Sunday, May 22, 2016

Blood of Ancient Opar (Christopher Paul Carey, Meteor House 2016)

As you may recall, readers, I wailed and gnashed my teeth when I came to the end of Hadon, King of Opar, as it ended on such a powerful cliffhanger that I wanted the next book in the series right then and there.  Well, Christopher Paul Carey has delivered the next volume in his continuation of Farmer's Opar prehistory, Blood of Ancient Opar, into my hands ahead of publication and I could have wept with joy to be able to continue the saga of Hadon of Opar.

Blood picks up right where King leaves off, with Hadon struggling to maintain order in the wake of a devastating civil war and invasion, in which the priesthoods of Kho the Mother Goddess and Resu the Flaming God conspired against the people of Opar, too eager for worldly power to look to the well-being of the civilization they're squabbling over.

The squabble costs Hadon his kingship and nearly robs him of his family, held together only be the cunning machinations of his daughter La, a prodigy at 16.  Though it pains her to go forward with it, she has developed a plan that may be the only way to save Opar - if it doesn't leave the city an empty ruin, put to the torch by rampaging Gokaku (neanderthaloid) slaves first!

I think I actually prefer where Carey has taken Hadon over where Farmer took him.  No king has worn a heavier crown than Carey's solemn, care-worn King of Opar, bound by chains of tradition and culture too heavy to escape from.  I've compared Carey's Hadon to Howard's Kull of Atlantis in the past, and I continue to stand by that comparison.  The toll Hadon pays in this volume is almost everything he has left, and stripped of everything, he continues to stand tall and prove himself worthy of the title, giving everything he has left to the city of his birth.

Where Hadon is beaten, bloodied and yet unbowed, his daughter La enters the spotlight more fully in this volume, a shifting and mercurial presence, steeped in tradition but not chained by it, she looks to the future to find the best course of action to protect her people and allow them to flourish once more.  She is close-lipped about her plans even with her own family, well-schooled but ultimately still a child, and her machinations here are both wholly necessary and choked with life-threatening risk to herself, risks she may not fully comprehend.

Christopher Paul Carey has inherited a heavy mantle and a big set of shoes in continuing the legacy of Ancient Opar, and he wears both well - if anything, those shoes might be getting a little snug.  His prose is his own while echoing Farmer's breathless adventure into the world of Khokarsa, his words as evocative of that lost world as Farmer's (or Burroughs') own.  With this newest volume, he takes us deep into the underbelly of Opar and unlocks secrets fans have been waiting for for a century now, ever since Tarzan first set foot in the ruined city of gold and ivory and apes, giving us the foundation of the city Burroughsphiles have known and loved and (if they're anything like me) pined for.  Blood of Ancient Opar is one part thrilling adventure in the pulp tradition, one part exploration of human nature, and one part solemn family drama worthy of Kurosawa, and if another drop of ink is never expended on Opar, then no better capstone could be asked for than Blood of Ancient Opar.

This volume is a must-read for fans of Burroughs, Farmer and Haggard alike, and can be preordered from Meteor House right now!

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