01/05/2009. Contributed by Neale Monks
pub: TOR/Forge. 272 page small hardback. Price: $23.95 (US). ISBN: 0-765-31077-5.
check out website: www.tor-forge.com and www.brianlumley.com
Nominally, the third of the 'Tales Of The Primal Land' series, 'Sorcery in Shad' stands apart from the preceding books in the way it feels like a single, tightly-woven tale rather than a collection of short stores. If anything, Brian Lumley has finally created a novel that does his 'Primal Land' setting justice.
Part of the reason the book works so well is that four main characters will be both instantly familiar to readers of fantasy literature, while possessing enough in the way of quirkiness to keep the reader interested. So the lead character, Tarra Khash, may be a standard issue barbarian adventurer in many ways, but he also displays a sense of honour and humour that makes him an interesting character worth following.
Likewise, his main opponent, the sorcerer Black Yoppaloth, is not simply the power-crazed lunatic we've come to expect from fantasy writers, but a well-developed even sympathetic character as tightly gripped by fate as our heroes.
Alongside the two lead characters, we are treated to the return of the lamia Orbiquita, introduced in the preceding book 'Tarra Khash: Hrossak!' and the wizard Teh Atht, who hasn't been seen since the first book in the series, 'The House Of Cthulhu'. It turns out that they're cousins of a sort and, despite their prickly relationship, instantly engaging characters that help to deepen the plot and keep the action ticking along. Of particular note are the distinctly quirky familiars of Teh Atht, three strange creatures described in subtly Lovecraftian ways.
Playing a slightly lesser role here than in the previous book is the elf-like being Amyr Arn, but he has a few good scenes and those who enjoyed 'Tarra Khash: Hrossak!' will certainly be pleased to see this weird character back.
Brian Lumley is of course a competent writer, well known for his horror and dark fantasy fiction. 'Sorcery In Shad' isn't really horrific at all, despite what the wording on the dust cover might suggest. It's not even particularly dark fantasy neither and while the 'Primal Land' series has been marketed as something in the H.P. Lovecraft mould, that's only true up to a point. The 'Primal Land' books are closer to the 'Dreamland' series of stories and books than the 'Cosmic Horror' works for which Lovecraft is perhaps best known.
There are, to be sure, occasional nods in the direction of the Cthulhu Mythos, but nothing particularly substantial. About the only aspect of the story that feels particularly Lovecraftian is the god-like and highly malevolent entity trying to trick its way back into reality.
In short, an easy read and a fun treat for anyone who enjoys old-fashioned fantasy in the style of Edgar Rice Burroughs or Robert E. Howard.
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