Praise from other N’erdowells
Alissa from Goodreads
Dear author and translator, you are evidently widely read. This is clearly a drug-induced story, full of quotes, gore and witty dialogues. Anyway, I have a penchant for poet-warriors and blood-drenched philosophers trading views on Universal Truths while perpetrating genocide.
“I wonder which dies first—your humor or your hope”
This novella is a prelude for a longer tale, it was fun and I want to see if the story is going somewhere at all.
A minotaur riding a pink-maned unicorn? Now. Phantasmagoria? Ah…
Right, the story: Scammander, the greatest wizard of all time, has allegedly forgot his magic and looks like he doesn’t know what he’s about (“but he had not forgotten how to lie, steal, and abandon his friends in a time of need”), then he meets Evander.
Evander is a Minotaur who sought suicide on his birthday and accidentally chose a bottomless well and landed on a couple of witches who were keeping the amnesiac sorcerer captive.
So begins Evander’s quest for death and Scammander’s education of yet another “errant scion” in the ways of murderdom and poetry. The unlikely heroes journey around an unspecified world trotting through magical gates on a merry killing spree (or on a vengeance mission; for the greater good Evander and some others concur there is no need to let humanity live a moment longer. Not sure about Scammander’s motives though).
There are flying ships, legendary minstrels, scantily-clad mature women warriors, ogres, goblins, wraiths, dragons…
“You can tell how vicious a society is by how tall its banks are.”
The writing is deliberately convoluted and rich, a pageant of rhetorical figures and smart lyricism, cynical remarks and searing-sharp verbal duels. I have a weakness for adverbs and the English language so this hits a soft spot indeed.
The tones are obviously sarcastic and dark and I enjoyed both the prose and the bizarre characters. Interspersed with the philosophizing, there are lots of splatter scenes as Evander hacks and slashes in his pursuit of Justice. The violence is graphic but so exaggerated that it’s not disturbing, but then I always appreciate a fair bloodbath.
The novella reads more like a series of disjointed encounters than something with an actual plot, not least of all that of Evander and Scammander, then around the end all the gamepieces fall into place and it seems there is a thread after all. The logic eluded me; I’ll see how the story unfolds in the second installment, maybe I’ll catch some answers (if any. Oh, and I was right about the drugs).
“A lot of good silence is ruined by speech”
L. E. Olteano, Butterfly-O-Meter Books
It’s been a while since I’ve basked in the intellectual pleasure of such a read. The novella is, in short, spectacular. Rich in gorgeously suggestive imagery, ingenious writing and incredible characters, the plot makes its lavish, sinuous way to a category of gorgeous all of its own. Fantastic creatures, fantastic worlds, fantastic wording. All around fantastic.
And I was sure it would be, just look at that cover, it’s magnificent! Not to mention the title, I mean, on the title alone, I could have given it a full 5 butterflies!!
Evander is a very intriguing, and charming character. His name makes me think of the French “evader”, or English “to evade”, or the Romanian “a evada” – see how all languages of the world are related? 🙂 -, while Scammander makes me think of the word “scam” a lot. Of course, Scammander, Evander’s companion on a fantastic journey, is a very important being, seeming to be deeply rooted in all worlds, no matter how fantastic they may be, and it is, after all, something of common sense for him to be the guide.
The writing style is the ornate, complex, delicious type; it demands attention, and you’ll need to seduce its meaning, to court it, to prove yourself before it will give itself to you. I will confess it’s a pleasure of mine to read such beauties now and then, to feel thoroughly seduced by its intensity and delectable layering of meaning and imagery; one could say this is a somewhat decadent read, in all intellectual manner. But what I loved about it above all else is that it stirs your mind, it inspires you to ponder, to reflect, to expand your horizons. Above all else, I feel literature has the sacred duty to elevate your spirit, your mind, your degree of knowledge. Entertainment will help you pass the time in a pleasurable way, but real essence, thick, sturdy essence that glides on wisps of imagination and creativity will enrich you.
