Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: Thongor in the City of Magicians

I recently finished Thongor in the City of Magicians, by Lin Carter.

The Thongor series is Lin Carter's pastiche of John Carter of Mars mixed with Conan.   The first Thongor novel was actually the first Carter book ever published, and I gather led to him getting the job editing (and, well, writing) the Ballantine Conan series.   City of Magicians is #4 in the series.   The only other one I've read is #3 - I haven't managed to get hold of #1 yet, though #6 is on my To-Be-Read stack - but given the episodic nature of the series, that hasn't been a problem so far.

At this point in the series, Thongor is king of a bunch of cities.   His primary opponent is the city of Zaar, city of wizards, who (in what I must admit is a nice touch) gained their dreadful power by being the only human power to betray humanity and ally with the evil Serpent-Men back in the great war.   Thongor's philosopher(s) have figured out how to build an electric ray-gun to equip their flying boats with, and so he goes off with part of the Army to harvest the jewels needed to build the ray-guns.   While this is going on, he's captured by agents of Zaar, and the rest pretty much unfolds as you'd expect it to.

I'll be blunt: I did not like the previous Thongor book I read, and gave it 2/5.   This one's better.   It's not great fantasy or anything - certainly nothing that would justify giving him license to write new Conan stories - but it's decent, workmanlike.   My main complaint is the ending, which includes literal divine intervention, as well as a bunch of really contrived coincidences.   I'll give it 3/5.

Incidentally, one thing I noticed while reading this: I can really see the influence this series had on Geoffrey McKinney's Carcosa setting.   McKinney did it way, way better though.   Which is kind of odd; usually one thinks of a great master inspiring lesser disciples, rather then the other way round.

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