In the fantasy realm of Vraniga, a paranoid warlord plans a genocidal march against perceived enemies while his rebellious general warns potential targets of impending danger.
Gleason (Ravagers, 2015) may remind heroic-fantasy readers of some of Robert E. Howard’s more brooding, less comic book–ish tales (and particularly the Kull the Conqueror cycle) with this first novel in a planned multivolume saga. The book has an intriguing story structure that starts with an introduction to a clan-village, where provincial dramas of hunting and falling in love are interrupted by the fearsome appearance of Mayodth, a four-armed Obnarm warrior. Mayodth warns he’s leading an army sent by a mad ruler named Deemuth, who aims to exterminate any settlement that lies in the path of his expanding empire. But Mayodth says that he has regrets about leading Deemuth’s bloodthirsty Noomok troops, and he now seeks allies to end the tyrant’s reign. The fact that he and Deemuth were once close friends is one of the twists in the central story, set in the past, about how Mayodth and Deemuth, who was orphaned and brutalized by a sadistic chieftain named Garmish, received help from Noomoks to escape from slavery. The vengeance-obsessed Deemuth later seized Garmish’s throne and degenerated into an equally cruel ruler over time, his ethnic-cleansing rampages encouraged by a pair of seductive concubines who warn him of assassins in his future. In the present, Mayodth seems intent on fulfilling these prophecies. Gleason generates some reader sympathy for the brutish Deemuth, a one-time victim doomed by circumstances to become a foul villain himself. The conspiracy to engineer his downfall becomes part of an overall moral fatalism that hangs over the sinewy narrative. An imaginative cast of beastlike characters is complemented by the humanlike Noomoks, whose culture possesses some characteristics of Native American tribes.
Violent, forceful sword-and-sandal adventure with a little Shakespearean tragedy around the edges.