Friday, June 26, 2020

Lost Worlds - Clark Ashton Smith: Review by SE

Lost Worlds by Clark Ashton Smith
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been a huge fan of Clark Ashton Smith (as well as his ~1930’s Weird Tales compatriots Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft). CAS’s Zothique tales won me over as a fan and encourage me to interview authors on the topic of “Beauty in Weird Fiction”. His beautiful language and focus on grim tales (really grim) are powerful & unique. Check out the website dedicated to sharing his poetry, fiction, and letters at The Eldritch Dark website. Thanks to the Sword & Sorcery Goodreads group for hosting a “Lost Worlds” topic covering any author/work (by chance matching the title of this book). I decided to finally read this 400+page volume. The introduction by famed weird fiction writer Jeff VanDerMeer is short and trite; it covers the first two tales only and is hardly flattering. CAS does appear to be less well known that REH or HPL (currently), and that may be due to the consistent killing of his characters (i.e., no episodic Conan here); his elegant prose is admittedly dense, so it is rarely fluffy, easy reading.

Lost Worlds (reprinted from 1971) serves as a great introduction to CAS, with twenty-three tales covering his main mythoses/cycles: Hyperborea, Atlantis, Averoigne, Zothique, Xiccarph, and others. Below I capture highlights from all stories and summarize the milieus, but first let us explain what new readers should expect:

Grim Doom: Everything ends. Almost invariably, the main character and the world they inhabit dies; their loved ones fail and become irreversibly corrupted. Sometimes stories are is so over-the-top dark you may laugh aloud. CAS was self-aware enough to sprinkle in humor. Like the Coen brother’s movies like Fargo, or Burn After Reading? It’s like those.

Isolated, Passive Protagonists: These are all adventure stories, but the protagonists are not swordsmen or warriors. All are male, and are intellectuals: historians, antiquarians, scientists and sorcerers… perhaps long-lost kings who enjoy passively witnessing the end the world. Many seem to be loners who pine for a lost love, recumbent partner, or leave partners to dig up ancient mysteries instead of having a relationship. CAS seems to have a fetish with turning people into stone.

Organic Antagonists: hostile worlds and creatures often have floral components, even the robots; sometimes the vegetation, as intelligent and meaty as it may be, features metallic petals. CAS had some strange fetish with vegetation.

Language: CAS had an insane grasp of vocabulary and science; his style is unique. Excerpts below.

An overview of sections/cycles:

Hyperborea: These resonate with HPL’s Cthulhu mythos, exhibiting many tie-ins. Many eldritch gods are linked to the land or temples made in their honor. These may be the funniest of the group.

Atlantis: These do not reflect my impressions of a prediluvian, even postdiluvian, Atlantis as portrayed in most fiction. Frankly, these are nice tales but do not present much in a unified milieu; these could easily have been tucked into the other sections [to me “The Last Incantation” and “The Death of Malygris” feel like Zothique stories (i.e, necromancy!), and “A Voyage to Sfanomoë” a Xiccarph tale (i.e., planetary, evil flora!)].

Averoigne: These are deeply ironic tales of a medieval, Christina-Europe infused with sorcery. Inquisition-like Christians and Catholic tendencies inform the atmosphere.

Zothique: My favorite section features an apocalyptic future on a doomed continent where necromancy reigns!

Xiccarph: Planetary adventure with evil flora!

Uncategorized: Most of these are anchored to the real world in present-day (1930’s), with time & space travel aplenty.

Story notes below (may contain spoilers).

Hyperborea
(1) "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" 1931: Composed by the one-handed thief Satamphra Zeiros; he and his buddy go looting abandoned temples and stumble upon the elder-god Zhothaqquah. Dark, full of terror, and actually dry humor…and CAS’s dry humor shines through: “I felt that it would be highly injudicious to disturb the entity in the bowl while it was digesting Tirouv Ompallios; but there seemed to be no other way if I was ever to leave that abominable fane.”

