Sunday, June 22, 2008


I’ve never been a big reader in the sword ‘n sorcery genre. Although I read Robert E. Howard’s (Conan, Kull) work when I was younger, as well as Fritz Leiber’s Fafrhd and the Grey Mouser stories, as an adult, the only writer in the genre I enjoyed was the late Karl Edward Wagner. Most of the material of this type I’ve encountered since has been derivative adolescent wish-fulfillments, closer to fan fiction than professional work. But I have now found an exception to that sort of thing with a book of short stories by Steven L. Shrewsbury, Thoroughbred.

Shrewsbury works in a similar barbarian mileu as Howard, but does so with wit and originality lacking in most of Howard’s acolytes. Shrewsbury’s best creation is the barbarian Rogan, who is featured in two of the six stories in this collection. In the main piece, also named “Thoroughbred”, Rogan is hired to rid a mountainous village of some troublesome satyrs, who turn out not to be satyrs at all, and even more trouble than Rogan expected. Rogan also appears as a boy in the excellent short story “Poison of the Elder”, probably my favorite of the bunch.
Other stories include one written from the point of view of the biblical Goliath’s companion. A story presenting an adventure from Goliath’s point of view is fascinating, and seems obvious, although I had never thought of it, and I don’t know of any other writer who has either.

Shrewsbury presents a view of the barbarians that is consistent and filled with sly wit. There isn’t a weak story in the bunch, and I would recommend this title. I’ll be looking for Shrewsbury’s other work myself.

My big criticism is not of the author but the publisher, Carnifax Press. There are several typos left uncorrected in the text, some pages are cut at an angle, and, at least in my copy, one page is out of sequence , which caused some momentary confusion. It’s an attractive book, the publisher just needs to work on some quality control issues.

No comments: