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Saturday, 3 October 2015

Saturday Fiction – ‘a strong element of authenticity…’

It’s really satisfying when a book reviewer ‘gets it’. We all want readers to enjoy our books; obviously, we cannot appeal to all tastes, but occasionally the story connects with a reader.

Just such a reader is Nigel Robert Wilson, reviewing Wings of the Overlord in the British Fantasy Society website in June this year. The full review is here

I’d like to quote a snippet from the review:

… Such twists and turns in the presentation of the plot expand the telling of the tale and there are many duly woven into the pattern to enrich and excite the reader. The journey through the Sonalume Mountains has a strong element of authenticity to it, concentrating on the treacherous ice and snow coupled to an intense bitter cold. This seems to derive from an actual experience that must have been quite wretched at the time.

The final denouement by which our now familiar heroes, at great personal risk and cost overthrow the hideous king, Yip nef-Dom … is recounted intensely and is quite a page-turner. The body count is high and contains images of great cruelty.

This is quite clearly the first volume of what is intended to be an entire sequence of stories about the world of Floreskand, a very cultivated creation. Enough links have been established within this tale onto which further adventures, deeds and characters can be connected at later times. It is a well-worked story involving swords and sorcery which will have a very direct appeal to those who admire heroism, but who also like to wade through buckets of blood and gore combined with a dash of mystical sentiment added to provide a degree of sweetness to finish off the feast.

Thank you, Mr Wilson!

And, yes, I was able to call upon some experience when writing about the ice-bound Sonalume Mountains. Here’s an excerpt:

