Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review: 'The Last Magicians' by John Jakes

3 / 5 Stars
‘The Last Magicians’ (190 pp) was published by Signet books in September 1969; the cover artwork is uncredited.

Cham is one of the last Red Magicians not sworn to the service of the godhead of evil, the ‘Unborn’, and his Arch Mage, the sorcerer Imm. While much of the world is in the grip of a destructive war between Imm and the upstart college of the Blue Magicians, Cham simply wants passage from the northern town of Lumina to Seastrand, his home across the ocean.

Unfortunately, despite his brooding and dangerous appearance, people have a habit of messing with Cham, and while in Lumina, he runs afoul of the local cut-throats.

What starts as some back-alley bladework quickly escalates into a forced alliance with King Balsto, who recognizes that a Red Magician is an asset when gathering an expedition designed to cross the ocean, to confront Imm and his forces of darkness. 

But things get complicated when Cham meets the King’s stunning bride, Debra….and events take a turn that sends Cham into perils both natural and supernatural….

‘The Last Magicians’ is competent sword and sorcery from Jakes, who is better known for his ‘Brak the Barbarian’ character. Cham, unlike Brak, is less of a straightforward hack-and-slasher, although he does carry the soul-drinking sword ‘Red Slut’, in homage to Michael Moorcock’s ‘Stormbringer’.

Cham is  a bit more cerebral than Brak, and a little more deliberate, which is helpful when spell-casting becomes the more important form of combat.

‘The Last Magicians’ has a darker tone to it than most sword and sorcery fiction of its era, incorporating some particularly loathsome monsters, a quasi-invincible army of zombies, and a debauched city flush with orgies and human sacrifice.

‘Magicians’ is worth searching out by sword-and-sorcery fans of the ‘Brak’ and ‘Conan’ novels.


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samaccat said...

Cover artwork by, clearly, Sandy Kossin. His signature along the right leg of the male figure.