If you like to taste from the forbidden fruit of beauty, then I say please, please do give this a try. I loved it, decadently.
“It is less dangerous to do evil to the majority of men than to do them too much good.” La Rochefoucauld
A failed suicide attempt unites the last living minotaur, Evander, with the eminent sorcerer and perfidious rake Scammander, who might have lost all of his magical knowledge or might have just stashed it elsewhere to make room for his biggest plot yet.
Bonded by suffering and a special antipathy for humanity, the two set out to do what all villains dream of: destroying the world, one civilization at a time.
Is there anyone who can stop them?
THE TENDER VALE OF UBIQUITOUS HAPPINESS AND HALCYON CONTENTMENT
“Most men do not make it to old age.”
I have never felt so happy in all my life. I swung the repeaters off my shoulder, and looked around to see why I felt so sanguine. We were in a fluorescent vale where the green grass was greener, the blue sky was bluer, and everything was bright and vivid. There were peacefully sloping knolls crowned with patches of wildflowers, and centaurs playing lyres to blushing fays. Here and there were small trees with bold brown bark, where birds were singing sweet lays. I carelessly turned to Scammander, who had an enormous grin on his face, his lips literally arched up to his ears. We both laughed and pointed at each other at the same time, and I realized that I too had the great grin. I tried to walk to him, and instead began to skip away towards a small, limpid pool beneath a tree. I looked back over my shoulder and saw him skipping behind me, full of cheer, only to turn away and start skipping in the opposite direction. But I didn’t care, I was happy.
Once at the shaded pool, I lay the crossbows in the grass and sat down under a tree, and with sweet and gentle thoughts, fell into a sleep full of lovely dreams. After a while, I awoke with a tickle on my nose, and as I opened my eyes I saw giggling sprites dart away. I rolled over in front of the pool and saw that they had tied some yellow lace to the tips of my horns, and a garland of roses, poppies, and mayflowers lay slanted across my brow, which the sprites had also made for me. Leaning on my elbow with my cheek resting in my palm, I wrote sweet sonnets in the cool lake water with my lazy finger, until I heard the most wonderful music. To my surprise, I rose up and frolicked out in the meadow towards a stampede of unicorns with pastel pink, yellow, orange, aqua, and lavender manes who were trailed not by dust, but by a dense cloud of shimmering, blue-white sparkles, some large, some small. Still grinning, I skipped towards them, swinging my arms up and down with each bound until I caught up with the mirthful mares, and then jumped on the back of the closest unicorn; at once I saw Scammander in the middle of the pack, giggling and clapping his hands with fetterless glee. I didn’t know what he was thinking, or if he was thinking at all. And I didn’t care! I was happy! I immediately started laughing and clapping my hands, and waving them about over my head with a joy that would make holiday fairies envious.
The unicorns ran towards a large rainbow in the middle of the meadow and charged up it, matching manes to the delightful ribbon of vivid colors. The sprawling, sparkling cloud began to take on the color of the stripe that the unicorns were running on, and a second rainbow began to appear over the first. I was riding a pink-maned unicorn galloping on a ribbon of tender pink at the edge of the rainbow, and as the unicorn’s hooves struck the band, a sweet shower of soft pink stars shot up around me; as they fell, it sounded like gentle winter ice hitting glass. Looking over the edge of the rainbow, I could see a splendid, iridescent cloud of shimmering stars slowly falling down below, and all of the centaurs and fairies clapping as they watched, some even dancing in the shower of lavender, aqua, pink, saffron, and yellow star-mist.
