Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Curse of Sagamore

Once again, I'm raiding my favorite bookshelf for titles that deserve repeat readings. This time I chose one of the best examples of humorous fantasy novels: The Curse of Sagamore by Kara Dalkey. This book has everything: unhappy princes, sibling rivalry, family curses, treachery, a dragon, oh and some bawdy humor. Who can resist? My answer: you shouldn't.

My Ace Fantasy edition is a bit worn around the edges. But it's held up through repeat reads. I think the book's cover first captivated me. A magical sword leading an army of skeletons against a dragon with a really big schnozz. That was my first clue that this promised to be a funny book. That and good marketing copy for once: "Only one wizard knows how to undo Sagamore's Curse and he's crazy."

I can't recall when I bought the book. It's copyright 1986, so probably around then. And I've loved this book, cherished not only the time spent between its covers but just the memory of its passages. It's the sort of book I want to press into friends' hands. And with this review I can do that... sort of.

Prince Abderian is second-in-line to the throne of Euthymia. But he has no interest in ruling the land. His father is a crappy king and everyone knows it, so there's little urge to be involved in politics. Then, his older brother disappears-kidnapped? murdered? AWOL?--and the appearance of the sigil on Abderian's forearm indicates that he is now the heir. What's a poor kid to do? Well, he does everything he can not to achieve this destiny forced upon him. If that means taking up with crazy wizards, so be it. Oh and some damsels, too.

Abderian is faulty. That's why I adore him so. He's brave when he needs to be. But he wants to be master of his own fate. I've never cared for the fantasy trope of the good prince who saves the kingdom. Except for this book, because Abderian's intentions, while good-hearted, are a bit selfish and realistic. He's written as a teen, with all the interests of a guy his age should have. Of course, he's royalty so that has some perks...

And he has a sex life. Which makes sense. How often do fantasy characters get laid? Seems like poor Frodo was doomed to die a virgin (despite Samwise's best interests... oh, no, I didn't just say that!).

The humor of the book is not forced puns but clever characters and plenty of wit. Oh, and let's not forget the bawdy humor. A recurring jest throughout the book is a song with lyrics detailing the sex lives (and penis size) of the royal lineage. I kept laughing out loud at how these were well-used to provide... well, more characterization. And the last lines of the book are sweet and smart and make you smile.

Here's one curse that you should not avoid. The book's never been reprinted, so you may have to troll used bookstores or search through online seller's virtual dusty bins for it. There's a sequel, too, but I've never read it. I'm afraid to because I love this book so much. If you happen to read the next book and happen upon me, be gentle, please.

1 comment :

Kristopher said...

Another great humorous fantasy series is Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. I think there's more than 30 now, and it's one of the few fantasy series that I think actually get better along the way.

And of course, there's always The Princess Bride. I've been quoting the movie version for better than 20 years now.