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Jack Leigh is a soldier of fortune, far from home. He's a brilliant "sword for hire," but in the dangerous Riverlands dukedom of Rhondia he gets more than he bargained for...
Treachery, treason and dark magic form swirling, powerful undercurrents in Rhondia. Along the canals and in the menacing heart of Nimmenwald forest lurk unimaginable threats -- the bo'zhe, the Lappai, barbarians from Saihabara and the unknowable forces out of Nimmenwald Deep itself.
At the crux of the vortex of magic and treachery is the heir to Rhondia, Michael Sebastian -- "Seb" -- d'Astaghir. Haughty, moody ... haunted by the goblins of memory, Seb is in terrible jeopardy. It's only by luck that his old friend, old lover, Luc Redmayne, happens upon a streetfight in a tavern yard, and a "hired sword" enters the fortress of Rhondia as Seb's bodyguard.
With the fresh eyes of an "outlander," the shrewdness of a soldier of fortune from Yulminster, and the help of a young gypsy shaman, Jack Leigh uncovers the pitch-black, treasonous magic which is simmering just beneath the surface of Rhondia.
And when Jack, Seb, Luc and gypsy, Janos Zaparasti, finally lay their hands on the Basilisk ring, the symbol of the great houses of Rhondia, they unleash the very forces they have feared.
From page one, it's mystery, action, gay romance -- and more than a dash of the sensual in this new, and entirely original fantasy novel.
Read the first 10% of this novel right here, in PDF format
Novel length: 145,0000 words
Rated: R (18+; sex, violence, language)
ISBN 0-9750884-6-7 Publication date: April 2004
Price: $9.99 - ebook
REVIEWED BY HD
First Email: I really loved that book! The creativity of just the bo'zhe is wonderful! Everyone does werewolves - but intelligent, immortal wolves who turn into men at the full moon (weremen?) are brilliant. So is having them be so gorgeous that the beauty is a major weapon. Just one element, but as polished as a jewel. The koboldae and koboldlichen are the same - a unique twist on the traditional elves and trolls. I REALLY want to find out what happens next!
Second Email: Just finished reading Swordsman for the second time, cover to cover. I KNEW Mel's fantasy would be great. It gives the author so much freedom when he can make ALL the rules. Absolutely the only thing wrong with it is that you haven't announced that the sequel is in pre-print, or even better: ready to ship! I had another tired day at work the night after it came in the mail - I read til 1 am to finish it. The world building was just as tight and seamless as Mel's SciFi and historicals, and the magic both believable and consistent. So often the weakest point in a good fantasy is the magic system - it either has so many holes you can't go with it, or it takes over and the people and plot are just a way to show off the author's cleverness. Not with Mel! His characters and their romances are always the most special part of the books. They're real people, and it's impossible not to become totally involved with them. Jack Leigh (Congratulations again on modeling for the cover) is full of surprises right to the end. He ties the whole thing together, but in spite of being more than strong enough to dominate most books it doesn't happen. Seb won't let it, and Janos comes very close to stealing center stage right out from under the both of them. Luc has a quieter role, but anyone who can match Janos (and he does!) can hold his own in any company. The only problem is that the book ends. I want to know what happens next! I see at least three more books just with Seb and Jack, and if I can see that, who knows what Mel can do? Not to mention Janos and Luc's stories. I REALLY want to know where Janos is headed. I know Scorpio is coming out in July (yes! More Narc!) and Cry Liberty and a heavy schedule after it, but please tell me Mel's at least thinking about a sequel to Swordsman. Please? And I've got to tell you, after this taste of Mel's fantasy, I can't wait for more. When's Harbindane due out again?
REVIEWED BY BW
this is the best mel keegan book i have read so far! which is a feat in and of itself becouse i love them all .the main characters jack and seb are both gripping and compelling , the world is well fleshed out ,and the secondary characters in the novel are just as richly fleshed out as the title characters . if you like a little magic in your story its here, but not in such massive amounts as to be overwhelming . with plenty of action and of course sword fights . with of course a little romance .its one of those books you cant put down until its finished ,and i sorely hope there is a sequel( i hope mel reads this line) lol haveing had a taste of a mel keegan fantasy ilove the bit of magic thrown in for spice i cant wait until he publishes more works like this if you get no other novel this is the one you must have !
REVIEWED BY Gene/Jean
I hope you good people at DreamCraft will pass along a message for me, to the desk of Mr. Keegan. Just tell him, I shall scream if he doesn't write the follow-up novel(s?) to this book, and get it done some time time millennium!!! Don't believe I ever latched onto a set of characters as fast as I did to these. There's somthing about Seb and Janos and Luc, not to mention Jack ... I want to use the word 'timeless,' but it's gotten to be a hackneyed phrase, and in any case, it ain't what I mean. The characters are so real. You can actually feel Seb's aches and pains ... you can feel Janos' hair running through your fingers. I think, of all MK's works to date, this book is the one that 'does it for me' the most. Don't get me wrong: I love Jarrat and Stone as much as the next reader, and if I feel in the mood for historicals, it's usually THE DECEIVERS I reach for (good God, it was so realistic, I felt seasick in patches of the narrative! You'd think MK grew up on a ship. He, uh, didn't did he...?). But the whole concept of the Riverland and the gypsies and the shamanic magic and the glorious werewolves/werepeople and the 'middle ages' type of civilization and the swordsman himself ... woah. I think I have to stop right here and go read the book again. Just tell MK: if he doesn't write the follow-ups soon, I'll be a nervous wreck!!
