Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Can't Put it Down

Been a while since I got hold of a book that I enjoyed as much as I'm enjoying David Weber's Oath of Swords. Weber is primarily known as the author of Military Science Fiction books for Baen. Military SF isn't usually my cup of tea, though I have read one of his Up Country series, which is kind of fun. Oath of Swords, however is fantasy.
It is a fantasy informed by Weber's military knowledge though, giving the action scenes the kind of tactical verisimilitude that is lacking in many fantasy novels. The decisions that warriors make, whether in melee or individual combat, ring true.
But the main thing the book has going for it is a real hero, Bahzell Bahnakson of the Hradani. The Hradani are oversized humanoids with fox-like ears and a genetic disposition towards berserker tendencies. What makes Bahzell so fascinating is his determination to control 'The Rage' which can turn any member of his race into a killing machine. He knows what he is and he doesn't shy away from it, but he doesn't let it control him either. He's noble, loyal, and all the other things a hero should be. Just really short tempered.
The action gets going on the first page and barely lets up long enough to let the reader catch a breath and absorb some exposition. Definitely a Charles kind of plot. The world Bahzell inhabits has some Tolkien-like attributes, but the magic seems more like something Conan would run into with dark rituals performed by evil sorcerers. Demons and dark gods hide in the forgotten places of the world. A nice fantasy mix.
Anyway, on a humorous note, I had looked at this book before, a couple of years back, and decided against buying it because of the goofy cover. A static scene by Larry Elmore shows Bahzell and company apparently having a campfire sing along. Not sure what editor decided on that one. This is a violent book with some pretty rough scenes involving rape, murder, torture and a lot of bloodletting. Luckily, I read a review of the book somewhere and sought it out this weekend before realizing it was the same 'sing along' book I had passed up previously. There are two sequels in print and apparently a trade paperback has just been released of Oath of Swords that includes a new Bahzell novella. Since I really have found this book hard to put down, I guess I'll be picking those others up.

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