(2) "The Door to Saturn" 1931: Morghi (goddess Yhoundeh follower) hunts the sorcerer Eibon (worshipper of Zhothaqquah); he left the area of From Mhu Thulan on an otherworldly adventure, fins Eibon and partners with him; they are forcibly encouraged to mate with a headless queen, (very dry/funny) and they learn they have been misinterpreting the will of the gods.

(3) "The Seven Geases" 1934: For sport, the chauvinistic, royal Ralibar Vooz hunts the barbarous, mountainous Voormis people. He stumbles into Sorcerer Ezdagor who curses him with “geases” to have him sacrificed. Ironically, Tsathoggua and six other Old One/Elders under the mountain do not accept Vooz as a sacrifice (deeming him inedible or "no use in our economy.”).

(4) "The Coming of the White Worm" 1941: Eibon makes a surprise cameo, but the story is all about Yikilth approaching Mhu Thulan; it is an iceberg/ship of frozen stars. Evagh is a male sorcerer abducted, and he conflicts with the worm-god Rlim Shaikorth.

Atlantis:

(5) "The Last Incantation" 1930: Malygris is a sorcerer who misses his love Nylissa--deceased long ago. His buddy is a snake. He summons Nylissa’s apparition back who has not aged, but he can’t change his corrupted, older self.

(6) "A Voyage to Sfanomoë" 1931: The last two survivors of Atlantis, brothers Hotar and Evidon, fly away from the earth as it collapses under cataclysm; they head to Venus (Sfanomoë) and fall prey to a beautiful flora.

(7) "The Death of Malygris" 1934: The titular necromancer is ambiguously dead (and his viper too); his hold over humans and the King Gadeiron continues (and his sorcerer Maranapion, who wants to rule without Malygris’s presence).

Averoigne:

(8) "The Holiness of Azédarac" 1933: St Azedarac is an accused demon lover, and brother Ambrose investigates. Demons are real and the whole church is corrupted by them. Book of Eibon (Hyperborean cycle) is evidence of Azedarac’s evil sorcery. Moriamis, a woman from the past desires the chivalrous Ambrose, and potion-enabled time-traveling take center stage.

(9) "The Beast of Averoigne" 1933: Luc le Chaudronnier (secular astrologer and sorcerer) aids religious institutions struggling with horrors unleashed by a comet (at immune to their prayers). The sorcerer saves the abbey and covers up for the Church’s corruption.

Zothique:

(10) "The Empire of the Necromancers" 1932: This one opens with humor, and sets the stage for two necromancers raising a whole abandoned city:
Mmatmuor and Sodosma were necromancers who came from the dark isle of Naat, to practice their baleful arts in Tinarath, beyond the shrunken seas. But they did not prosper in Tinarath: for death was deemed a holy thing by the people of that gray country; and the nothingness of the tomb was not lightly to be desecrated; and the raising up of the dead by necromancy was held in abomination.

So, after a short interval, Mmatmuor and Sodosma were driven forth by the anger of the inhabitants, and were compelled to flee toward Cincor, a desert of the south, which was peopled only by the bones and mummies of a race that the pestilence had slain in former ti
me.

(11) "The Isle of the Torturers" 1933: A plague of icey/silvery death wipes out civilization and Fulbra, the king of Yoros, is doomed to witness it all. He is protected by a ring given to him by his Vemdeez sorcerer/vizier….who also said that Fulbrsa should seek counsel from an isle called Cyntrom. Finding several slaves in the subterranean depths, and a ship, he embarks there but is waylaid on the Isle of Uccastrog. Here King Ildrac would care for him. Fulbra is tortured immensely in great detail, but manages vengeance when the Silver Death is released upon the ring being removed.

(12) ‘"Necromancy in Naat" 1936: Yadar after his lost love, Dalili, finds her dead/possessed. Necromancer sons usurp their father. Splendid near comical gory fight of undying sorcerers (foretelling Monty Python’s “I’m not dead yet” played out by necromancers).

