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VINE VOICEon 15 December 2014
For me this book set the standard in the fantasy genre, against which other novels are compared (and all to often found wanting). The archetypal warrior mercenaries and the archetypal scholarly wizards find themselves having to work together... and, predictably, they dont really get on. So far, this sounds like a hundred and one other novels in this genre. What makes it different is the characterisation - and character development. We get to learn WHY people are the way they are... and sometimes THEY learn where they have made mistakes... There are moments of real tragedy, as well as episodes with a sense of humour.

The story is self-contained, in that it comes to a natural end, without "buy-the-next-book" cliff-hangers. But really it is an integral part of the Chronicles of an Age of Darkness. The subsequent books are not exactly sequels; they follow different characters and timelines overlap. Characters who appear briefly here are central to other tales. And we hear of Hearst and Miphon again - or their reputations in the eyes of others...

This is a far from standard fantasy world. It does not follow standard tropes; where it appears to do so, it is usually only to lampoon them later. And is it really a fantasy world at all? The portals have me wondering - is this actually SF?
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on 24 August 2004
I first bought this book back in the mid eighties and come back to it every couple of years. It opens a ten book series of which number 4 is often praised as the best for its wit etc - but this is my favourite. In common with the later books, the characters are well drawn, the prose is good and the storyline crackles along. The difference is that the underlying themes are more serious and sombre. There is some humour, but not too much and for the most part its about comradeship, the corrupting influence of power and the consequences of betrayal. Add in some almost mystical observations on the human condition and you've got something unique.
This is no ordinary swords and sorcery slash fest then, but the beginning of an awesome epic, a decent novel in its own right and a satisfying read in terms of length and resolution. You will learn to like the characters who are all pretty ordinary joes, shoved into weird situations (well except maybe Phyphor the Wizard of Arl) and you'll hate it when some inevitably come to grief. Read the books - and someone, buy the film rights!
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on 2 September 2006
Anyone looking for an "in" to fantasy could do a lot worse than Hugh Cook's age or darkness series. It has everything that you might expect from a fantasy novel and a whole lot more. What tells it apart I think is the humour. I would find myself re-reading sections out to myself and laughing likr a drain. How do drains laugh anyway, always wanted to know.

Word of warning this is s Decology, a series of 10, so be prepared to spend a lot of money on these books.
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on 16 May 2008
This is one of the best fantasy novels I have read. It is well written and with great humour!! The characters are brilliant!

This book is best read before "The Walrus and the Warlord" as the two stories run symultaneously and intertwine. Hugh Cook does a really good job of bringing the tow stories together.

The rest of the series is not up to the standard of these two cracking books but is worth a read.
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on 9 June 2002
I loved this story - it was simultaneously funny and serious, and all the songs and poems were great fun; very catchy (I'm trying to learn them now...). It's a brilliant way to begin the Chronicles!
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on 17 July 2008
I have to speak up after being flabbergasted at the five star reviews on here.

This is the kind of fantasy that would put someone off the genre forever. Where do I start? The bland, unbelievable and unsympathetic characters? The dreadful plotting? The 'TELL, no showing!' writing style? Good grief.

The writing is littered with pointless repetition and plot threads that wander off, end, and leave you wondering what the point was? And there are very odd (thankfully occasional) sections where he appears to think he's writing a comedy-fantasy - don't worry, these sections are so out-of-sync with the rest, you'll see them coming.

I can't believe there are further books in the series. Avoid! Please!
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