Monday, October 24, 2016

Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser by Joe Bonadonna

Mad Shadows, The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, is a collection of short stories, told in chronogical order, of the adventurer Dorgo. He is known as a Dowser for the stick he carries.

In short, if you're looking for a mix of "old school" fantasy writing with a dash of noir thrown in, Mad Shadows is a great fit for you. While I was reading through it, I kept thinking how sword and sorcery it was, without being a Conan pastiche.

After I had finished, looking over the afterword, it was cinched. The author is a fan of other authors like Raymond Chandler and David C Smith. The latter might be unknown to audiences of 2016, but when I was growing up, he wrote blood-soaked tales of barbarians. Sadly, Oron and other tales are not available in Kindle format (yet) so I'll have to hunt down some works next time I'm at the half-priced books.

The author describes his style of writing as gothic noir. Fits well enough in a fantasy world where magic is a thing but isn't magic of the high or epic nature you'd see in say, The Wheel of Time or a Forgotten Realms novel.

The world Dorgo inhabits is a bit of Thieves World in that his city is "the city" in a way. It's a corrupt place where officers try to guard the inhabitants against bad things, but there are so many bad things that they are often forced to seek specialized help, such as Dorgo himself.

The people of Dorgo's world range from a variety of human ethnic nationalities to minotaurs, cyclops, fauns and others, but no elves who are seen as mystical. Now that later part may just be language as just because we haven't seen any elves in this volume, there are no elves in the setting at all.

Dorgo is a bit of a hard luck loser regarding his character. It's not that he's incompetent but unlike many modern heroes, he lacks the ultra competency in one field that allows them to dominate. He's a former mercenary in an army, and while he can hold his own with a sword, he's not a devastating swordsman.

He's not a magician or priest, but his dowser rod allows him to identify things of a magical or mystical nature. His upbringing in a church-sponsored orphanage gives him knowledge of the religious realm.

In terms of this being "old school", In The Vale of the Black Diamond could be a Conan tale.

There is a quest for a fantastic item.

The item is in a lost or forgotten part of the world.

The flora and fauna of this type of the world are alien and otherworldly.

The item is a power source for an ancient alien race beyond human keen.

The alien race is monstrous and has breed it's own slave race, one which rebels against its master.

Almost all of those who go on the expedition perish horribly.

Now Dorgo himself isn't Conan and suffers many a beat down in the tale. In a true Conan tale, EVERYONE but Conan would die. In some instances, the alien race would've been beaten down by cruel humans whose stolen their magics for their own. But you get the picture. The nuts and bolts of a Robert E Howard story are there just with different lens and it works fantastically.

This volume collects six short tales. If you've picked it up and enjoyed it, which was your favorite tale? Hit me up with a comment.

If you're a fan of that older school of writing and want to see some new tales, or at least some old tales with new characters and settings, Mad Shadows should be on your list.