constant killing has to do something to a population and the environment. Umayma is certainly no paradise with areas of it contaminated by biological bombs, human disease carriers and the drafting of men to the front lines. Nasheen and Chenja have solved the dearth of male genetic availability in two different ways. In Nasheen they rely on artificial insemination and breeding tanks for new generations. In Chenja they use a more traditional method of one male to many females to get the job done. Rhys is from Chenja.
Nyx is the goddess of night, the daughter of Chaos, and also the name of our main character. Our Nyx is unpredictable, loyal to those she cares about, principled and passionate. However, values created by people in times of peace or the powerful are not hers. I truly adore Nyx. Hurley portrays her strength and vulnerability in a manner that I can believe and that appeals to me. Definitely my favorite character of the story, and maybe my all-time favorite character.
Rasheeda (shape-shifter) is one loony bird. Holy cow, that woman has sanity issues. No wonder Nyx is wary of her. Bel dames might be sanctioned by the queen, but some of them do messy wet-work with lust and gusto. Creepy lady.