Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday’s Forgotten Book: Kyrik: Warlock, Warrior

Before I ever found Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard, I found books by other writers with words slashed across the cover that read: “In the Tradition of Conan.” This book, Kyrik: Warlock, Warrior by Gardner F. Fox, was my first sword and sorcery read. It had those words on the cover, but after I read it I might have thought Conan was “in the Tradition of Kyrik.”

Gardner Fox was a prolific writer in the paperback explosion of the 1960s and 70s, and also wrote a lot for the comics. He did two sword and sorcery series, The first, in the 1969-1970 period, was about Kothar, a barbarian swordsman very similar to Conan. There were 5 books in this series. The second series (4 books) was about Kyrik, in the 1975-1976 period. He also wrote a two book Sword & Planet series featuring earthman Alan Morgan on the planet of Llarn. These were written in the early 60s and were entitled Warrior of Llarn and Thief of Llarn, although “Thief” was the first one I found. Kyrik: Warlock, Warrior was the first in the Kyrik series, and besides that, two Kothars, and the one Llarn book, I never got copies of the others until I was in my thirties.

To start with, Kyrik: Warlock, Warrior had a great cover, at least for a fifteen-year-old boy. I’ve never been one to care much about book covers, but this one has always stuck with me. Painted by Ken Barr, you can see the exotic nature of it.

Intriguing as the cover was, it was the story that thrilled me. Years later, in my thirties, when I found and read the other Kyrik books, I didn’t think they were that well written or that interesting. But that first one! Oh, the adventure, the thrill. It began with a sorceress stalking an exotic bazaar in search of a legend. She finds it in the form of a statue, of a warrior named Kyrik, who has been dead 1000 years. It turns out that the statue is Kyrik, and the sorceress removes the spell that has kept him trapped in stone for ten centuries.

Fox captured very well the sense of immense past times and it was all heady stuff for a young fellow new to the glories of Sword & Sorcery. A fifteen-year-old now would have been exposed to this kind of stuff at a much younger age, but I was growing up in small town Arkansas, in the Bible-Belt. It was new to me. Just glimpsing that cover still ignites my imagination, and I’m almost fifty years old.

Kyrik: Warlock, Warrior is not that hard to come by. I’ve seen copies at used bookstores where SF/Fantasy is featured, and on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can find it if you want it, though I doubt you’ll thrill quite as much as my young mind did in 1975.


eric1313 said...

It all goes back to our influences. My first sword and sorcery read was "The Legend of Huma" by Richard A Knaak. An excellent read, though the book could have been stretched into a trilogy, it covered so much ground. It's part of a greater series, but it can be read stand alone with no problem. Many great scenes in it, from him being a young night on the fringes of his order, to his rise toward becoming the champion of the light and his confrontation with the ultimate evil and choice not to destroy this evil but maintain the balance in the universe as mandated by the highgod of the beyond. And all this in spite of his own misgivings about himself. Good stuff.

If I see Kyrik, I'll pick it up for certain.

Glad to see everyone is still here.

Take care and keep up the strong writing. You provide guidance to lots of readers, you know.

laughingwolf said...

great cover art, like you say, charles!

my earliest reads include jules verne...

Greg said...

sounds like a pretty cool book, Charles. i'm gonna try to pick up a copy.

Greg said...

actually just found it on and ordered it. thanks for the suggestion.

Bernita said...

It's like doors opening to magic worlds, isn't it?

Anndi said...

I think one of the things I love the most when you tell us about books and writers you've read and loved is the passion that is so very evident.

Paul R. McNamee said...

I'll keep my eye out. I think Roy Thomas adapted some Fox stuff for the Conan marvel comics, didn't he?

I'm pretty sure I saw that name in the blurbs Thomas has been writing for the Dark Horse Conan Marvel reissues.

Heff said...

Heff is all about the book cover art, as that's usually as far into the book as I get.

Charles Gramlich said...

eric1313, welcome back. Good to see you. I haven't read that Knaak book but will certainly keep an eye open for it. I consider myself a connoseiur (spelling) of heroic fantasy.

Laughingwolf, I got a couple of Vernes and loved 'em but didn't find his other stuff till later.

Greg, don't hold it against me if my memory has goldened it a little.

Bernita, that's just the way to put it. Parallel universes exist. Just open the right book cover.

Anndi, I'm truly a book lover. It's one my greatest pleasures.

Paul, I know Thomas did some of the Kothar books for the Conan comics. Not sure about the Kyrik.

Heff, cpver art can be pretty cool, but man there is blood and guts inside those things.

BernardL said...

The statue of the warrior and the sorceress in a bazaar is a very intriguing opening.

Anonymous said...

Hi Charles -

On your recommendation I picked up a copy of "Transit to Scorpio" in a second hand shop last week and I really enjoyed it (I'm sure I read it before but I don't remember it at all). I've ordered the next 3 from an online store but it looks like "Prince" is difficult to find in the UK.

