Review by: KEN KORCZAK
If you are a certified sword and sorcery junkie who’s getting itchy and in dire need of your next fix of swordplay, dark magic, strange creatures and adventure on some far-flung exotic world — then look no further — just shoot this KEV HERITAGE novel into your primary brain vein and you’ll be all set.
FLESH GOLEM is a fast-paced, short, punchy effort solidly ensconced within the S&S genre. It’s exceptionally well written, especially in terms of the author’s uncanny ability to set scenes, create vivid, visceral landscapes and images that come alive in the reader’s mind through the magic of lean, well-crafted sentences.
I’m impressed by this author’s ability to paint vivacious “mind pictures” and implant them directly into our psyches, and he gets the job done with incredible economy of words. From the first paragraph the reader is absorbed — transported — as if by osmosis into an alien, eldritch realm. It’s the furious world of Arn. The climate in harsh, the very oxygen of the air seems menacing, and it’s all wrapped up in a quasi-Médiéval littérature noir sort of package that’s gloomy, yet has that “I wish I could go there!” vibe.
Great sword and sorcery is all about escapism, and for those weary of ordinary lives of cubicals and shopping malls, here is a harsh, yet wonderful world that will help you “get away from it all” in a slightly hellish Club Med sort of way.
Do I have any quibbles? Sure, I always do. What detracts from this overall fine effort is the protagonist Vareena Krall who is a young, beautiful tomboy skilled at swordplay, ready-and-able to go toe-to-toe with the best of any masculine hero — in other words, the archetype of Katniss Everdeen is reincarnated yet again to traverse an epic quest, to kick ass and take names in a dystopian environment.
I first met this character SOME 46 years ago when, as a boy of 11, I read Robert Heinlein’s PODKAYNE OF MARS. Podkayne “Poddy” Fries was, by golly, a young and beautiful tomboy ready-and-able to go toe-to-toe with the bets of any masculine hero …. um … and Poddy keeps coming back again in fantasy afterlife after fantasy afterlife, whether she is Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, Princess Leia, or even Bella Swan (from Twilight) to name just a few.
Believe me, I’m not the only literary and social critic out there moaning and groaning about the dire necessity for writers and other creative types to get beyond what has become not just an archetype, but a downright cliché.
I’m still waiting for a major female fantasy lead who is maybe, well, a plus-sized young lady, or perhaps what in a Rolling Stones lyric Mick and Keith called a “daylight drab” — you know, a shrinking-violet-perpetual-wallflower type … or … I don’t know … any one of the kind of average “normal” female types you’ll see standing in line at the motor vehicle department or down at the checkout counter in your neighborhood grocery store.
I am tempted to say also that the plot is a tad thin, but this would be unfair because Flesh Golem is only the first in a three-part series, the IRONSCYTHE SAGAS. I suspect a writer as gifted as Mr. Heritage will delve deeper into the various twists and turns, motivations and subplots that will fortify this excellent start with some fibrous, juicy red meat.
I say: Don’t miss this ride into the Realm of Arn. I promise you, it’s a thrilling jaunt.
Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS
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