Flashback Friday is something I’ve been doing here at Bookwraiths for a while now; a time when I can post my thoughts about books and graphic novels that I’ve read in the past and never gotten around to reviewing. With the hectic schedule of day to day life and trying to review new books, I never seem to find the time to give these old favorites the spotlight that they deserve. But with a day all to themselves, there is no reason I can’t revisit them, so let’s take a look at The Lords of Dus!
There are always a few excellent fantasy series that slip through the cracks. Novels that are loved by their fans but ignored by everyone else. Unfortunately, Lawrence Watt-Evans has been the writer of more than a few of those type of books: The Lords of Dus being one of his finest stories and one of the most overlooked.
In this classic fantasy series, the protagonist is a prince of the Overmen of the Northern Waste. (The Overmen being a race of cat-like creatures magically bred by wizards in the past, but who now live on the fringes of civilization.) Naturally, Garth (the name of our hero) is on his way to consult an oracle: the Wise Women of Ordunin. The knowledge Garth seeks: A way “to be remembered until the end of time.” And, as oracles always seem to do, she forthwith dispatches her suppliant into the world, specifically to the city of Skelleth, where he is to complete a quest for the Forgotten King: a mysterious Sorcerer-Lord in exile.
Like sophisticated fantasy readers have, no doubt, already guessed (but something that Garth doesn’t seem to grasp) getting what one asks for sometimes leads to unexpected consequences and unenviable outcomes. And so, the simple quest our hero undertakes for eternal renown immediately turns into a nightmare of treachery, ancient secrets, and forbidden knowledge. Each triumph by Garth having unlooked-for ramifications that lead him down ever darker paths toward even more dangerous circumstances, which he is decidedly not prepared, or equipped, to handle, but which make for quite an adventure.
As fans of Watt-Evans already know, he writes some well-thought out, deftly crafted, and entertaining stories. In Dus, he is on top of his game, handling a sword-and-sorcery tale reminiscent of Moorcock’s Tales of the Eternal Champion, but adding to the action three-dimensional characters who act realistically in their circumstances, making them easy to identify with and have empathy for. Garth, for instance, struggles to be viewed as a “good guy” by humans (He is a chivalrous Overman!) but constantly does things that his human counterparts view as “bad,” because his races idea of “good” and “bad” is different than humans. Added to that, his adventures change Garth’s attitude about most things, causing him to be a different person by series end. These narrative strengths coupled with the nicely fashioned and fully realized world really sets this series apart as one of the authors best works.
Simply put, The Lords of Dus is an excellent fantasy novel that more people should appreciate. I adored it as a teenager and have re-read it on one occasion since becoming an adult. While my mature brain didn’t “love” it as much as my immature one did, it was still a very good series. So pick it up and be the first person in your book club to discover this classic fantasy gem.