Monday, February 27, 2012

Amarante: A Tale of Old Tharduin

I don't usually like stories where the "heroes" are actually bad guys. There are exceptions, mostly in the crime fiction field, such as Richard Stark's Parker, Max Allan Collins' Nolan, and Andrew Vachss' Burke, but I generally prefer my heroes to be heroes. I'm just a square that way.
However, I just read Scott Oden's short story Amarante: A Tale of Old Tharduin which features two Orcs as the protagonists and humans as the "bad guys" and I have to say I really really enjoyed it. Amarante is a dark sword & sorcery tale following the two Orcs, Muzgaash and Kraibag, through a ruined human city that has been overrun by the Orc armies. But the rebel humans are fighting back with darkest sorcery and blood magic. This makes the humans seem just as evil as the Orcs so it's not too hard to root for the two Orc protagonists as they fight the humans.
If you're not familiar with Oden, he's the author of bestselling historical novels like Men of Bronze and Memnon, as well as the recent historical sword & sorcery book The Lion of Cairo. Oden is an admirer of Robert E. Howard, and like Howard he uses his knowledge of history to imbue his fantasy with a degree of realism that's beyond a lot of fantasy writers. His backgrounds, even when populated by Orcs and sorcerers, are convincing and grounded in small, well thought out details. The sort of thing one learns from study of ancient cultures. But fantasy buffs shouldn't worry. Oden doesn't scrimp on the magic. However, much in the spirit of REH and Karl Edward Wagner, all the magic is somewhat creepy and comes at a price.
Amarante is also Oden's first foray into self publishing. It's available as a 99 cents download for the Kindle and also as a watermarked pdf from DriveThruFiction, and will soon be available at Smashwords. 99 cents is a small price to pay for a quality sword & sorcery story from a talented story teller. So go download Amarante. Recommended.


Paul R. McNamee said...

I'll second that.

Very good interplay between the Orcs. And, very well crafted viewpoint from the Orcs. They're bastards, you don't exactly want them to win, but they are doing what they do because.. it's what they do. There is enough tension created that you want to follow them through it, regardless of outcome.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I was very impressed by the whole shebang, Paul. Oden is one of the best guys working in the field, I think.

Scott Oden said...

Thank you for the review, and the wonderful compliment, Charles! Glad to hear you enjoyed the story!

Charles R. Rutledge said...

You're welcome, Scott. Thanks for the books and stories.