Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tragon of Ramura - John M. Whalen

John M. Whalen’s new novel TRAGON OF RAMURA is a sword-and-sorcery adventure in the classic mold, set in a world that seems an alternate history approximation of our own. The protagonist Tragon has been framed for the murder of his king and is already on the run when this yarn begins, having fallen in with the crew of the ship Orion. But he has sworn that someday he’ll return to his home of Ramura and overthrow the sorcerer Caldec, who is responsible for all the evil that plagues the country as well as for framing Tragon.

While in a dangerous port city, Tragon encounters an old soldier/mentor of his named Darius who has fallen on drunken hard times. When Tragon and his companions on the Orion are hired to travel to a lost city and rescue the daughter of their client, Tragon decides to sober up Darius and take him along.

The man who hires them has been to the lost city of Caiphar before, in search of a mystical gem called the Crimson Eye. His daughter was captured during this trip, and he barely got away. Now he has to return and rescue her before the time rolls around for a ritual in which the city’s evil king will take her as his wife. And of course, stealing the Crimson Eye is still on the table as well, so in addition to hiring Tragon and his crew, the man also brings along a group of hardened mercenaries.

Of course, the whole thing winds up being complicated by double crosses, traps, monsters, immortal evil, a tower full of dead souls, and a beautiful high priestess who may or may not be trustworthy. There are a lot of influences in this book: Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, THE DIRTY DOZEN . . . and plenty of Whalen’s own talent, as he spins a fast-moving yarn with interesting characters, a lot of well-written action, and some surprisingly poignant moments. There’s enough back-story left unresolved for a number of sequels, too, although this novel is quite satisfying on its own.

I’ve written many times before about what I call front porch books, the sort of thing I read sitting on the front porch of my parents’ house on long summer days when I was a kid. TRAGON OF RAMURA, although it’s brand new, is that same sort of pure pleasure, so I’m naming it an honorary Front Porch Book and recommending it if you’re a fan of sword and sorcery action.

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