As we neared the top of the rainbow I flung the garland high over my head, then leaned in close to the unicorn and wrapped my hands around its neck. The unicorn’s horn faded from an opaque white to clear diamond, and then to a solid pink glow. Then blocks of color moved up its horn, and traveled up the curves, culminating in bright, rapid staccato flashes of color right when we reached the rainbow’s peak. To my amazement, the unicorns began to sprint across the rainbow’s stripes as we raced down it, bringing our pack from one edge to the other, while other unicorns galloped across our path to the opposite side. I could hear sighs and cheers below as the cloud of opulent colors swirled together above us, producing a delicate tune which faded as the stars slowly cascaded towards the spectators below.
At the end of the rainbow was a large field of wildflowers full of sweet perfumes. The unicorns slowed to a trot and then stopped to graze among the flowers. Even as they ate, the petals grew back instantly. I slid off the unicorn’s back and fell into the soft bed; I could hear Scammander rolling around and laughing in the flowerbed, totally oblivious and sanguine. Lying on my back in the flowers, I saw him seated on top of a small knoll: the King of the Unicorns. I became even happier, and threw soft petals of pink and blue into the air; as they flickered down around my face, Scammander appeared and pulled me to my feet. He untied the ribbons from my horns and skipped around me, waving them in the air.
“The King of the Unicorns is coming to see us!” he exclaimed. We laughed and jumped up and down, then turned and looked up the hill.
He was a heap of marble muscles, the body of a man, the head of a great mare with a brilliant blue mane. He sat on a deep throne, glowering, head held low, with arms stretched out on each arm of the old wooden chair. Carved into the back of the throne was the vale’s motto, “Do not mar a happy day with the clouds of thought.” But it looked like he had been doing a great deal of thinking. Next to the brooding king, was a great blade jutting out of the hill.
“Still you will not say it? That I am your Quillian?” he shouted. When Scammander said nothing, Quillian snorted. He rose up slowly, pulled the sword out of the hill, and ambulated evenly towards Scammander.
“You perfidious maverick, my false-sire, who in tenebrous affair, laid with a sensuous sprite in this agreeable vale to the huge disconsoly of planes, plans, and worlds. You would not call me son, so the world calls me bastard.”
“I am ashamed of that which I bring forth,” said Scammander, letting the little yellow ribbons fall from his hands.
The breeze tussled Qullian’s azure mane, blowing it about his neck and across his eyes; the long pale blue ribbon tied to his arm waved listlessly in the ubiquitous tedium of the vale. Pale moonfire sporadically whipped up the alabaster blade, causing the runes etched in the middle to flash in a crisp blue light. Scammander didn’t move. In one elegant swing, Quillian spun around and brought the blade up through Scammander’s middle and out of his head; instead of a blood bath, there was a spray of wildflowers and pleasing music.
I swung one repeater off my shoulder, aimed, and almost shot myself in the stomach. He strode towards me and I tried to uppercut him, but my own fist slammed into my face; I bounced back and shook my head, then leaned in with a deep swing that curled right into my snout—instead of wildflowers, blood roared out of my face. Quillian grabbed the top of my snout with one hand and bludgeoned it with the other. First skin was broken, then fur was peeled off, then bone was busted, then nerves, then there was nothing left. With his left hand he dug into the mush of my face then brought his right fist crashing down between my eyes. I sprawled on the ground as loose limbs and mangled machinations, then balled up and rolled away—the way I wanted to. The rules were changing.
I fell to the ground to die in a peaceful vale, and stood up to live in a furious storm. The clam blue sky was sable and tumultuous, and the vale was full of cyclones and lighting. Quillian was rushing towards me through the rain as an ebony cloud of crows blasted around him and engulfed me in squawks. I threw my hands around my head and staggered backwards as they pecked my fur off. All small pecks perhaps, but together a great bite. I slipped on grass slick with my own blood and swatted a few birds with wild flailings; they sped off into the night, but as they cleared something darker appeared: Quillian. His azure mane was now purple, and his skin was now a bold ebony. It was hard to see his punches in the dark, but it was easy to feel them.
I would have stood up on my own, but Quillian picked me up by the throat.
