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An Epic Fantasy of the Ancient World

by Justin Allen

Pub Date: July 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-58567-916-4
Publisher: Overlook

Historical fantasy, something like a long-range prequel to the ancient Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, from newcomer Allen.

The Shinar lies between two rivers, the Tiger and the Ibex, and is surrounded by harsh desert and unforgiving mountains. Its dark-haired inhabitants, with their Bronze Age technology, face invasion by blond warrior Niphilim from northerly Dagonor. The Niphilim, among whom females are the dominant fighters, stole the secret of iron-making from defeated Kenanites. Huge, powerful, black-skinned adventurer Uruk, from jungles of sub-Saharan Africa, reaches the city Ur, where he acquires a faithful companion, Dog, and steals a huge carnelian from a child-sacrificing Niphilim priestess; exchanging the jewel for a magnificent iron sword, he heads for the much larger city Kan-Puram. Pale-skinned Ander, escaping brutal enslavement in the Niphilim mines, heads south to Kan-Puram, where he attempts to rally the city’s powerful priesthoods against the imminent Niphilim invasion. As Uruk makes contact with Jared, Kan-Puram’s king of thieves, Ander encounters an immovable obstacle: Kilimon, the pacifist high priest of Moloch’s cult, who refuses to countenance preparations for war. Kilimon’s deputy, Shamash, contacts Jared and arranges to have Kilimon assassinated. Uruk instead arranges to kidnap the recalcitrant priest, and escapes with the help of Jared and Dog. So, as Ander attempts to weld a pitchfork-waving rabble into an army, Uruk and Jared organize the thieves. Still to come: gory battles, daring rescues, dreadful diseases and desperate deeds.

An evocative, tenacious, often arresting series of incidents with no real center; worth a try for sheer spectacle but don’t expect too much involvement.