(13) "Xeethra" 1934: A child shepherd is possessed by a doomed king Amero, and he relives the demise of the kingdom Calyz. Devouring sacred fruit from a tree is a reoccurring theme:
To the boy from the parched hill-country, this realm was an Eden of untasted delights. But, for a little while, he was stayed by the strangeness of it all, and by the sense of weird and preternatural vitality which informed the whole landscape. Flakes of fire appeared to descend and melt in the rippling air; the grasses coiled with verminous writhings; the flowery eyes returned his regard intently; the trees palpitated as if a sanguine ichor flowed within them in lieu of sap; and the undernote of adder-like hissings amid the foliage grew louder and sharper.

Xeethra, however, was deterred only by the thought that a region so fair and fertile must belong to some jealous owner who would resent his intrusion. He scanned the unpeopled plain with much circumspection. Then, deeming himself secure from observation, he yielded to the craving that had been roused within him by the red, luxuriant fruit.

The turf was elastic beneath him, like a living substance, as he ran forward to the nearest trees. Bowed with their shining globes, the branches drooped around him. He plucked several of the largest fruits and stored them thriftily in the bosom of his threadbare tunic. Then, unable to resist his appetence any longer, he began to devour one of the fruits.


Xiccarph:

(14) "The Maze of Maal Dweb" 1938: The barbarian Tiglari searches for his stolen bride Athlé taken by the sorcerer who turns women into statues and men into apes. Flowery demons with metallic fronds and metal automatons (robots?) abound. This is either a very weird fantasy or sci-fi.

(15) "The Flower-Women" 1935: Maal Dweb is less of a meany here in this pseudo-sequel to The Maze. Maal Dweb goes adventuring and murders reptilian humanoid sorcerers who were, in turn, murdering the vampiric, female flower women (specifically, chopping them up into alchemical slurries). The beauty of paralyzed Athlé, echoes the turning-to-stone fate of the “Gorgon” stories.

Uncategorized:
(16) "The Demon of the Flower" 1933: On the planet Lophai, floral gods and lord flower Voorqual (the titular demon) demand sacrifice of humanoids, that is until Lunithi (protagonist) rebels. His betrothed priestess Nala is selected and he poisons the Voorqual, yet Nala is doomed [very Xiccarph-esque].

(17) "The Plutonian Drug" 1934: I had to research the history here to learn when elements were actually discovered (named). Plutonium was named after the planet, as was Neptunium and Uranium was discovered in 1789 named after the planet Uranus, which had been discovered eight years prior. Anyway, here Dr Manners offers time-trip inducing drug to Rupert Balcoth who experiences a truncated mind trip. Balcoth reports his experience and learn his future is short due to his imminent death.

(18) "The Planet of the Dead" 1932: Francis Melchior is a recluse antiquarian with a love for past things and an immedicable distaste for all that is present. He falls through his telescope onto another planet, assumes the role of Antarion. Here he finds love, retreats to Phanion as that world comes to an end.

(19) "The Gorgon" 1932: Twentieth-century London; here the narrator is a connoisseur of horrors. He barely survives a chance meeting with a mysterious man claiming to have Medusa's head. BTW, the Gorgon theme also echoes in Hunter from Beyond AND Treader of Dust.

(20) "The Letter from Mohaun Los" 1932: Domitian Malgraff and his Chinese servant Li Wong go missing, but somehow a letter makes it back to Domitan's betrothed: Syvlia Talbot. Domitian had preferred to meddle with time-travel than be with her. This is a planetary adventure, sans swashbuckling…with grand battles of machinery.

(21) "The Light from Beyond" 1933: Dorian Wiermoth, a painter, seeks seclusion in the mountains. He contacts strange celestial lights and vegetation from Beyond. Eating fruit from sacred trees occurs again (Xeethra-like), and our artist loses his creativity.

