Monday, December 20, 2010

Tarra Khash:Hrossak!

In my never ending search for more Sword & Sorcery books, I came across a recommendation for Brian Lumley's Primal Lands series. I picked up the first volume, The House of Cthulhu, and was somewhat confused, as the stories seemed to be more Clark Ashton Smith or Jack Vance influenced than anything else, with much sorcery and very little sword swinging, and while there were one or two barbarians hanging about, they tended to be the bad guys in the stories and to die horrible, Lovecraftian deaths. I checked with my source and he said, "Oh yeah, you need to get to volume two, Tarra Khash:Hrossak!"
When I had looked at the covers of the three Primal Lands volumes, I'd assumed Tarra Khash:Hrossak was some sort of Cthulhu-ish gibberish, but as it turns out it's the name of the protagonist. Tarra Khash is a man of the steppes, a Hrossak. Think Cossack with an HR instead of a C and you're pretty much there. And yes, in the volume that bears his name, Tarra Khash functions in the Conan role, fighting bloody battles and facing horrible creatures from the outer dark. However, while Tarra Khash is no slouch with a blade, he's not in Conan's class. Still, he is wily and clever and often escapes peril more by his wits than his sword arm.
Lumley is perhaps best known for his Necroscope series and other horror novels. His horror writing serves him well in the Primal Lands series and the majority of the Tarra Khash stories seem to be horror with a dash of adventure thrown in, much like some of Robert E. Howard's work. (At least in premise. Lumley isn't a mile a minute action writer like REH.) The fun thing about these stories is that while other sword & sorcery writers may use pseudo-Lovecraftian tropes, Lumley's series is set in the actual Cthulhu mythos and Lovecraft fans will find much to enjoy. The pre-Atlantean island continent, Theem'hdra is sort of Lumley's version of the Hyborian age or perhaps more like CAS's Hyperborea or Zothique. It teems with wizards, monsters, elder gods, and all manners of sorcery. Tarra Khash:Hrossak can be read as a series of short stories or as a serial novel, since each story connects to those that precede and follow it. I found it best to read a story every few days.
I've yet to start the third volume in the Primal Lands series, Sorcery In Shad, but presumably it's a novel featuring Tarra Khash and characters from the first two books. Should be fun.

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