Review: The Revenant and the Tomb by Herman P. Hunter
When Drahm is approached by the golden haired young man, he assumes it’s another foolish treasure seeker rushing to his demise, and he’s not far off. Halsedric and his companions are looking to take that treacherous path, though treasure isn’t his objective. While he has taken parties into the mountains before, Drahm warns, none of them have ever returned. Or if they have, it’s as bloody and broken shells of their former selves.
Naturally, it wouldn’t be much of a story if Halsedric was dissuaded. Nor would it be very interesting if this group of adventurers was anything but ordinary.
Like any good fantasy adventure, The Revenant and the Tomb opens in a tavern. Drahm, the old guide, is disturbed by a handsome young stranger in search someone to show him the way to the mountains of the southern reaches. Many have gone there in search of treasure, and as long as they pay up front Drahm isn’t above showing them the way. Most of them never come back, though.
But Halsedric isn’t a the typical treasure seeker. It turns out, he’s not interested in riches at all. He, along with his companions, the Wodeman Tulvgir and Herodiani of the Elanni, are on a quest of much greater importance. The trio is obviously inspired by a third of Tolkien’s Fellowship. However, the opening chapters also reminded me Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, sans wenching.
The nature of Halsedric’s mission isn’t dissimilar to Frodo’s, in that it’s almost the opposite of a treasure hunt. Yet there’s a clever twist to Herman P. Hunter’s story which makes it stand out from the other imitators. While the writing style is arguably overwrought and flowery, this twist, the inventive action sequences, and religious symbolism kept me invested.
Drahm is both the guide for our heroes and the audience. He knows, or thinks he knows, everything about his world and surroundings. Not a religious man, he doesn’t rule out the power of the gods either. Hasedric, however, opens him up to new worlds of possibilities.
The Revenant of the title refers to Halsedric, who appears to be an ordinary mortal. However, he’s actually received a holy calling from the Allfather, the eternal God of the West, and is supernaturally equipped for its pursuit. There are many things he still doesn’t know or understand, about himself and his God, and I’m sure future installments in the series will tell us more.
Wodemen are the dwarfs of Hunter’s world. Tough and hungry, Tulvgir is the team’s muscle. Meanwhile, Herodiani is elfin in her attributes. The least developed characters in the story, their respective races offer some interesting storytelling possibilities that one hopes Hunter will eventually flesh out with some original ideas.
This is your fairly typical fantasy realm, with all the expected Medieval technology, flaming swords, hoards of the undead, and so forth. The balance leans a little more toward Robert E. Howard style pulp than Tolkien’s pastoral visions. Most of the story takes place in the wilderness, not in the small villages, so it’s difficult to get a sense of the society.
No politics to speak of, as the author is more interested in religious symbolism than in making political points.
In order for good to have a great victory, the evil must be very, very evil. This story isn’t afraid to go to some dark places, with all the accompanying gory violence. No sex or language. Just lots of death and destruction.
Who is it for?
This is for anyone looking for a quick, fantasy adventure. Fans of Tolkien, Howard, and Leiber should find something to like. There’s no overbearing message or nihilism, just nifty escapism. While it may not be the most original story, there’s something to be said for the familiar.
Why read it?
At under 200 pages, the book only asks for a small amount of our time and moves at a good pace, with some solid narration and colorful images. Just because because The Revenant and the Tomb leans heavily on familiar tropes doesn’t mean that Hunter isn’t willing to take some chances, which generally pay off well. There’s a germ on a good idea here, and one hopes it’s further developed and explored.