(22) "The Hunters from Beyond" 1932: This rivals/complements HPL’s "Pickman’s Model": Ghouls from other world are portrayed in sculpture by Cyprian Sincaulher and his lover Marta is affected; the narrator Philip Hastane, Cyprian's cousin, is book lover, weird fiction writer, who also experiences the ghouls first hand. With Jason Ray Carney's Weird Tales of Modernity: The Ephemerality of the Ordinary in the Stories of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft n my mind, I was floored to see Charles BAUDELAIRE (1821 - 1867) called out by name in this story (Baudelaire is a weird poet who coined the term: Modernity).

(23) "The Treader of the Dust" 1935: Again the petrification of Gorgon theme occurs, this time via the stars of Quachil Uttaus. Be forewarned, John Sebastian's house of relics and books was cursed when he opened a magical tome:
…The olden wizards knew him, and named him Quachil Uttaus. Seldom is he revealed: for he dwelleth beyond the outermost circle, in the dark limbo of unsphered time and space.-Dreadful is the word that calleth him, though the word be unspoken save in thought: For Quachil Uttaus is the ultimate corruption; and the instant of his coming is like the passage of many ages; and neither flesh nor stone may abide his treading, but all things crumble beneath-it atom from atom. And for this, some have called him The Treader of the Dust.
—The Testaments of Carnamagos.


View all my reviews

Monday, June 22, 2020

July Aug Groupreads - Sword & Planet AND Oron / Attluma



The July-Aug groupread folders are set up and ready for you!
Everyone is welcome to listen in, discuss, and read!

(A) Sword & Planet Folder Link

(B) David C. Smith's Oron and Attluma- Folder Link



Cover Art credits for groupread banner:

Edgar Rice Burroughs books:
Barsoom #11John Carter of Mars - artist Michael Whelan
Barsoom #3 The Warlord of Mars -artist Michael Whelan

David C. Smith books:
Tales of Attluma artist Tom Barber
Oron- arist Clyde Caldwell

John Carter of Mars (Barsoom #11) by Edgar Rice Burroughs The Warlord of Mars (Barsoom, #3) by Edgar Rice Burroughs Tales of Attluma by David C. Smith Oron by David C. Smith

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Sharing: Sword & Sorcery Panel - June 12th

June 12 Tales From the Magician's Skull Kickstarter Update ... sharing since non backers may not see it, but would be interested... copy/pasted here:

Friday panel: "Swords & Sorcery of Appendix N"

Goodman GamesCreator

Greetings, O minions of the Skull!

This missive is to inform you of a particular gathering that may interest you. On Friday, June 12, at 8:00 PM Eastern timethe Goodman Games Twitch channel will host a seminar entitled, "Swords & Sorcery of Appendix N." The discussion will focus on swords and sorcery fiction, and features panelists no doubt familiar to many of you:

·         Howard Andrew Jones

·         John Hocking

·         James Enge

·         Michael Curtis

·         Joseph Goodman

The panel is part of the overall Twitch coverage for our current online gaming convention, DCC Days Online. Our test runs have almost been like a contest to see who can cram the most packed bookshelf into their backdrop. If you ever wanted to see 5 people gathered together who really love talking about books, this is the time! 

How to watch: Go to Twitch.TV and find the channel GoodmanGamesOfficial. (This link will take you there.) Simply tune in at 8:00 PM on Friday June 12 and you'll see the seminar start!

Other Seminars of Interest: Our Twitch channel will host quite a few streams over this coming weekend. There are several others that might be of particular interest to fans of swords & sorcery fiction:

·         The Appendix N Book Club podcast will make its vidcast debut at 1:30PM Eastern time on Sunday June 14. Wouldn't we all want to be a part of that book club?

·         Sanctum Secorum takes Appendix N fiction and applies it specifically to DCC games. This podcast will also make its vidcast debut at 10:00 AM Eastern on Saturday June 13.

There is also lots of live gaming and more. You can see the full schedule here.

Hope to see you online!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

3D Printing Peru Monkey Discs



The resident mythologist of my household, daughter Erin Lindberg, was part of a student team scanning artifacts for the anthropology department at the University of Miami-Oxford, OH.

