Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Review: Kothar of the Magic Sword

After reading the first of the Kothar novels over the period of three days, reading the second novel took even less time. At 154 swiftly-read pages, I was able to get through Kothar of the Magic Sword in just a couple of hours Monday. This review'll be a bit shorter than the previous column, as much of the feel of this book is the same as the previous novel.

Moving on...

Kothar of the Magic Sword, although a "novel", is two distinct stories, even though they are intertwined. The book begins with Kothar and the thief Rufflod swimming up to board the pleasure-galley of the Emperor Kyros of Avalonia in the city of Romm. The two are there to steal the Helix, a magical artefact of immense power. The Helix serves as both the gateway to a magical pleasure world, known as Nirvalla, as well as the nexus of Nirvalla's power. It serves both as the entrance way, and the key to the world's existence. He who controls the Helix, controls both travel to Nirvalla, as well as the fate of that world itself.

What follows is much trial and adventure, both mundane and magical. Kothar must chase Kyros into Nirvalla and gain back his sword Frostfire, taken from him when Kyros' guards captured him during the theft. Beyond this, Kothar must battle gladiatorial bears, giant eagles, Kyros' guards, and discover the rules and secrets of the enchanted pleasure-world, where breaking one of the rules can be as deadly as any sword thrust. Eventually, Kothar secures his sword, and of course, saves the girl, a lithe and lovely young Oasian dancer named Laella.

The second half of the book sees Kothar sending Laella away after Red Lori sends assassins after him. Soon after, Kothar becomes embroiled in a twisted plot of revenge Red Lori has sprung on him, involving an evil cult that practices human sacrifice, demonic possession, magic, and a horde of raiding Mongrols (yes, that's right - Mongrols). In this second half of the book, Kothar also acquires his powerful horn bow, once owned by the mighty Krangor of Abathor. Kothar will go on to use this bow in the rest of the series, along with Frostfire.

Without giving too much away, Kothar finds himself in the company of Red Lori once more, as they battle the Mongrol raiders and ally themselves with an ancient and vengeful god. I won't spoil the ending; suffice to say that it might be a little unexpected, and definitely leaves the reader with a few questions (in a good way). At the end of the novel, however, Kothar does once again find himself on his own again, without treasure but in search of more adventure.

One thing of particular note, is that this is the only Kothar novel that is illustrated. There are four one-page black and white illustrations in this book, which is pretty cool given that it is, to be honest, a trashy little pulp fantasy novel. Funnily enough, not a single one of these illustrations has anything to do with, not only what's going on around them, but anything at all to do with the book in its entirely.

Oh, and one other thing. Kothar gets lucky with not one, but two ladies in this book. All very PG depictions, of course, but they're not just kiss-and-cuddle relationships. I guess after all the coitus interruptus that went on in the previous novel, our boy needed a little play.

Interesting note: the cover image above shows the book as being published by Belmont, but mine is published by Modern. Same cover, however.

5 comments:

Brian Murphy said...

Thanks for the reviews. I have an old copy of Kothar and the Wizard Slayer that I've never read. It's one of those books in my "to be read" pile that I never seem to get around to. I'll be interested in your review when you get to that one.

mhensley said...

I was lucky enough to find a copy of this at the used bookstore last week and found it be an amusing enough read. What's the deal with his magic sword that doesn't seem to do anything special at all?

Badelaire said...

@mhensley:

I know what you mean. In the first book, when he gets the sword, Afgorkon tells him that it was "forged by magic", and that while he didn't think it was inherently magical, it might have absorbed some vestiges of magic over time.

I guess the best way to look at it is that in "D&D terms", it wouldn't be a Sword +1, but it might have a non-magical +1 to hit and damage.

However, there are times when Frostfire seems to have magical properties. At one point in KBS he fights a giant spider, and its webs won't stick to Frostfire, so he can cut through them. In another adventure, a sorceress inscribes magical symbols on Frostfire, to give it (temporary) magical power.

Long story short, I think Frostfire is "magical" only when Fox wants it to be. Otherwise, it's just a really finely crafted sword.

mhensley said...

Oh yeah, I'm surprised you glossed over the fact that in one scene, Kothar fights a bear - with his bare hands - while manacled - WITH A NAKED CHICK STRAPPED TO HIS BACK! Now that is made of pure win!

Badelaire said...

@mhensley:

And then he goes on to shag her rotten, while the bear gets to rip a bunch of people into bloody rags (because Kothar, a benevolent barbarian, knows the bear is just being used, and he should show it mercy).

Ridiculous? Yes. Awesome? You know it.