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Monday, July 30, 2012

Nifft the Lean .Michael Shea. Panther Books ( 1985)

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Open Road Media are doing an Sword and Sorcery Genre Spotlight and the following links are well worth checking out.
A brand new mini documentary on Sword and Sorcery and Brak the Barbarian featuring amazing footage from old films. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqA_ydQhWSs.
A short story to read for free! http://www.scribd.com/doc/98228262/The-Girl-in-the-Gem-by-John-Jakes 
Vintage photos of the books that included cigarette ads! httpp://openroadmedia.tumblr.com/post/26724295135/can-you-imagine-this-happening-today-cigarette 
Tons of new infographics: http://openroadmedia.tumblr.com/swordandsorcery that explain what the genre is and who would like it
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This is a great set of stories about an adventurous thief. As benefits a master thief none of the exploits are simple smash and grabs or easy burglaries,they are involved and intricate.They require nerves of steel and a willingness to go to hell and back, literally, to achieve the goal. Michael Shea has created a wonderful world, full of sharp action with an forceful cast that grab the reader and do not let go.
The first story,Come Then,  Mortal - We Will Seek Her Soul is a blistering introduction and shows the strength of the book from the start. Nifft and his companion Haldar accept the task of bringing a living man to the Underworld in return for the key to a fabulous hoard.The details of the Underworld are smart and nasty and the conclusion very satisfying. The Pearls of the Vampire Queen is much more straightforward, a carefully wrought caper story. The Fishing of the Demon-Sea is a very smart story, set in the realm of demons, it has force and weight as well as a very black sting of humour. The final story The Goddess in Glass takes a slightly different approach and shows how greed has consequences, even if they are long delayed they can be brutal.
Michael Shaea takes a very typical swords & sorcery cliche, the master thief, and gives him force and personality within a beautifully crafted context. The world that Nifft moves in is fabulous and dangerous, it rings true at every touch. In particular the two other worlds that Nifft moves through, the underworld of the dead and the demon world are created with a telling detail and breath of invention that are a pleasure to read. Both are greatly aided by Michael Shea's restraint, he does not go for the grand phrase nor the purple prose so common in the genre. He is much quieter and more forceful and this gives his stories a sharper edge.
Nifft himself is a great character,indeed the entire cast are a full of energy and determination. One of the great pleasures of the book is Nifft's competence and capacity,he is a master thief and he proves how he is so by his actions. He is willing to take a risk for a reward as well as to think and plan to avoid stupid mistakes as well. This gives a different flavour to the stories, they are really semi-heroic fantasy where a sharp mind is as important as a sharp sword. This book is very well written, great fun and a happy reminder of the breath and depth of the genre.

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