Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"The Battle of Raven Kill" by Jeff Draper from RotS

The first "barbarian" hero in Return of the Sword is Oth, a warrior who chooses to make a rear guard stand on a narrow stone bridge over a deadly river as his clan flees. That much becomes clear right away. That could be a hard premise to swallow, but Draper's crafty hero uses a shield to great effect. What follows is a detailed and exciting battle. You know Oth is doomed, but he's such a cool character, you're rooting for him to pull it out somehow.

I love it when characters name their weapons, but it can be overdone. Here, there is no magic apparent in Oth's weapons, but his names for them elevate them beyond generic tools of destruction. The sense of humor and the artful thematic descriptions also make this story more than just a retread of old Conan territory. The premise seems familiar, but the delivery is fresh. The battle is vivid, brutal and exciting.

More than any of the stories so far, this one points to much more going on behind the scenes, and I for one would be interested in reading more tales of Oth and his adopted daughter. The author has a deleted scene and an interesting post about his writing process on his blog.

Pros: Intriguing hero, scarcity of steel is well presented, world building in action, feels like one exciting point in a larger story

Cons: Feel like I missed something in regard to the small amount of magic in the story, could have been clearer. Where were the bows and arrows? Good battle, but at times the enemy seemed cursed by their own stupidity.

Buy the book! The Return of the Sword: An Anthology of Heroic Adventure
Jeff Draper's Blog
E.E. Knight's announcement
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