Thursday, June 19, 2014

Kencyrath Madness, or a Foolish Promise

One of my favorite, and I'd add one of the best, fantasy novels in the past thirty-five years, is P.C. Hodgell's God Stalk (read my review at Black Gate), first in her Kencyrath series. Since it came out in 1983 I've read it half a dozen times or more. The sequel, Dark of the Moon (look for my BG review next week barring any disasters at my buddy's 50th Birthday Pig Roast this Saturday), I've read only a time or two less.

Hodgell is one of the unfairly recognized truly good authors toiling away in the fantasy Dark of the Moon in 1985 she didn't publish the next novel, Seeker's Mask, until 1995. After that she was silent until 2006 with To Ride a Rathorn.
fields. Aside from the hit-or-miss nature of any book's popularity, she fell off the scene for a while. After

From what she's written, it was a combination of an academic career, family obligations, and the unfortunate collapse of two publishers out from under her. Fortunately, since 2006, she's been writing like a fiend and moving the story forward.

Every time a new book's come out I've ordered it at once. But I haven't read four of
the seven novels yet. Everytime a new one comes out I've felt compelled to go back and start at the beginning. Hodgell's books are complex, filled with intricate relationships, and slathered with crazy invention and I want to be up to speed.

The latest book, The Sea of Time, just came in the mail this past Sunday. Putting it on the shelf and not knowing when I was going to read it ticked me off enough to start in at once on Dark of the Moon. Which made me promise myself to read the rest this summer. Once and for all, I'm going to get to the end of the books before anymore are published.

Now, I've got a bunch of things I have to read this summer. I've got a Sacred Band book to read and I've got to read Changa's Safari II before III is released. There's a pair of James Enge and Howard Andrew Jones books staring at me along. Then there're the books I'm still in the middle of reading. And I've got my aunt's house to clean out. Oh, well.

It's fascinating, and more than a tad depressing, to watch the changing covers over thirty years. The first, for God Stalk, is perfect. Dark, mysterious, and fantastically detailed. Things are bearable until the two Baen covers for Bound in Blood and Honor's Paradox. Hodgell's character is a flat-chested teenage girl, not some inflated pinup girl. Fortunately, the newest cover is much better, even if not perfect.


  1. Very cool news. I've never gotten into these, but I knew a few people who are Hodgell fanatics.

    And I'm in agreement over those two unfortunate covers. I like Clyde Caldwell and I'm really glad the guy is still getting work, but he was definitely NOT the artist for that subject matter. Those look like they belong back in the late '80s/early '90s with the rest of his D&D artwork.

  2. I love Baen books for so many reasons but pretty much never their cover art. I guess I could look at as maintaining a link to the genre's pulp roots in the face of the softeness of much of today's books, but I'd have to be in a really generous mood. Sheesh, Caldwell's art here is at best wildly inapporpriate.

  3. I happen to think you should try the Enge and the Jones first. I happen to think highly of James work (and James himself) and I'm sort of fond of Jones too. Or at least, my wife is. I'm pretty sure Dabir and Asim will be in your wheelhouse.