One of her scans and her description is online: Sketchfab - Miami University Anthropology (3D scan and STL file) As I try out our new 3D Printer (Ender 3 Pro), we downloaded and printed the Peru Monkey Disc that she is emotionally attached too.


Official Blurb:
"This copper-alloy disc bears a strong similarity to artifacts from the Chimú culture of northern Peru, 900-1470 CE, such as this example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Northern Peruvian artisans typically worked with copper-arsenic alloys. These alloys are stronger, and easier to cast than copper alone. The process for making copper-arsenic alloy begins with burning charcoal in the bottom of a furnace bowl. Ores were crushed and mixed to make a smelting charge. By blowing through tubes into the furnace, artisans increased the heat in the furnace. However, it was not enough to liquify the charge, and produced prills, or droplets of pure metal, that were collected, and most likely remelted and made into small ingots (Shimada and Merkel 82-83).
Shimada, Izumi, and John F. Merkel. “Copper-Alloy Metallurgy in Ancient Peru.” Scientific American, vol. 265, no. 1, 1991, pp. 80–87. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24936982. Accessed 15 Apr. 2020."


Sunday, May 10, 2020

Heroika II: Skirmishers

Originally posted on BlackGate.com Sunday, May 3rd, 2020:

Heroika II: Skirmishers – Heroism on the History: Fantasy Battlefront


The Heroika anthology series is created by author and editor Janet Morris (known for her Heroes in HellSacred Band of Stepsons, and Kerrion Empire (Silistra) series). The first volume Heroika I: Dragon Eaters featured seventeen stories from across the globe, from ancient to modern times arranged chronologically. Black Gate reviewer Fletcher Vredenburgh reported: “Too many anthologies pick a tone and then it doesn’t vary from story to story. Heroika avoids that. Connected by the themes of heroism and dragon-fighting, it allows room for varying styles of mythic tales and heroic fantasy as well as all-out pulp craziness.” Heroika II: Skirmishers follows suit, this time with twelve heroic tales spanning ancient history to modern times, arranged chronologically again. Most authors have a historical fiction bent, so Skirmishers really is 50% historical fiction and 50% fantasy. Brief forwards provide context to each story. This post offers a brochure-like tour guide of these battlegrounds.

41vWAgGs40LThe Official Blurb

HEROIKA: SKIRMISHERS (available now in Kindle and Paperback) Conflict is a constant. When force on force is inevitable only the intrepid need come forth. Summon the Skirmishers to their eternal purpose, to face a foe who must be opposed at all cost. Gird yourself and join the brotherhood of 'do or die.' Created by Janet Morris and edited by Alexandra Butcher, HEROIKA: SKIRMISHERS is an anthology of desperate struggles in far flung time-scapes, the age old smell of battle and death. SKIRMISHERS --Tales for the bold among you!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

May-June Groupread Topics: LOST WORLDS and MOVE ADAPTATIONS



Join us for the May-June 2020 Sword and Sorcery groupreads, with thematic topics:

A) Link to discussion on Lost Worlds, with tour guide moderator Master Ultan
Moderator Master Ultan is ultimately in charge of this as the "tour guide", but it's SE here setting up the folders. From the initial suggestions and book poll, the general idea is to tour a Lost World. Anyway... I'll pass off the "mic" to him....
This includes: Heroes of Atlantis & Lemuria by Manly Wade Wellman and The Magic of Atlantis by Lin Carter... and probably these too: Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Tales of Zothique by Clark Ashton Smith


B) Link to discussion on MOVIE adaptations/novelizations
Any S&S movie adaption, such as the below.
Nominate more! And, of course, feel welcome to discuss the movies too. Rewatch them!