First Dloin of Darous. And it dawned with the sky filled by mares’ tails, drawn out and wispy.
“Winds to mandunron,” said Ulran and rolled up his blanket.
       Breakfast consisted of an apple and a square of honey-loaf each.
       They must have spent a warm night, Fhord realised, as her hair was barely damp, the hoar-frost having thawed. Alomar’s drooping moustache looked bedraggled: the warrior and innman still shaved themselves each morn with their honed poniards.
       But the intense cold and knifelike winds soon froze every breath from their mouths upon their furs and facial hair.
       They descended the snow-scree, plunging legs knee-deep at times, jarring those selfsame knees repeatedly till they constantly gave way when weight was applied.
       At last they came to the hog’s-back, winding towards Glacier Peak, the spine of the formation about a half-mark in width.
       Ulran led with Fhord, Rakcra and Alomar following in that order.
       Winds pummelled and battered them as they walked. Heads down, they constantly watched their feet and, blinking against the flurries of upswept snow, braced as frequent but unexpected gusts lambasted them.
       And yet on they trod, never halting in case they baulked and lost balance and were pitched over the side: there was a steep slope on each side of the narrow crest, falling off to dizzying grey depths.
       Snow-glare inflamed Fhord’s eyes, and her lips were becoming dry and cracked with the insidious cold. She knew she must close her eyes before she was blinded and jeopardised their mission.
       She only hoped her faculties were not reluctant in answering. Eyes shut, she concentrated on listening beyond her own footsteps and the haunting wind-whistle, reaching out for the crisp crunch of Ulran’s foot-falls. And as she did so she threw out mental feelers, and was rewarded before fear forced her to open her eyes: vaguely, she detected the bulk of the innman, just ahead.
       Rakcra too was in a bad way and stumbled on two separate occasions. Before panic hurled him off the hog’s-back, Alomar was there, steadying, his big hands lifting the Devastator up, urging him on.
       But the incident had instilled Alomar with the feathering of alarm. “Ulran!” he called. “Ulran!” And as the innman stopped and turned, with Fhord following suit, Alomar added, “Can we rope together? It may prove safer!”
       Ulran agreed whilst inwardly wondering why he had let such an elementary precaution slip his mind.
       To make matters worse, the snow was not firm, so every footstep could precipitate a fall. Ulran slipped once, near the end of the spine, but neatly corrected his balance and went on. Nobody else felt as much as a tug on the line.
       They reached a crescent shape of stagnant ice, earthy material and boulders: the dead ice at the snout of the glacier. The terminal moraine gaped where a small runnel showed. A stream of melt-water gushed down into the depths to Ulran’s left.
       “Keep to the right,” urged the innman as they joined him.
       The sun had reached zenith.
       Snakelike, the glacier wound down towards them, its source firn hidden from view high up near the peak. Up each side showed irregular bands of discoloration of the lateral moraines, formed by rock debris on the glacier’s surface. Down the centre, the medial moraine, over which melt-water streamed and glistened. The left-hand side was impassable, scattered with jagged ice-pinnacles and loosely packed snow that crumbled at the touch of a breeze. Across the immense breadth of the glacier too were great gaping cracks – crevasses.
       Ulran hoped they could cross the glacier further up, near the source, and thus skirt the peak. He mentally shook himself: his head felt bloated, eyes puffy. They had been standing here at the snout of the glacier too long: time to move!
       The right-hand side of the glacier was negotiable but proved difficult.
       Twice they came upon gullies about three marks deep, which they descended then climbed the opposite side, using swords to cut foot-holds.
       Wind howled intermittently; the sound whistled about their ears. Eyebrows and other facial hair were matted white by now, numbing lips and foreheads.
       Heads bowed, they trudged higher till Ulran halted on the lip of an ice and rock overhang, under which the glacier had cut its ancient path. From here he swung his sword, pointing higher along the glacier’s length, where it widened further up.
       “Ice-fall,” the innman said, sneezing. “Beyond that, I believe the glacier spreads out a bit.”
       Fhord thought the innman’s voice sounded nasal, half-choked. Ulran seemed to blink more than usual too. A hot clammy fear clutched the base of her spine and sweat collected there, damp and uncomfortable.
       At the foot of the ice-fall was a labyrinth of deep clefts and ice-pinnacles, with crevasses intersecting. Above this, the glacier steepened, like an ice-wall. A few pinnacles jutted out from this wall, casting long shadows.
       Without any warning, one of these pinnacles broke away from the shoulder of the glacier and plunged down the ice-fall. Fhord was speechless. At least the size of a Lornwater mansion, the pinnacle crashed down, tearing with it huge ice-columns from the fall itself. The thunderous sound was awesome.
       Stopped in their tracks as the plumes of snow and ice-particles billowed above the ice-fall’s base, they exchanged glances.
       “I don’t like it,” murmured Alomar. “That could have set up a chain-reac–”
       At that instant a shattering, tumultuous roar reached them, unmistakably coming from above, to their right.
       Fhord saw billows of powdery snow in the air above the next slope.
       “Avalanche!” yelled Ulran, walking towards it.
       Fhord stumbled after him. “No – don’t –!”
       “We must swim through it, come on!” Ulran called over his shoulder.
       Then huge powdery airborne blasts roared down into the innman, cutting him off from sight.
       Snow rode over Ulran’s head. He tried swimming against the deluge, using breast-stroke, dog-paddle, anything to stay on top. Pounding filled his ears. He couldn’t breathe. His eyes ached with constant buffeting and he couldn’t see.
       Alomar, who had been ten paces behind Ulran when the avalanche hit, was as swiftly engulfed, his world abruptly dark and cold. He reached out blindly and hit a rock, grazing his hands to no avail. He tumbled backwards, head over heels and felt the line snap. And behind him, Fhord was swamped also. The time under the black cold weight stretched to a lifetime as she tumbled upon her nightmarish descent.
       Rakcra had been beside Fhord when the sight of the avalanche stunned him into immobility; he was hurled pell-mell down the track they had painstakingly made. The snow not only obliterated their tracks, but also him.
       A sudden, eerie silence settled as the last remnants of the avalanche tumbled down over the hog’s-back, down to the mauve depths.
       Ulran was buried up to his waist. As he craned his neck round to look down the mountainside, he proceeded to use his hands to dig his way free.
       Fifty marks below, Alomar was shaking snow off himself and his shield. Miraculously, his helmet was just visible a couple of paces away: the crestless dome glinted in the after-morning sunlight.
       The rest of the mountain was devoid of life.


Wings of the Overlord – hardback

Knox Robinson publishing here

Amazon COM here

Amazon UK here

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