S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars
Fun “Sword & Planet” adventure. Get svelte, escape to Talera.
I first discovered Charles Allen Gramlich via his poetic Sword & Sorcery books (highly recommended): Bitter Steel: Tales and Poems of Epic Fantasy and Harvest of War. Being biased toward weird adventure on “earth,” I was inspired to branch out slightly because of the Goodreads Sword & Sorcery Group's groupread for May-June 2014, the theme being “Sword & Planet.” Being a fan of Gramlich, this was a prime time to try out his Talera Cycle. If you ask the author why he should read it, he’ll reveal his humorous side (taken from his Facebook page):
"Dr. Charles Gramlich, professor of psychology at a prominent New Orleans University, has made the extraordinary claim that reading the three books of the Talera fantasy series, Swords of Talera, Wings Over Talera, and Witch of Talera, will actually help you lose weight and maintain a svelte figure. Gramlich says that, “those who read the slender volumes of the Talera series, which are quick and exciting stories, develop a speedier metabolism, allowing them to burn calories more quickly. This effect lingers for weeks after the books are finished,” he adds, “and can easily be prolonged further by consuming another book by the same author.” When asked whether that author, Charles ‘Allen’ Gramlich, was any relation, Dr. Gramlich abruptly yelled “Fire” and left the room."Even though Swords of Talera: Book One of the Talera Cycle is not explicitly comedic, it does present pulp adventure with a dose of old-school “cheese” sprinkled atop weird milieu and tons of melee. It is a homeage the Sword & Planet subgenre initiated by Edgar Rice Burroughs in the early 1900’s with John Carter, and has all the tropes fans of the subgenre would demand: a man from the early 1900’s gets transported from earth to a strange planet; he can occasionally revisit earth; he manages to quickly converse with many aliens, lead armies, and free a maiden in distress.
Gramlich’s “Carter” is a 1914 sea merchant captain named Ruenn Maclang, whose arrogance and decisive leadership will remind readers of Indiana Jones. He gets transported to Talera mysteriously along with his crew, though he gets separated and strives to find his fellow earthlings. He is met by many humanoid aliens embroiled in slave-trade and war. Maclang becomes infatuated with a maiden in distress, and shallow-romantic interactions with her are intermittent. A sidebar on the technological history behind the mysterious Planet/Land Talera was distinctly cheezy sci-fi, but was not explored in depth in this first installment. There are continuous combat scenes, adequately fulfilling the “Sword” requirement for “Swords & Planet.” What I enjoyed most about this adventure was Gramlich’s poetic side, that creeps into every chapter. Check out these Excerpts:
"…Heril leaped forward, swinging an axe over his head. The beast commander caught the stroke on his shield but the blow drove him to his knees. He surged up, hurling Heril back, and lashed out with his own axe. I watched Heril leap away and then saw no more of them as the beach exploded into motion.
War cries tore the sky. Steel whistled through air and rang on steel, or thunked into soft flesh. Men screamed with the impact and went down hard. Blood clotted the sand and stained the bright swords with ugliness.
Numbers were on our side and our first charge carried the Klar back. They recovered and held. Bodies piled up. Men stumbled over the dead and few who went down were given the chance to rise again. Axes and swords lifted and fell, came away drawing screams or soft sighs of death. Our enemies were cold and disciplined, but so too were Jedik’s men, and the slaves were hot with anger. It was that passion which finally broke the Klar line. But we paid for it in blood."
“A bass throbbing rose and fell with each pulse of emerald light, and over the vibration lay the screams of my men, crawling up the scale until their voices teetered on the edge of soundlessness. Then the screams were gone and the cold, verdant fire went with them.”Testimonial: I lost 3 pounds in just one week reading Swords of Talera! To stay with my weight maintenance program, I’ll continue with Wings Over Talera:Book Two of the Talera Cycle, and Witch of Talera.
“The thing’s body was human-like but it was not a man. Its flesh gleamed an iridescent green and gold; scales covered it like armor. A broad, thick tail stretched away into the gray fog behind it. The creature’s face was an abomination, calling up visions of fallen angels burning centuries in hell. The eyes shone flat and stone blue, without whites. Two slits gashed the face where the nose should have been and the mouth below glistened wide and red, lined with yellowed fangs. Large vanes, like the wings of bats, extended from either side of the beast’s head, fluttering with each harsh breath it drew.”
“The lorn wind blew about the volcanic peak, playing dirges in the empty lava funnels. Both beauty and pain lived in that wind, and the drifting ghosts of ancient memories.”
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