“In my own vale? You think you can kill me in my own vale?” he said in a searing whisper as the rain poured down around us.
“Scammander’s,” I gasped. His grip tightened.
“Can you read the runes of my sword? They say, ‘Kill the Father and be Free.’ An old dragoness left it in my care; now I will rule this vale, not the elves. She said it was crafted the day I was born! How lucky am I!”
“What’s with all the speeches?” I moaned. I could barely see in the dark and with all the blood in my eyes. What I could see was a serrated obsidian blade with no markings, surrounded by a soft purple glow. “Looks like the gift was cursed.” I slowly lifted my trembling hand up to his throat, but he smacked my hand away and dropped the sword.
“A nightmare? I’m…a nightmare?” he said, bewildered.
Before he could begin another turgid speech, I grabbed his wrist with both hands and swung my feet into his chest. He lurched away with a surprised whimper and I fell to the ground once more, gasping for breath in the pouring rain. Every drop stung as it fell on what was left of my face.
A dismayed centaur galloped over me, then paused and threw both hands on his face. He looked left, then right, started towards the left, then shook his head and fled off in the opposite direction, disappearing behind the sheets of slanting rain.
I took a deep breath, then rose up and rushed Quillian. He was still wheezing when I grabbed his horn and jerked his head down as my knee rushed up into his face. When I heard the pop and grunt and saw something spill across my thigh, I knew it wasn’t just my blood on the ground anymore. I pushed him away and spat on his face, then began looking for the repeater I dropped. Instead I saw the obsidian sword spinning through the night towards my ankles. I tried to jump over the blade, but it curved up into me at the last second, slicing my outer thigh and sweeping me off my feet.
My eyes were suddenly filled with phantasmagoria of women and children crying in their sleep, pulling out their hair, and thrashing in their beds while my ears were stinging with their shrieks and screams. I shut my eyes, but the specters and screams only became more vivid. My leg was going numb, and I began to shiver and convulse. A flash of lightning lit up the vale, and I looked down and saw a giant glistening artery spraying and whipping about in the rain, like an angry hydra trying to twist out of my thigh.
As visions, screams, wind, and rain swirled around my head, I decided that Scammander really was the best friend one could ever have, for he was going to get me killed.
Quillian again appeared over me as the visions and screams faded, but didn’t disappear. One of his eyes was twitching and watering, and blood and rainwater trailed out of his maw. I raised one arm, using the other to hold my leg: “If you’re preparing for another speech, you’re going to have to pick me up. I can’t hear anything from down here with all the women and children screaming in my head.” I was getting colder, and the sound of my teeth chattering was now louder than the screams.
Quillian again picked me up by the neck, but this time not to talk. His eyes narrowed and he growled as he hurled me down to the ground, hand never releasing my neck. Dirt and grass blades and large chunks of turf heaved out of the earth as my neck rocked forward and twisted against Quillian’s palm, while my tongue and teeth and breath heaved out of my head. Existence became thin, and for a moment I had more in common with what was, than with what is. He crouched on one knee, grabbed the blade, then rose calmly and stood over me, slowly twirling the sword in his hand. Looking down with victorious, lacerating spite, he spoke:
“I want you to see you, as I saw you when I first looked at you: pathetic.” It was then that I realized I was dealing with a poet.
“You know what’s worse than being a bastard? Not even being able to write original lines.” I swallowed and gasped and continued. “But I guess that’s why you are a bastard, isn’t it?” He couldn’t take it, but it was all it took for me to take what I needed—his life. I leapt up, dizzy with death, and saw fifty Quillians, so I shot all of them. Slender halcyon arrows darted towards each mare, landing in their bodies. Each Quillian dropped his sword, howled, and arched his back and twisted his fingers with agony. As soon as I landed in the grass I sprang up again, staggered over to Quillian, and squeezed and squeezed and squeezed.
This time there was only one horse, but it had fifty arrows in its face.
“Tell me what you see now.”