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All titles on this website feature GLBT characters and situations. If you will be offended, please read no further. By further exploring this site, you agree that you are of age in your part of the world, and are fully aware of the content of books and art displayed here. All images on this site are copyright. Site contents © DreamCraft, 2011
The Lords of Harbendane

Two delicious heroes � a kingdom in peril � the treachery of savage neighbors � barbarian tribes simmering in the frozen north. It�s the recipe for the most popular Mel Keegan fantasy since The Swordsman.

Rogan Dahl is an islander, sent as a child to Harbendane as a hostage to ensure peace in the south. He grew up as a Harbendaner, blooded in their battles, commanding their elite cavalry regiment. And in a time of desperate need it�s Rogan who travels east, across enemy lines, to secure the magicks and the services of the great shaman, Amadeus. There, in the ancient lands of the Sheldin, he meets a young scholar.

Tristan Carlin was warrior trained but the injuries suffered in his first battle ended his career with the Sheldin regiments. He was from a poor clan, but his family sent him to be educated as a scribe, and he�s still a teacher when he meets Rogan in a village infamous for its thievery.

The young man has a grim problem, and in Rogan he sees an itinerant warrior � perhaps a sword for hire? Tristan cannot yet know the truth, but since Rogan at once owes him a favour, he takes Tristan�s commission. The road leads him to the fortress of Galshorros, where Amadeus has worked for years -- and into both unexpected peril and a sizzling, illicit love affair which is as dangerous as any threat the barbarians can raise.

For Rogan and Tristan, the following weeks are a turmoil of desire, danger and the preparations for a battle to be fought in the most unforgiving territory. Duty takes them north to the frontier, where savage tribes harass the Harbendane regiments, battle is bitter � and yet love, against the odds, flourishes like a wild rose in winter.

Their story reaches a massive culmination on the peaks of the fortified city where Rogan grew to manhood, and where the threads of this broad tapestry come together in a ravel of swordsteel and magic, ambition and vengeance � and the love that won out against the odds.

There are seasons for peace and seasons for war. This is a season for sheer survival.

Rogan Dahl and Tristan Carlin meet by chance on a rainy night, and are soon caught up in the storm of events leading to the greatest battlefield of their time. Their accidental encounter is the pivot-point around which the future revolves, for the great land of Harbendane � and for their own lives.

The fortified city of Althea is treasured as the living, beating heart of Harbendane ... and the plans have been meticulously drawn for its downfall. The wild, savage tribes of the far north are in league with the cruel, ambitious warlord of Galshorros, and Althea lies almost undefended before massed armies.

In the midst of this, Rogan and Tristan are caught up in an illicit love affair that could be death for them both.

Read the first 10% of this novel right here, in PDF format

(Caveat: material in this free sample is not suitable for juniors. Consider yourself warned!)

Novel length: 145,0000 words
Rated: R (18+; sex, violence, language)
ISBN: 978-0-9758080-9-2
Publication date: November, 2008
Publisher: DreamCraft
Price: $9.99 - ebook
Cover: Jade

FORMATS: Kindle, epub, PDF, STANZA for iPhone etc., and paperback

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Very seldom do I review a novel, because very seldom does one read one that is genuinely worthy of a review -- and I don't mean that as any slur on modern fiction, or gay fiction. But today such reams of fiction are being published (or more properly. e-published) every day that one could only review 2% of what one reads, which in all probability would represent less than .01% of the overall outpouring of e-literature. In other words, it's the rare, rare book which falls into the top 5% of one's reading, and merits the review! And suffice to say, THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE is one of these few.

This is not the first Mel Keegan novel I have read, but it's the first in a long while. I read some of the paperbacks in the 1990s, produced by a small British publisher, and at the time I might have been impressed by the quality of Keegan's writing, but I was equally under-impressed by the quality of the publication as a whole. The Gay Men's Press seemed to bear some allergic aversion to proofreading, and they had an uncanny knack for placing jackets around very adult literature which would have been more fitting on juvenile fiction whose target marketplace was the 12 - 15 readership. Therefore, I must admit that I borrowed the old paperbacks from a friend, and never did buy copies.

How wonderful, then, to discover the current reissues of the old works, along with a great many new ones, all of which are produced to far higher standards that we've seen before. Imagine! Covers which reflect the true nature of the books, and publication qualities which are, with very rare exception, quite the equivalent of the standards one has come to expect of the mainstream.

THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE is the first Mel Keegan fantasy it's been my pleasure to read. Surfing the lists at Kindle, I was surprised and delighted to find Keegan there ... my blushing confession would be that I haven't even thought of the dear man's name in over a decade. Imagine my further delight to see that he broke free of GMP, found a publisher without some odd aversion to proofreading, and an art editor with a far greater eye for the complementary cover!

Here is a novel which succeeds on so many levels. To begin with, it is a full novel, rather than the modern-day work, which tends to be thin indeed, corresponding to the brief SF and fantasy pulp paperbacks of the 1960s, and perhaps shorter still. HARBENDANE is a major work which, in pocket-size paperback, would surely be around 400pp. In other words, a work into which one can sink the teeth, submerge oneself and enjoy for a time somewhat longer than a train or bus ride.

Mr. Keegan has an exceptional eye for detail, for the creation of characters, scenarios and plots. After reading several of the other reader reviews appearing on the internet, I know I'm very far indeed from alone in saying that one rarely reads stories which are as finely-wrought as THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE, with such depth of background lavished upon even the most peripheral of character.

For myself, I derive one more pleasure from this work. My personal backgrounding is in literature and theatre, and I suppose I notice more than other readers when characters speak in their own distinct voices. With Keegan's dialogue, one can quite literally hear it as if it were performed by voice artists. Such a joy.

The plot of THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE is at once straightforward and convoluted, in that it begins simply before the details and twists begin to weave themselves into a tapestry of pre-Raphaelite complexity; yet the reader is introduced to each new complication in the lives of the protagonists with such alacrity that it's only as the final page is turned that he or she realizes, looking back over the book, how intricate it all became.

The heroes in this instance are Rogan and Tristan, who remind me a little of Dermot and Robin, in FORTUNES OF WAR -- though the similarities are entirely superficial. Like Dermot, Rogan is a soldier, big, tough, and from foreign fields. Like Robin, Tristan is a scholar, smaller physically and imprisoned in a domestic situation that is far from desirable. There, the similarity ends, for these characters in HARDEBDANE are indeed unique, and the scenario of this fantasy is very different from anything I've ever read � and in the last three decades I�ve read a great deal of fantasy.

You don't need a blow by blow synopsis of the plot from me here, so I'll focus on the themes. Two young men blunder into each other, and everything in the world seems set against them building any kind of life together ... a kingdom is at war with its savage neighbours, vastly outnumbered and in horrific peril. Set against these two frames, the tale of Tristan and Rogan, and the unfolding history of the land of Harbendane, are seamlessly interwoven. Without spoiling the ending for you, I can a least assure you, it all works out very nicely indeed. This is an outstanding novel, which says much when one has come to expect a lot from the author, following such novels as FORTUNES AND WAR, which I borrowed and devoured in the old paperback form, fifteen or so years ago.

And now, I'm going back to Amazon Kindle, and I'll be reading THE SWORDSMAN this evening! From the reviews one sees of the story of Jack and Sebastian, I think I have another great pleasure in store!

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