Reader’s Den, Biblio File
Reader's Den: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, Part 3
It is time to bring this year's round of Reader's Dens to a close, and we will finish with some recommendations for folks wanting some gruesome sword and sorcery. After traipsing through the Hyborian Age with our bloody-handed hero, and I use the term "hero" loosely, what more is there? Try some of these books to start:
The Knight and the Knave of Swords by Fritz Leiber. This collection features Leiber's most famous characters: the barbarian Fafhrd and his diminutive companion the Gray Mouser. Rogues, scoundrels and treasure hunters, these two formed a fast friendship and cut a swathe through the seamy streets of Lankhmar. There is a humanity in their bond that Conan, perhaps, lacks.
Richard K. Morgan's A Land Fit for Heroes trilogy is brutal, unrelenting and a blistering read. Ringil Eskiath is a war hero and a drunk, homosexual lout. He does not exactly endear himself to the local populace where he drinks his days and nights away. He is also one of the best swordsmen alive and his chance encounter with an ancient, forgotten enemy wielding hidden magic starts The Steel Remains, the first book in the series.
If you're in the mood for some high seas grit and derring do, Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders Trilogy, beginning with Ship of Magic, will satisfy readers demanding some world-building meat on a novel's bones. Liveships, built from special wood found only in the exotic Rain Wilds, are the only boats capable of traversing the acidic Rain Wild River. Any other lumber dissolves quickly, so the Rain Wilders and Bingtown traders depend on the liveships for traffic in the ancient artifacts of the mysterious Elderlings. Althea Vestrit is ready to inherit her family's liveship Vivacia when her father's death quickens the boat, bringing the figurehead to life.
Peter V. Brett also brings to life a world where humanity is going extinct during constant demon attacks. Wards, ancient runes painted on wood or engraved in stone, are the only means of fending off the brutal assaults. Arlen, son of Jeph, watches the demons devour his mother during one attack, inspiring a burning desire for revenge in The Warded Man, the first novel in Brett's Demon Cycle. The demons only come out at night, meaning the war must be waged in darkness and shadow.
Another war waged in darkness is the orphaned Azoth's in Brent Weeks' The Way of Shadows. Struggling to survive in the city of Cenaria's Warrens, Azoth sees the world's deadliest assassin, Durzo Blint, make short work of a pack of attackers. Blint, of course, catches Azoth in the act and forces a promise from him never to reveal what he saw in the shadowed street. Azoth's travails carry him through Weeks' Night Angel Trilogy.
There are so many more examples of the genre but it would take the remainder of this year to list even a quarter of them so that wraps our Reader's Den for December. May your winter nights be filled with tales of grim, iron-handed heroes trampling a path to riches, glory or simply survival.