Conan the Barbarian by Michael A. Stackpole, for the 2010 Conan

Conan the Destroyer by Robert Jordan ~1984

Solomon Kane by Ramsey Campbell ~2009

Dragonslayer by Wayland Drew ~1981
or the 1981 comic Dragonslayer #1 (by Dennis O'Neil and Marie Severin)

The Sword & the Sorcerer by Norman Winski ~1981

Conan 1982 comic
Conan the Barbarian Movie Special (1982) 1-2 Complete Movie Adaptation
or the novel....if you can find it
Conan the Barbarian by L. Sprague de Camp and Catherine de Camp and Lin Carter

Clash of the Titans by Alan Dean Foster ~1981


Banner 2020 May June Groupreads
Banner credits are extended to:
  • Pellucidar 1: At the earth's core, cover art by J. Allen St. John 1922
  • Heroes of Atlantis and Lemuria Cover Layout by Michael Greylord 2019
  • Movie Posters:
  • - Conan the Barbarian 2011
  • - Solomon Kane 2009


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Twilight of the Gods - Review by SE

This review was published on Blackgate.com April 8th, 2020:
The Doom of “Oden”: Twilight of the Gods (Grimnir #2)


With Grimnir #2 Twilight of the Gods (TotG), Scott Oden presents a novel take on Ragnarök, the apocalypse in Norse mythology. He masterfully integrates his historical fiction expertise (i.e., from Memnon, Men of Bronze) with gritty battles reminiscent of Robert E. Howard (i.e., the creator of Conan the Barbarian; Oden recently published a serialized, pastiche novella across the Savage Sword of Conan Marvel Comic series). Few can merge the intensity of low-fantasy Sword & Sorcery with high-fantasy Epics, but Oden does here.

TotG is second in this series; Fletcher Vredenburgh reviewed Griminr #1 A Gathering of Ravens (AGoR) in 2017, and reported: “Oden tells a story that feels lifted straight from the sagas and Eddas.” This February, John O’Neill posted a Future Treasures to reveal the Jimmy Iacobelli cover art to Twilight of the Gods.

This article is a review of the story, the style, and the lore. Read on to learn about the series’ namesake, the apocalypse in this second volume, and get teasers for the third book, The Doom of Odin.

“Mark this, little bird: you can judge how high you stand in your enemy’s esteem by the weapon he draws against you.” – Grimnir



Odin Fades and the Cross Emerges

TotG blurs the line between fantasy and history.” With Odin losing power, the hymn-singers are stepping up to rule the world. The Christian commandment “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me” gave rise to much strife in real history, which even had converted Danes and Norsemen crusade for the Cross. The book opens with this conflict fueling Ragnarök (read Ch.1. online). These excerpts also capture Oden’s style, including Grimdark scenery:

Corpses sprawled atop a low hill, beneath a sky the color of old slate. They lay in their tattered war gear: mail riven, shields broken, and helmets split asunder by ferocious blows. There were scores of them, arranged not in the perfect windrows borne of clashing shield-walls, where the dead fall like grain beneath a thresher-man’s blade, but rather in heaps and mounds—as though the Tangled God himself, cunning Loki, had decided to reshape the land with the bodies of slain Northmen. Their blood mingled with other vital fluids, turning the early snow underfoot to a scarlet slurry.
A cold north wind moaned through the evergreen spruces ringing the hill. It rattled the shafts of spears that grew from bodies of the slain like corpse-flowers, their blades rooted in bellies and spines; it snapped the fabric of cast-off pennons. Some displayed a wolf’s head against a white field. Others, more numerous, bore a stark black cross. The wind faded; utter silence returned.

And… Howardian battle scenes:
Úlfrún did not flinch. She did not shy away from the whistling blade that sought to end her life. Instead, she stepped in and caught it on the knuckles of her iron fist. The sword sparked, rebounded; the clangor of impact reverberated. Far to the north, from among the cloud-wreathed peaks, came the echo of thunder as if in answer … The blade of her axe flashed in autumn’s pale light, and she rained blow after furious blow down upon the guard of her enemy. A rush of breath, a ringing crash, and the rasp and slither of steel on iron were the only sounds as she batted aside Heimdul’s clumsy riposte and very nearly took off his head. A hasty backward leap was all that saved him.

And… poetic horror:

And with a sound like the rattle of immense bones, the stranger’s cloak is borne up as by a hot breath of wind. There is only darkness, beneath. And that darkness grows and spreads, becoming monstrous wings that blot out the burning sky. The darkness crawls like a serpent across the ruin of Hrafnhaugr. It snuffs the flames and robs the air of its breath; it slays the living with a pestilence that rots the blood in their veins. It crushes and destroys. She turns to run as the darkness engulfs her. And in its hideous embrace, she opens her mouth to scream…

Via the current Goodreads Sword & Sorcery Groupread featuring this book, I learned from beta-reader Stan Wagenaar that this chapter was an intentional homage to REH’s Conan tale “Frost Giant’s Daughter” (1953, Fantasy Fiction). Between Étaín and Disa, Grimnir has sympathized with both sides of the religious war marking the end of the world (i.e., the Nailed-God versus the likes of Odin). Ultimately, he is out for his personal agenda, and there are plenty of antagonizing forces beyond human ones.
Frazetta, REH’s Frost Giant’s Daughter

Who/What is Grimnir?

In the Beowulf saga, the titular hero hints down the monstrous Grendel, then Grendel’s mother, then a dragon; the hero even becomes King of the Geats (the Geats of Scandinavia hailing from modern-day Sweden). TotG presents Grimnir as a demi-god hybrid of Beowulf & Grendel: half monster, half savior-to-be-worshipped) and king over the Raven-Geats no less! He has one working eye, but so do many suspicious characters ranging from Odin, a great wyrm, Nila, Grimnir, and the Grey Wanderer. So, you should not trust any one-eye, let alone Grimnr: he is a brutal bastard who is more out for self-preservation than for defending his human worshippers. He cares less about the threats of cross-bearing crusaders than he begrudges an ancient dragon—but more on wyrms below. TotG’s cursed crusader introduces us to Grimnir, emphasizing the various perspectives and clashes of cultures:

“Grimnir son of Bálegyr,” Konraðr said. “What a rough beast you are. You go by many names, I am told. Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night. Some claim you are the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent. The Irish called your kind fomoraig, did they not? They cursed your sire, Bálegyr, and the wolf ships that brought him to their fair isle. What did the English name you? Orcnéas? But to the Danes and the Norse your kind were always skrælingar. Accursed sons of Cain, you are …

Oden followers will note the “Orcneas” reference. The author has said: “Since young adulthood, I’ve wanted to write a book about Orcs—those foot soldiers of evil first revealed to us in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. I wanted to write it from the Orcs’ point of view. And I wanted to redeem them.” Inspect the Russian cover to A Gathering of Ravens (inset) depicting Grimnir, albeit with a gratuitous beard. Oden concurs of his appearance on his blog while explicitly developing the lore: “I’ve seen that gets his hair right. Really, give him a sharper nose and there you have the last of the fabled kaunar, that blighted race of monsters who would enter popular culture centuries later as Tolkien’s Orcs.”
Russian cover art for A Gathering of Ravens, and zoomed-in depiction of Grimnir

Grimnir’s Partner, Dísa Dagrúnsdottir:

Étaín was the young female protagonist in A Gathering of Ravens. This round, Grimnir’s partner is young Dísa (a.k.a. “Little Bird”, a Raven-Geat). Whereas Étaín was a Christian, Dísa is a barbaric, maiden of war—or she dreams to become one, anyway. Motherless, her clan selects her to confer with their godly protector the “Hooded One” (Grimnir). This book is really about her coming of age while the world ends; her priestess role puts her smack-dab on the intersection of the corporeal and the supernatural. Disa is a likable, spirited character that you will be rooting for from the instant she is presented in chapter two.

[Disa], who springs from the loins of Dagrún Spear-breaker; she, who is a Daughter of the Raven, bearer of the rune Dagaz; she, who is the Day-strider, chosen of the Gods. She, who is skjaldmær, shieldmaiden.

