Wizards and the Warriors by Hugh Cook
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Miphon, Garash, and Phyphor, members of the Confederation of Wizards, join forces with Elkor Alish and Morgan Hearst, Rovac warriors and sworn enemies of the Confederation, to slay the wizard Heenmor and retrieve the death-stone he stole from the Dry Pit. Only nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Feelings of greed and jealousy taint the party. If they retrieve the death-stone, can any of them resist the temptation to use it?
The Wizards & The Warriors is the first of The Chronicles of an Age of Darkness and sets the stage for the rest of the saga. All of the characters seem like fantasy stereotypes at first but quickly develop well-rounded personalities. The death-stone is suitably horrible and the hidden resentment for Hearst Alish feels, as well as Garash's power-lust, simmer until the perfectly horrible moment for them to arise. By the end of the book, not one of the main characters is the same as when he started.
The supporting cast is also well done. Blackwood and Prince Comedo in particular. Ohio, who also appears in The Walrus and the Warwolf, is introduced... and later killed. Scenes from The Walrus and the Warwolf, as well as The Wordsmiths and the Warguild, were told from different angles. The writing is superb, a combination of dry wit and artistry.
I recommend The Wizards and the Warriors to all fantasy fans, particularly the ones that prefer shades of gray to the usual black and white worlds of fantasy. Where else can you read the line "Well... a leech has crawled up the eye of my penis."
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