The Compleat Khash: Volume One: Never a Backward Glance by Brian Lumley
S.E.'s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Sword and Mythos - too Entertaining to be Horrific: Vintage dark fantasy spawned in the early 1900’s from the work of pen-pals R.E.Howard and H.P.Lovecraft; though it seems rare to find quality Conan-Mythos mash-ups. If they exist, they are usually in singular short stories, not represented by a series of books or a continuing character. That’s where this book comes into play. A group-read on “Sword and Mythos” themes sponsored by the Sword and Sorcery group on Goodreads.com led me to Brian Lumley’s take on this weird fantasy niche.
Lumley dumps a barbarian (Tarra Khash) into mythos milieu (world of Theem’hdra) in a set of three books (~28 tales total). The series has been printed at least twice, most recently under the brand “Tales of the Primal Land” from TOR books. The first in the series is a prequel that sets the stage for Tarra Khash’s adventures (the last two volumes). The second, the subject of this review, is the first about Khash (aka “The Compleat Khash: Volume One: Never a Backward Glance” …or “Tarra Khash: Hrossak!: Tales of the Primal Land” by TOR in Kindle and paperback…more on book versions below).
Tarra Khash has a go-with-the-flow attitude; generally has conflict with evil sorcerers and is indirectly aided by a third party god. Lumely's World of Theem'hdra is full of gods (celestial entities, collosal insects, vampyric shapeshifters). Most of these tend to like Tarra, and aid him on his quests. His goal is often to regain possession over his sword. He also finds himself constantly incarcerated (in caves, gibbets, pits). It has all the hallmarks of good fantasy: weird creatures, bloody battles, divine intervention, and tales worthy for bards to sing about. My favorite chapter was “Ch 4: Curse of the Golden Guardians” when Tarra Khash ventures into a subterranean shrine of Cthulthu, and the eldritch god is not just mentioned in passing…but assumes an integral part of the adventure. Contrived coincidences keep these stories very entertaining, but reduces the horror element expected of Lovecraftian Mythos fiction (keeps this from a 5 star rating). This is highly recommended for fans of Michael Shea's Nifft character: Nifft the Lean.
Availability: Unlike most Sword & Sorcery this yarn of short stories continue developing linearly (one tale directly flows to the next). They could be read out of order, but work well as chapters. This volume was good enough for me to track down the other two.
The TOR books (~2006) “Tales of the Primal Land” series all have maps, which are nice; also available in Kindle format. Die-hard bibliophiles will want to consider tracking down the earlier editions (~1994) illustrated by Jim Pitts and published by Ganley (Ganley ebay storefront..or try Abebooks.com). The Jim Pitt illustrations are nice and reminscient of 1990 Olde World Warhammer-Trademark of Games Workshop, but strangely the Ganley Books (at least the Compleat Khash Vols 1 a& 2) do not include a map (I even had a "Deluxe" version #214/300 signed but author and illustrator… but this awesome edition still was mapless).
#0 (Prequel): House of Cthulhu ; The House of Cthulhu and Other Tales from the Primal Land
#1 (Tarra Khash Adventures-1): The Compleat Khash: Volume One: Never a Backward Glance…or …Tarra Khash: Hrossak!: Tales of the Primal Land
#2 (Tarra Khash Adventures-2): The Compleat Khash: Volume Two: Sorcery In Shad… or …Sorcery in Shad: Tales of the Primal Land
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