Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Vestments of Pestilence - John C. Hocking

"Vestments of Pestilence" is a new sword-and-sorcery story by John C. Hocking, author of CONAN AND THE EMERALD LOTUS, and what an absolute joy it is to read (which you can do right here, in fact). This story is part of a series about a character known to the reader only as The Archivist, who is sent by the archive for which he works to investigate and/or recover various artifacts found in the more uncivilized parts of the world where he lives. Accompanying him on these adventures is his bodyguard and companion, the female soldier Lucella.

In this particular yarn, The Archivist and Lucella have returned to civilization only to find themselves immediately drawn into a clash between two members of the royal family, a brother and sister who are bitter rivals and who have tried to kill each other in the recent past. The princess coerces The Archivist and Lucella into helping her get her hands on an artifact from the old Southron civilization that may contain sorcerous power.

Of course, with a street gang, an oily "astrographer", a sinister tower, and a plague demon in the mix, things don't really go all that smoothly, and The Archivist and Lucella will need all the brains, cold steel, and courage they can muster to survive.

The plot of this story is traditional sword-and-sorcery, but the prose is pure hardboiled action writing of the best sort, reminiscent of, yes, Robert E. Howard and the fantasy novels written by Ben Haas under the names Richard Meade and Quinn Reade. I'm sure most of you knew I was going there, but dang it, it's true. Hocking is that good. There are touches of humor as well, and The Archivist and Lucella are very appealing characters. I really hope that eventually Hocking will put together a collection of this and the other stories about this duo, because I'm eager to read them.

For now, if you haven't already you should head over to the Black Gate website and read "Vestments of Pestilence". If you're a fan of action-packed heroic fantasy, I guarantee you'll be entertained. 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Many thanks, James.
Visible or not, a lot of work went into that tale.
I’m gratified you enjoyed it.

John

Richard said...

I don't drop into the BG website very often since they seem to have stopped publishing the magazine (my subscription still has two issues to go...). This a great story, thanks for the tip.