March 1, 2012

Sword and Silk: Antero Cycle & Seer King

I forgot to mention in my list of Sword and Silk inspirations and talking points the Antero Cycle by Allan Cole and Chris Bunch, specifically The Far Kingdoms and Kingdoms of the Night, and the Seer King trilogy (Seer King, Demon King, Warrior King).

The Far Kingdoms
Bunch used his experiences in Asia, while serving during the Vietnam War, to good effect in bringing color and a totally different feel to his milieu.  The Antero cycle is refreshing in its shying away from the typical Medieval Western Europe flavor, instead going more for Renaissance and Asian inspirations.

The protagonist, Amalric Antero, feels modeled on Marco Polo, and his home city of Orissa – taking a real Indian place name – is like a mishmash of Venice, Classical Athens, and, yes, Bombay, great trade centers all. Bunch also brings to vivid life mysterious jungle locales, taps into the were-crocodile theme found in both Thai and Philippine (and probably Vietnamese and Cambodian) folklore, and evokes the Silk Road with episodes of caravan travel through desert and encounters with nomad bandits. 

Magic is also satisfyingly sinister, and the authors used the ideas of sympathetic magic to good effect in narrating how the magic was effected.  This is borderline Sword and Silk to me, by the definition I posited in my earlier post, because magic is available to the heroes and they use it quite freely.  The dark side of magic however comes from this very lack of limits, as it shows how easily it can be misused and how tempting absolute power can be. 

Seer King Trilogy
In Seer King, the first book of the series, Bunch deftly weaves two, or perhaps three, great historical inspirations into a riveting tale of war, magic and intrigue. 

The first thread is based on the Anglo-Afghan Wars, specifically the Second. Damastes, the main protagonist, starts as an officer assigned to a border outpost and then as escort to a doomed diplomatic mission.  Despite their efforts, enemies manage to incite the population against them, and the embassy is destroyed by a fanatical mob, after which they are pursued through snowy mountain passes by the highland tribes.

The second thread is based apparently on the careers of Julius Caesar and Napoleon Bonaparte, as Tenedos, the sorcerer who had been sent as emissary, schemes his way to come out on top during a period of political chaos and get himself made dictator. 

Again, the setting is vividly Asian in inspiration, and recalls to mind the stories of Lamb and Mundy and, of course, Howard’s El Borak.  Bunch again makes use of the ideas of sympathetic magic as a narrative tool, and again it’s temptation that makes the magic sinister in nature. 

The story however is written from a viewpoint that more closely mirrors that of the British during the Anglo-Afghan Wars.  This did not detract a whit from my enjoyment of the book and its sequels, but I do have to point out that, from the viewpoint of one searching for Sword and Silk examples, this viewpoint puts it on the fringe of our specs rather than solidly inside.  If you enjoy gritty fantasy adventure with a touch of darkness and sex, though, this is a great read.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...