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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2005

    A Sentimental Favorite.

    This is the second book I ever read. 'Urshurak' is a fantasy adventure in the classic tradition set on the continent of Urshurak on a fictitious world. The story centers on an apocalyptic war between an alliance of disparate, mutually-antagonistic nations and a tyrannical oppressor who threatens them all. Originally conceived as a treatment for a major Hollywood motion picture in the 1970's, the project fell through when pre-CGI logistics proved cost-prohibitive and George Lucas' similarly-themed (though sci-fi-set) 'Star Wars' erupted onto the scene. Nonetheless, brothers Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, along with their collaborator Jerry Nichols, continued fashioning their labor of love until it evolved into an elaborate epic. Though the stock hero and villain are not much more than ciphers and the identity of the traitor is telegraphed from the get-go, the actual protagonist -- and audience surrogate -- is more fully realized. A human from an isolationist community, Hugh Oxhine is a grief-stricken archer who unwittingly falls in with a motley band of freedom fighters while pursuing the murderers of his family. Guided by prophecy, their enthralling quest to gather allies takes the vengeful widow on a journey of spiritual renewal as he discovers a wider world he never knew existed outside of legend. Peopled by two races of Elves (one martial, the other pacifist), stalwart, boisterous Dwarves, vicious, little macrocephalic Gnomes, giants called Borgs, hulking, armored gargoyles called Vilderones, a race of Norsemen, a race of Mali Empire-like Africans called Azmurians, sentient simians called Gwarpies, technologically-advanced Amazons, a shape-shifting witch, a hale wizard and an ancient sage, the world of Urshurak is replete with fantastical possibilities. One of the more interesting ideas never fully explored is the presence of two extraterrestrial power sources embedded at either end of the continent which come into opposition during the two cataclysmic battles of the war. Known primarily as science fiction and fantasy illustrators, the brothers enriched their book with 17 full-color acrylic painting plates, 82 black-and-white pencil drawings and 1 map of Urshurak all of which are a feast for the eyes. Admittedly derivative and formulaic, this book doesn't hold a candle to the best of fantasy fiction by J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, C.S. Lewis, Ursula K. LeGuin, R.A. Salvatore or Lloyd Alexander. However, it's a sentimental favorite and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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