Saturday, March 5, 2011

Robert E Howard and Others

Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures
Robert E. Howard
Del Rey, Jan 25 2011, $18.00
ISBN: 9780345505460

These eighteen historical short stories and poems display a different Robert E. Howard than the sword and sorcerer fame. The entries are enhanced by a terrific introduction (Scott Oden) and an insightful article (Howard Andrew Jones) that provides the audience insight into the depth of the late great author. The tales bring alive several centuries and locations in the medieval Mediterranean. During the crusades, Cormac FitzGeoffrey follows Richard the Lion-Hearted into battle as “Hawk of Outremer”. Having cut short her unwanted wedding vows; title character Dark Agnes de la Fere turns to the sword in “Sword Woman” and “Blade for France. In eleventh century Cairo, Spaniard Diego de Guzman thirst for vengeance but to achieve his quest he must pretend to be a Muslim in “Hawks over Egypt”. Whether it is “The Road of Eagles” in the year of our Lord 1595 at the Black Sea or traveling on “The Road of Azrael” as Kosru Malik chronicles the road of death, these are terrific historical sword adventures that showcase the late authors depth and width. Artist John Watkiss provides B&W illustrations that enhance the tales. This collection contains entertaining escapades in the half of the previous millennium. Harriet Klausner

Darkness Dawns
Dianne Duvall
Zebra, Feb 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN 9781420118612

The virus continues unabated as no preventative inoculation or cure has been found to stop victims from becoming maniacal vampires seeking fresh blood. Ironically some other humans hit by the same virus become immortals dedicating their souls to protect mankind from the vampires.

Human music Professor Sarah Bingham intervenes in an assault on immortal Roland Warbrook saving his life. He is grateful for her act of courage, but is also attracted to her. She reciprocates, but a relationship between and immortal and a mortal has no chance due to the diverse life spans. Thus it is up to Sarah whether to risk exposure to become an immortal like her beloved.

Although neither Sarah’s dilemma nor immortals protecting mortals from other immortals are not new concepts (for instance Lynsay Sands’ Argeneau vampires), Dianne Duvall makes it fresh with her underlying premise of the virus breaking humanity into three different species. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Sarah the human and Roland the immortal meet in a dire scenario. Post apocalyptic urban fantasy readers will enjoy entering the Duvall realm as the good immortals and the bad vampires fight over the ugly humans. Harriet Klausner

The Chasm: A Journey to the Edge of Life
Randy Alcorn
Multnomah, Feb 8 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781601423399

He entered a cave, but when he left it American businessman Nick Seagrave is bewildered because he doesn’t know where he is. In the distance he sees a glitter of light as he walks with other travelers on the Red Road. One of his caravan members elderly Shadrack mumbles Charis is the City of Lights on the other side of the Chasm. Malacki the African claims to hear music. Tired of his companions on the seemingly endless trek, Nick leaves with benign Joshua who promises to show him other roads where he can learn the truth.

On a Gray Road, Nick is stunned to see his wife and two kids who watch him cheat with another woman. Ashamed by his mistreatment of them, he finds his daughter swaying on stage disconcerting. On another Gray Road, he watches a battle between two armies. A bird grabs him and dumps Nick in the midst of the hostility. One of the Commanders slices off Nick’s arm and prepares to kill him, but he survives the hidden battle that has opened up his eyes. Nick now sees Joshua for what he really is and yearns to return to the Red Road so he can reach the Chasm hoping to cross over to the City of Lights on the other side.

The Chasm is difficult to comprehend at first but is a well written parable as Nick seeks eternal truths. Much of what he learns about himself he does not like; he drifts away from the Red Road and fears never crossing the Chasm to the light beyond. A readers’ guide with questions for each chapter enables the audience to better understand the journey by encouraging readers to wear Nick’s shoes on a self discovery trek into our own souls. Complex yet in many ways simple; Randy Alcorn provides a terrific allegory of the journey of life. Harriet Klausner

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