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Posted June 13, 2012
Epic fantasy with character, style and imagination
What happens when heroes grow old? The cynical womanizing Gorias of Steven Shrewsbury’s Thrall is a living legend, long thought dead, in a world so long before our present time it might as well be another planet, except… and the joy is in those exceptions.
The story develops slowly from a seemingly innocuous bar fight to oddly coincidental quest to wonderfully devious and complex weavings of battles and powers across the world. Gorias must have lots of backstories, but the author keeps them nicely simple. Yes, he probably had a son, and a grandson. He killed a dragon, and yes, he may be dying. But…
Soon Gorias is joined by a wannabe wizard, a singer and a valiant female warrior. The foursome battle to the haunting memory of dragonsong in a world where dragons and heroes are mostly gone. New enemies quest for darker powers than wine and blood or women and song, and legends of the nephilim, of angels’s wings and crystal souls, lead beautifully to hints and harmonies of histories and more.
The writing has an informative rather than evocative feel. It’s marred by occasional typos and sometimes clumsy descriptions. But the plot’s great and somehow carries that memory of Swords and Sorcery, Michael Moorcock, and riding my bike every Saturday to play Dungeons and Dragons with college friends.
I’m glad to know there are more tales in this series. Like Elric of Melnibone, Gorias de Gaul is the sort of character that stays in memory just as he’s stayed in this world’s imagined mythology. Who knows, maybe he or his people really dwelled there all along.
Disclosure: I was following a blog tour for this series and won a free ecopy of the book.
Posted February 7, 2012
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After a confrontation in a tavern results in the death of a local official's mercenary, legendary warrior Gorias La Gaul is commissioned to prevent the resurrection of a cult leader. Accompanied by his grandson, the official's daughter, and a bard, Gorias traverses the vampire-plagued land only to find himself caught between an invading horde of barbarians, a powerful necromancer's advancing troops, and two old enemies from his past. Gorias must rely on his own experience and tactical planning to prevent an even greater evil from ravaging the land.
Steven Shrewsbury crafts an engaging tale, much in the tradition of Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. The action scenes are depicted in brutal detail, putting the reader at the center of the action. Shrewsbury also has a good sense of tactics and timing, which works well as the forces converge and Gorias's plan begins to unfold.
If I had any complaints, the first chapter is a little slow in its set-up, appearing almost directionless until Gorias gets his mission. Also, there were times when I had difficulties with the dialog as the characters' voices switched between the more traditional fantasy style of speech versus the modern, contraction-laden vernacular. The electronic copy of the book I read also had some infrequent grammar and spelling errors and would have benefited from another round of editing.
Despite these minor issues, this is a welcome addition to the sword-and-sorcery fantasy genre, and fans of the aforementioned authors should enjoy this book. I look forward to reading more of Shrewsbury's work, as well as the forthcoming books in this series.
Posted October 31, 2011
It's the antediluvian age, and Gorias la Gaul is a legend among legends-even if he is over seven hundred years old and with a bad back. But when a cult of necromancers tries to resurrect a sadistic bard with the knowledge that can destroy the world, can even Gorias save the day-especially when one of the villains is his son?
With Thrall, Shrewsbury delivers a grim and gritty Sword & Sorcery tale, one that is more than just a straightforward hack n' slash. Not that there's no hacking and slashing, there's actually plenty. But you'll also find deep characterization and moral quandaries. This is no happy campy "good vs. evil" story, more like badass vs. badass vs. undead badass vs. even more evil badass while vs. each other. If you're a fan of Conan, Red Sonja, or Fafhrd then will love Gorias.
Posted June 24, 2011
Thrall is an epic stand alone fantasy novel.
Gorias La Gaul is a warrior and a legend, some say he was born of a nephilim, and with his 700 year old plus age, one begins to wonder. Gorias is so famous, that he runs into his own stories, some are hard-pressed to believe who he is, until they see him in action. With two swords in hand, or a dwarf, for that matter, Gorias is an unstoppable killing machine. Wearing a suit of dragon armor and carrying a blade of adamantine and his wits about him, there is no one with enough moxy to take down the likes of Gorias, and many try.
A hated foe of dragons, Gorias must stop a cult of Nosmada's necromancers from animating the corpse of Carlato Wyss, the only one who knows the true power behind the Daemononlatreia. When he successfully thwarts one attempt another is being cast and a Draco-Lich is risen and he wants blood, lots of it!
In order to save Khabnur, Lady Lira Rhan enlists Gorias' help to stop the necormancers from raising Wyss, by unknowingly condemning Gorias' own grandson, Maddox. Lira's daughter, Kayla is infatuated with Gorias and will stop at nothing to help his cause, joining his side to fight the evils that come their way. Tammas is a young bard who also joins the two, along with Maddox, the four must find out what is afoot and who the players are in the game.
General Tolin has a heart of a dragon and leads Nosmada's army, Nosmada is an evil necromancer whose age is undetermined, Zillian is Nosmada's ancient, decaying seer, Brock Lloydson, barbarian Chief of the Bellgades, looking to make his glory in all the carnage and having a great time doing so, Mitre Stillwell, a bugbear/ogre combination who is the overlord of the underground minds, where beholders and Minorcs lurk and slaves have their tongues cut out, the Leeches, who rise from the dead and suck the blood out of the living, Robyn De Balm, the evil necromantic dwarf with his own reasons for being involved and Ezran and Gavreel, two enigmatic and ethereal beings.
Everyone has their part to play and the stakes are high, will Nosmada's plans fail or will the end of the world finally prevail?
I thought the first chapter was horrible and it took me a while to get past it, the dialect was hard to read, the characters had no real purpose and everything seemed stiff, however, whence you get passed that first chapter, things begin to pick up immensely and Gorias becomes a likeable, witty, sarcastic, no holds barred kind of guy. He doesn't mince words or hold punches, a man who says and does what he wishes.
I found the story to be a fairly decent one, the characters came into their own as the story progressed, however, the back story was definitely lacking. There are so many references to back story, you get almost frustrated as the book progresses and you realize that there just isn't enough book left to get the meaning from the snippets of back story that do occur. It often leaves you with more questions than answers, and it is this reason that I found that the characters had no real direction, they always went the right way and did the right thing. The suspense was lacking in this sense, the path was laid before you with few twists and turns until the very end.
The battle scenes are great and there are a lot of them, I found some of the techniques involved to dispose of the intended target to be entertaining and sometimes amusing! I loved Gorias' natural fighting ability and his wit while doing so