Friday, October 7, 2011

Hrad Spein

I'm re-reading Alexy Pehov's novel Shadow Prowler and you should probably read it too.


The dungeon of Hrad Spein.

"'Hrad Spein' is an ogric name. Translated into the language of men it means "Palaces of Bone." But the dark elves say that the human tongue is incapable of expressing the universal horror that the ogres invested in those two words."

"No one knows who created Hrad Spein, and in which age, whose thought and strength it was that bit so deep into the bones of the earth, creating those immense caves and caverns that were later transformed into the architectural wonders of the northern world and, later still, into a world of darkness and horror . . .

. . . Deep, deep, under the ground the ogres came across gigantic halls and caves. They started using Hrad Spein as their graveyard, leaving their dead and placing terrible curses on the burial sites. Later . . . it was the bones of orcs and elves that found their resting place in Hrad Spein. . . Neither side intruded on the lower levels of the ogres . . .

. . . Both of them started installing traps in their own territory to catch their enemies. The underground halls crackled with dark shamanic energy and were drowned in blood. In the end, neither orcs nor elves could feel safe in those places any longer. The Palaces of Bone were abandoned and subsequently the secret knowledge of the locations of traps and labyrinths in the lower levels was lost.

Hrad Spein became like a gigantic underground layer cake tens of leagues deep and wide. The levels of the ogres, the levels and the orcs and the elves. Halls, corridors, and caves. Burial sites, treasure chambers, and magical rooms. . . .

That's before the humans came, and then something woke up the "evil of the ogres' bones" and "rous[ed] the dead."

And the main character is going there.

That is why you should read this book (and it's sequel). The protagonist doesn't traipse right into the dungeon, but needs to undergo harrowing adventures just to get information on the dungeon, and get to it.

It's a wealth of dungeon-delving fantasy without being a trashy D&D novel. It actually has most of the tropes and names of D&Dish things. Dwarves, gnomes, ogres, thieves' guilds, one-shot scroll magic, etc. - but most of it seems as if the author had a list of names but didn't know which description went with what. So it's oddly jumbled but cool - fanged elves, ancient orcs, powerful ogric magic, etc. Check it out, it's inspirational even beyond the dungeon.

1 comment:

  1. Man, I loved the first two books in the series. I've bought the third but not gotten around to reading it yet.

    That said, I found it was best when he was being a thief in the city, and wasn't as good after he and headed out to try and go to the dungeon.

    In part, this is because we don't get to see him being a thief anymore, which is the most interesting thing about the story; there are lots of books about bands of adventurers walking around doing epic quests. That and, most of the areas away from the main city aren't nearly as interesting; I must say, that city would be a great setting for an RPG.

    The other thing I find is that it suffers from Epic Plotitise. Instead of writing a cool plot about stealing and surviving in the city, the author has to go and make an epic plot with alternate dimensions, gods and near gods, the fate of various kingdoms, etc all in the balance. As a result things feel more generic, and in the case of a lot of series, you wind up having to escalate things to crazy amounts (The webcomic Dominic Deegan has a number of instances of this, as does Sherlock Mercenary).

    If you liked this series you should check out the Garrett P.I. series by Glen Cook. It isn't from the perspective of a thief, but a detective, however it has a similar dirty feel to the city, much more magical and silly. It also has the use of magical tricks and an unusual cast.


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