A contemporary similar character would be Sensua from the acclaimed Ninja Theory video game series Hellblade (Sensua’s Sacrifice (2017) followed by Sensu’s Saga due out 2020). This January, S.M. Carrière posted on the sequel’s video trailer featuring the band Heilung. In short, if you like Sensua or Heilung, then you must experience Disa’s saga. The embedded video could easily be repurposed as a trailer for Dísa in TotG:


Serpents & Dragons:

In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is triggered by the world (Midgard)-wrapping serpent Jörmungandr releasing the tail from its mouth, and uncoiling. So, readers should expect some form of dragon and we are gifted the spawn of the legendary Jormungandr’s (Midgard Serpent): Malice-Striker. The combination of lore and prose reinforcing Malice-Striker’s presence evokes classic dragons, such as Beowulf’s foe or J.R.R.’s Glaurung (the Worm of Morgoth/Angband from the Children of Hurin). Malice-Striker’s character and past are revealed, and [minor spoiler] he is set up for a key role in the next installment.

John Howe depicts Tolkien’s Glaurung and Alan Lee depicts Glaurun’s eye

The Doom of Odin (Grimnir series #3)

Twilight of the Gods delivered an apocalyptic nail-biter. It can be read completely stand-alone, but certainly builds on A Gathering of Ravens. Still the battle rages on for Grimnir. Oden plans to finish the third installment, The Doom of Odin, by the end of summer 2020 (publication at St. Martin’s discretion). From the author’s website, we find the likely book blurb:

As the Black Death rampages across Europe, two creatures of the Elder World clash over the rotting corpse of Christendom. 
Sicily, 1347 AD. A ghost ship from the east washes ashore at Messina. A ship of dead men, and hidden in its belly is a doom like no other: the dragon Niðhöggr, the Malice-Striker, an ancient vessel of destruction from the Elder Days. And while it is no longer the mighty wyrm of Ragnarök, the beast’s breath still bears upon it a pestilence, a plague that will echo through the ages as the Black Death.
But the world of Men has a strange champion – another creature of the Elder World: a snarling, spitting knot of hatred, profane and blasphemous, whose ancestors were the goblins of myth and legend; he is a monster in truth, though nevertheless he stands as the last bastion between humanity and the cold silence of oblivion. He is Grimnir, and he has hunted the Malice-Striker for more than a century, from the cold wastes of the Baltic to the dank cisterns beneath Constantinople.
Now, as the plague stalks through Western Europe – and as the dread wyrm slithers through Italy, bound for Rome on its mission to devour the head of Christendom – Grimnir must contend not only with the beast’s insidious cunning, but with the iron fist of the Papal Inquisition, and the army of a vengeful Italian condottiere. Grimnir, however, is not without allies of his own. Accompanied by a Jewish witch and mystic, and aided by the fey King of the Mongrel Court, a troupe of half-blooded creatures bound for Finisterre and the World’s End, Grimnir sets the stage for a final showdown. 
For at Avignon, the papal enclave on the River Rhone, the Doom of Odin will fall, and the Elder World will finally meet its bloody end. The only question that remains is: will Miðgarðr and the world of Men survive this deadly clash of titans?

On Scott Oden

Scott is the author of five novels, two historical fiction (Men of Bronze and Memnon), three fantasy with a strong historical bent (The Lion of Cairo, A Gathering of Ravens, and Twilight of the Gods), and a collaborative novel (A Sea of Sorrow: A Novel of Odysseus). He is the author of the Robert E. Howard pastiche Conan novella “The Shadow of Vengeance”, serialized in issues #1-#12 of Marvel’s The Savage Sword of Conan, as well as the Conan short story “Conan Unconquered”, appearing in the video game of the same name. In addition, he has written a couple of short stories, and a few non-fiction articles and introductions (notably, the introduction to Del Rey’s Robert E. Howard collection, Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures). He has been an avid tabletop role-playing gamer since 1979, beginning with Holmes-edition D&D. Scott was born in Columbus, Indiana, but was raised in rural North Alabama, near Huntsville. He currently splits his time between his home in Alabama, a Hobbit hole in Middle-earth, and some sketchy tavern in the Hyborian Age.