Everette Bell,
The Mourning Edge of Iron
(Yard Dog Press, 2003)

The Mourning Edge of Iron is a swords-and-sorcery novella that packs more story into roughly 50 pages than many writers can work into 300 pages. Everette Bell is a master of the art of description and will produce vivid images in your mind as you read the story.

Cehennem is a world torn apart by rival clans waging war. This dark land is scattered with carcasses and decay. War and death are the ways of life for these tribes. Cymalithru, the main city within the Xahara Empire, is torn apart by civil battles between the old beliefs and the new. It is also a city under assault and siege for the past 19 months by the ape-like Urgish.

The emperor of Cymalithru, Malloch, had guards posted at Dlekka Pass, but somehow they allowed the enemy to march through the pass without detection. Now, his brother, Beyaz, lays dying and mumbling something about a fortress. Malloch demands that his sorceress, Merhaba, help him learn the location of the raider fortress, then capture one of the Sakath raiders alive. Malloch has a few questions that need to be answered.

The answers do not set well with Malloch. He learns that one of his Blood Guard, those most loyal of warriors who are chosen to serve as the emperor's personal guards, has betrayed him. Loyalty is everything with this guard, and to betray the emperor is the most heinous of crimes. The captured man does not know the guard's name, but says there is a brand of the glutton on the back of his neck beneath his mane.

Once the traitor is discovered, a duel is fought, poison is used and the fate of the empire falls on the shoulders of Malloch's No. 1 guard, Andrakil. With only a shield, he must defeat the treacherous Glegga, who is armed with Malloch's own sword, Bloodsong.

I am extremely impressed with the amount of information that Bell skillfully wove into this story. By the time you reach the end of the tale, you know the characters and the history of their clan, with everything from their creation myths to their current gender and magic prejudices. You have a well-rounded understanding of their culture, past and present.

The action is strong and easy to picture in your mind. The author does an excellent job of detailing the movements, sword travel, shield work and so forth. The story travels at a rapid pace from beginning to end with no lulls and no jumps between scenes. All conflicts are resolved satisfactorily and there are no loose ends.

I only have two problems with this book. First, were all of the editors and proofreaders on vacation? There were numerous errors in this book, some of which really jump out as you read.

Also, the descriptions went into excess to the point they became redundant. OK, I understand that the sorceress is old. Is she anything else?

With all of this said, The Mourning Edge of Iron is one heck of a story that will thrill you. It has a high level of tension and will make you hold your breath a couple of times as the hero has to cut and stab his way out of a jam. It leaves you wanting to hear more of the story of the Cehennem world.

book review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new