MEL KEEGAN COMMENTS ON THE SWORDSMAN
As a long-time fantasy reader, I reach this point in my association with DreamCraft with great joy. Finally! The day has arrived when one of my fantasy worlds is going into print. It was always something of a sore spot, that GMP (which was in its day the leading gay publisher in Europe, with, at one point, over 250 books on its list and 26 new titles per year being issued) had no space for fantasy fiction. Fantasy has been popular for decades, and for as long as I've been writing gay novels, I've wanted to explore gay dimensions in fantasy realms.
I'm indebted to DreamCraft for giving me this opportunity ... I'm also even more indebted to the readers who have found us and stayed with us during the first eighteen months of this creative partnership. Stay with us a while longer, guys: there are some surprises around the corner.
DESIGNING A FATASY WORLD, or ... What, research for a fantasy novel?
Absolutely. One of the most difficult things about fantasy is the "mortar" between the bricks: that is, the stuff sticking the whole thing together! The adhesive is (if this doesn't sound "too Irish" for you) a faux reality that must be rock-solid, or the fantasy will soon fall apart.
For THE SWORDSMAN, HARBINDANE, MYTHGAARD and other fantasy fiction you'll be seeing in the years to come, I was able to do one body of research and apply it to several novels. And fortunately, most of the research was done around ten years ago, when the original versions of these novels were produced. Not a one was published at the time. GMP were not interested in fantasy at all; Alyson had done WORLDS APART and the anthology, SWORDS OF THE RAINBOW, without much success ... I saw a comment (might have been on Amazon.com; it was certainly on the Web, though I confess, I don't recall exactly where!) that Alyson didn't promote SWORDS OF THE RAINBOW much, if at all. I had a story in that one, and if the book had gone well, I was going to offer Alyson a fantasy novel. However, the anthology passed by without critical interest and apparantly without generating outstanding sales: in retrospect, unsurprising if there was no promotion. At the time, I was left wondering if David Fernbach at GMP might not be right, and though fantasy was popular out yonder in the general marketplace, gay fantasy fiction was a "non-starter." So I never even offered Alyson a novel. The late 1990s were way too busy for me on a personal level to even think about chasing down a new publisher (it's not as easy as many readers think!) and of course I entered discussions with DreamCraft in 2001.
But I digress! Research...
Put yourself back to a time before electricity, before steam. Think through the mechanism of how a city has to work. Lines of communication, routes of trade. Where is agriculture taking place, and how? What's the climate like in this particular region? Is the climate changing? What pressure does the climate, and change of climate, force onto people? And if the climate is changing locally ... say, getting colder ... how does this affect people living five hundred miles closer to the pole? And vice versa?
In fact, the world's climate is constantly changing; we know this now, for a fact, and many of the patterns of human history are driven by it. Before the concreting-in of national borders, history is full of migrations. People have found themselves in the same "flush-crash" cycles as voles and owls, foxes and rabbits. So where you have trackless wastes (as my novel does), and where you have a people who can chart their history over five centuries or more, you could put money on this: bodies of people will be on the move, and it's going to come to armed conflict sooner or later, as the "haves" fight to hang onto their land, food and water.
So I looked at prehistoric agriculture, hunter-gatherer communities, and got some questions asked. Here was a good one: How far can a horse run in a day, and be asked to do it, every day, week in, week out? I had other questions about the temperatures needed to forge decent quality steel (what can primtives in the field do, on the run?) ... and how much land area does it take to feed one family? How many families make a workable gene-pool � which is to say, a viable city that'll actually grow over five hundred years, not stagnate and perish.
If you apply this kind of thinking and do a bit of research, your worlds start to build themselves, like a kind of "SIM Middle Earth." You also catch a glimpse of some apparent oddities in LORD OF THE RINGS ... and I *do* know, JRR Tolkein was a linguist, not a "hard" scientist; he built his incredible fantasy world as a "lingual progression," and he did it in the last decades pre-dating our understanding of climatic shift, so (before anyone assaults me for this!), I'm *not* being critical here, just curious! To the best of my knowledge, the climate hasn't changed over 3500 years in Middle Earth. Lands were devastated by war, but the land itself seems to be eternal ... which in fact it wouldn't be, if Middle Earth is a period in the history of our own world, perhaps 5000 years before the hypothetical fall of Atlantis (the time of Robert Howard's Hyborean Age). The other thing that strikes me as a bit of an odditiy (and I'm sure Tolkein had his reasons) in LOTR is, over 3500 years there's been no advance in technology. Humans and elves fought Sauron in the first War of the Ring, and they're fighting the Dark Lord again with the same weapons, thirty-five centuries later, rather than Mount Doom going down under a brace of MERV Warheads as soon as the shadow began to extend out of Mordor once more. Again, I'm not being critical, merely observant. As I've said, I'm sure Tolkein had his reasons; they may well be buried somewhere in the depths of The Silmarillion. I've read a lot of it, but I have to confess, not all: I'm just a casual reader, not a Tolkein scholar. As I said, it makes me curious.
So, for the opus of fantasies I was working on a decade ago and which are about to go into print at last, I ran through these thinking processes and built my worlds with a lot of attention to the conclusions. I needed a lot of information to feed into the grinder to get my conclusions, and hence ... research, even (or especially) for a fantasy!
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