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.