Saturday, October 1, 2016

Tales of Kamose - Review by S.E.

Servant of the Jackal God: The Tales of Kamose, Archpriest of AnubisServant of the Jackal God: The Tales of Kamose, Archpriest of Anubis by Keith Taylor
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

Servant of the Jackal God: The Tales of Kamose, Archpriest of Anubis by Keith Taylor is highly recommended for the Weird Fiction / Sword & Sorcery reader.

Skelos is a magazine of Weird Fiction (launched via Kickstarter Summer 2016); inside is great Viking-horror Novelette by Keith Taylor called The Drowned Dead Shape. It is great to know that he is still active! I hope he revisits Kamose. Taylor is also known for Cormac Mac Art (Pastiche of REH) with Andrew Offutt. A Sword & Sorcery Group Read made me aware that Taylor wrote nine tales of Kamose, sorcerer priest of Anubis, for Weird Tales in the 1990’s. Interesting is that editor of Weird Tales at the time was Darrell Schweitzer who likewise had an interest in sorcerers in Egypt with his The Mask of the Sorcerer and Sekenre: The Book of the Sorcerer—which are great books appealing to the same readership.

The Servant of the Jackal God: The Tales of Kamose, Archpriest of Anubis by Keith Taylor is a compilation of 11 weird tales (2 short stories made for the anthology, the others published in Weird Tales; contents detailed below). Kamose functions like a mix between Sherlock Holmes and the Grim Reaper, solving cases and judging supernatural crimes in ancient Eypt. He employs minions who serve him under stressful pretenses; these include the human thief “Si-hotep”, the serpent-human hybrid”Lamia, and demons (“Bone Breaker” and “Green Flame”). He also disguises himself to go undercover. All the while, he is plagued by rival sects, especially from Thoth who unwillingly sourced Kamose’s power (backstory revealed in the book in Chapter 3 “Haunted Shadows”). In a later story, Taylor recaps Kamose’s power:
"Kamose could enchant the sea, the sky, and the earth if desired. He understood the speech of beasts and birds, so far as they had language, and could command them also. He knew the secrets of various potions that gave one the power to walk through walls, breathe beneath water or move with a celerity beyond nature—though the first had its dangers and the last exacted a price from the body. He could even change his own face and body if he chose, though the feat called for careful preparation, and required time both to effect and to reverse.”

Kamose (and his minions) encounter all sorts of nightmarish magic and creatures; my favorites include (a) an antagonist from “Corpse’s Wrath” that proves the persistence of the undead and (b) a potion that enables people to walk thru walls…but also allows imbibers to see Cthulhu-esque creatures and see through human skin . Expect lots of tomb raiding, thaumaturgy, betrayals, and awesome magic. The milieu is infused with Egyptian (Khem) mythology and history, from animated shabti dolls, ghostly ka bodies, and alchemy, and haunts/deities from Kush and Libya. Chapter one sets the stage by introducing us to a real Pharaoh Setekh-Nekht, whose future is fictionalized as is the transition to Ramses III’s reign.

Although published in serial form, Taylor clearly had a novel-like vision with entwined story arcs spanning across and through all the chapters. The adventure is great stuff, but this set doesn’t close all the story arcs completely; you’ll be left desiring more adventures of Kamose. In fact, there are several obscure points (not really spoilers) that are presented as if there will be a sequel: (1) Ramses III relationship with Kamose is just beginning to brew by the end of this and reeks of untapped potential; (2) the mysterious injury Kamose gets in the opening chapter remains pleasantly obscure; the healing process consumes the remaining ~10 chapters (few years) but there is more to that epic battle yet unexplained; (3) lastly, the opening of the last chapter indicates that the Kush-magician/murder in Chapter 1 may have encountered a different fate than Kamose expected.

Daggers and a Serpent - 1999 Weird Tales
Emissaries of Doom - 1999 Weird Tales
Haunted Shadows - 2000 Weird Tales
The Emerald Scarab - 2001 Weird Tales
Lamia - 2001 Weird Tales
What Are You When the Moon Shall Rise? - 2002 Weird Tales
The Company of the Gods -2003 Weird Tales
The Archpriest's Potion - 2003 Weird Tales
Corpse's Wrath - 2006 Weird Tales
Return of Ganesh - 2012 – new material for this book
The Shabti Assassin - 2012 – new material for this book

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