Sunday, November 8, 2015
Hadon, King of Opar (Christopher Paul Carey, Meteor House, 2015)
In the intervening decade-and-a-half since the Cataclysm that wiped most of Khokarsan civilization off the map, Hadon has striven to rule fairly and justly by the side of his wife, Queen Lalila, while rebuilding Opar and adjusting to the rewritten political and physical climate in central Africa - the inland seas continue to shrink, and the Cataclysm has seem to have left only tiny pockets of survivors where other great cities once stood; Opar is now alone, the infrastructure of empire no longer in place to support it.
Unfortunately for Hadon, something is rotten in the state of Opar, and old enemies emerge after sixteen years of watching and planning to settle old scores with Hadon in a last-ditch continuation of the civil war that may have caused the destruction of Khokarsa. Fortunately, Hadon is not alone; he is aided against his foes by his stalwart son Kohr, his brilliant daughter La, and the Kwaklem - the Sons of Kwasin, literally, an entire tribe of giant, axe-swinging barbarians sired by the insatiable Kwasin during his exile.
As much as the Khokarsa series - Hadon of Ancient Opar, Flight to Opar, and Song of Kwasin - can comfortably stand alone as a trilogy, not needing any expansion, I'm really enjoying Christopher Carey's expansions in both directions, with Hadon, King of Opar continuing the story forward, while Exiles of Kho traces the events that ultimately set the Khokarsa series in motion.
Here we're treated to Opar's struggle against the inevitable decline into senescence; without the Empire, and with the population decimated by the still-recent civil war, every day in Opar is a desperate bid for continued survival, and the likelihood of bouncing back into true prosperity is not great. Still, Hadon pushes forward as best he can, because there's nothing else he can do. As king, his duty is to his people.
It's bittersweet, because we know from the Tarzan books what Opar becomes in 12,000 years, but that's the story Carey is telling here and in subsequent books - the Tragedy of Opar, how the once-great city of gold, ivory and apes sank into savagery. It's not going to be a happy ending, but the journey will be fascinating.
Carey's writing is richly evocative, a worthy successor to Farmer who makes the characters his own. Carey's Hadon is older and wiser, carrying the weight of the city on his shoulders but still standing tall - and for what it's worth, I found the scenes of Hadon interacting with his children to be even better than the scenes of him bringing his two-handed broadsword to bear against vile foes.
The Sons of Kwasin were a treat - having seen the havoc that one Kwasin could wreak, bringing sixteen Kwasin Juniors to a battle could be considered the Pleistocene equivalent of bringing an ICBM to a knife fight. Their reverence to their father's memory (having never met Kwasin) is entirely fitting, giving the larger-than-legendary status of their Herculean father (and as I said in describing the series to my father on the phone the other day, with his thick beard, lion-skin kilt and brass-bound club, it's hard not to see the mythological Hercules as having been born from stories of Kwasin transmitted down through thousands of years of oral tradition), and their wild, violence-prone ways are balanced well against an underlying nobility of character.
Even more interesting, however, is Hadon's daughter La, the original La of Opar, who though only sixteen is a shrewd, calculating politician who has advanced through the ranks of the priestess-hood by leaps and bounds through cunning manipulations. She doesn't read as a sixteen year old through her dialogue (of course, my memories of being sixteen and being surrounded by sixteen year old peers are more than a decade in the past now, and northeastern suburbia is a far cry, as far as natal environments go, from a war-torn city in the jungle), and I had to keep reminding myself that she wasn't in her 20s. I'm eager to see more of her in forthcoming books, and to trace her line down through the ages to the La of the early 20th century.
Hadon, King of Opar, like the rest of Meteor House's Khokarsa books, is available through their website and is an attractive volume with still more beautiful cover art and a frontispiece by Bob Eggleton. Believe me when I say it belongs on your shelves, readers.
And I think, as I wait for Blood of Opar, I'm going to take a week or two to read something different; I have a couple more books from Meteor House that I'll be addressing soon, but first maybe some Robert E. Howard or similar to break things up.