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on Sep. 15, 2012 :
This is a great sword and sorcery story from Jonathan Strickland, and is very fast moving, full of interesting characters, lots of muscle, magic and monsters and quite a bit of blood.
Calin is a warrior mercenary who loves his women, and his ale. In fact he’s in the pub when he hears a tale of distant Pagzuire, where peoples’ hearts are being ripped from their chests by person or thing unknown. A local wizard on the island has spread the story far and wide in the hope of attracting a group of warriors to locate and destroy the culprit.
So off Calin goes to make his name and fortune, and getting to the island, he becomes one of a “Magnificent Seven” of hard-as-nails barbarians, determined to get to the bottom of the macabre mystery. However, despite a massive battle, all does not go well, and soon Calin has to look much further afield to find a partner –trainee magician Vlax – to help him on his quest.
At 39,000 words, this is the longest thing Strickland has yet published, and yet it effortlessly retains the fast-moving pace and down-to-earth characters of his short stories. OF MUSCLE AND MAGIC is compelling from the beginning, and action-packed. The battle concerning the seven mercenaries makes up quite a large scene in the middle of the book, and it moves with an almost breathless pace, with blood and gore, monsters and severed limbs everywhere. Take care not to break the buttons on your Kindle device from pressing them too fast. Then unexpectedly the story goes off in a different direction, as Calin searches for a young magician to help him; when he finds him, Vlax has big problems of his own!
I loved this story and read it in two exciting sittings. It has everything you would expect had you read any of the authors shorter work; larger-than-life yet down-to-earth characters, evil demons and massive great monsters; humour and sardonic wit, and a great story at its heart. I thought it read a bit like a cross between one of those fast Moorcock novels like THE RUNESTAFF, for its twisting story and fast pace, and the work of Clark Ashton Smith or Robert E Howard for its brilliant flurry of invention.
If you love fantasy fiction, especially the sort written by Howard, Leiber and Kuttner, then this is an excellent read, in fact it very much follows in the footsteps of those authors by being a self-contained and excellent short fantasy novel, instead of a massive never-ending and self-indulgent series of doorstops, like most modern fantasy. Hopefully, Mr Strickland will follow in Howard and Leibers footprints further by producing more stories of his heroes Calin and Vlax and their brilliantly-imagined demon-haunted world.
(review of free book)