The same shop also had John Jakes "Brak the Barbarian" - do you know if thats worth a look? I know him as the author of civil war epics like "The Bastard" and "North and South" but I only saw the TV series, never read the books.

I'm going to have to rebuild my Sword and Planet collection. I already have the Mars and first few Gor books (and of course the Talera trilogy ;-) but when I move house a few years ago I foolishly gave away my Norton's, Moorcock's etc. I never read any Brackett and even though I loved Carter's Thongor stories I never knew about his Green Star books.

- Jon

JR's Thumbprints said...

Kyrik looks like he's riding a Pterodactyl. It certainly is a cool book cover, and the color selection couldn't be better.

Steve Malley said...

I always enjoy thesee posts. Thanks.

Chris Eldin said...

This is very interesting because in the world of children's publishing, we're always asking :what will interest boys?

Thanks for sharing your story---I may use this knowledge one day...

Sounds like a terrific tale.

Sidney said...

I'll have to look for that. I don't think I have any of his novels.

Charles Gramlich said...

Bernardl, it was, and it suggested such a history for the character, which unfortunately Fox never did really investigate.

Jon, I thought the Brak books were worth looking into. I particularly liked the first one: Brak the Barbarian, and "The Fortunes of Brak," which was a collection of short stories. I thought Carter's Green Star books were better, more ERB-like, than his Callisto or the Thongor books. Moorcock's Mars series was pretty weak, I thought. He wrote them very early in his career.

JR, yes, a pterodactyl, I'm pretty sure that's what it is supposed to represent, and that's cool by me.

Steve Malley, I love talkin' about books.

Chris Eldin, boys like adventure, a little bloody stuff, and not a lot of chattering about relationships. Near as I can figure.

Sidney, he did a lot of comics work too so you may have of his stuff there.

Donnetta said...

I know what you mean by loving the oldies but goodies. I'm still stuck on Isaac Asimov. And, this summer I rerereread Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man. Mmmm, mmm. Good stuff.

X. Dell said...

Maybe books were more enjoyable in 1975. Not as much stuff available to distract.

Seems to me that if you liked Howard and those he influenced, then other kids around Arkansas would have felt the same about him as you did. It makes me wonder about the marketing wisdom of book publishers, unless there were other forces (e.g. religious) that discourage sales of such books in your region. It's curious that you really only had access to it as an adult.

Randy Johnson said...

I just spotted this post. I've not read any of the Kyriks that I recall. But, oddly, lying here on the desk right beside the keyboard is an old Ace double I dug out of a closet. Staring up at me is The Arsenal of Miracles by Fox, backed with Endless Shadow by John Brunner.
1964-40 cents cover price. Lord, it's been about that long since I last read it. Bran The Wanderer is the character.
I'm almost afraid to read it again. I've discovered that, like you, what excites a fifteen year old boy doesn't always hit the older, more sophisticated, I hope, reader, the same.
Ah, what the hell. I've still got that little boy locked up inside me somewhere.

Charles Gramlich said...

Donnetta, Ray Bradbury is someone who I periodically reread. He had such wonderful language and stories.

X-Dell, I believe there were religious types of reasons why some of these weren't distributed to Arkansas. We were very much in the Bible Belt, and mostly Protestant. Also, Arkansas was very very rural so that might have counted against us as well.

Randy, I have the "Arsenal of Miracles" but haven't read it. There's definitely still a little boy inside me, and sometimes he wants what he wants and I can't argue with him.

Sarah Hina said...

Thanks for sharing, Charles. I could feel your boyish enthusiasm after all these years. :)

The fiction from our youth can ignite our imaginations like none other. And make us, briefly, young again.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

You perfectly capture the thrill of discovery in the books that first charmed us - it is like the real sorcerer was Fox, who removed the spell from the reader (trapped as a statue in everyday life) and another world comes alive!


pattinase (abbott) said...

I'll add this into the summary. Sorry I missed it. Please email me next time you have one.
thanks, patti

writtenwyrdd said...

That first amazing discover of the genre that sets our reading compass for the rest of our lives! I talked about how Moon of Three Rings did that for me when I was in fifth grade. The feeling of wonder stays with us always, doesn't it?

But sometimes, you go back to reread with a more cultured palatte and it's pure drek, to be kind.

I think I read one of the Llar books at some point.

writtenwyrdd said...

Jon mentioned the Green Star books. I loved those! I found them in 7th grade. They made a dreary Utah winter go by much better.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sarah Hina,I often wish I could step back in time to reexperience those wonderful moments.

Don's Hut, perfect analogy there, with Fox being the sorcerer. He certainly worked a magic on my young mind.

Pattinase, sorry, I completely forgot about that. I'll make sure to do so next time.

Writtenwyrd, I know what you mean about going back, or trying to, with a cultured palatte. Had I read the other Kyrik books after the first I would probably have loved them. Reading them in my thirties and they did nothing for me. The Green star books aren't bad. I like them the best of Carter's work.

Lana Gramlich said...

I hear you on the cover art. I'd heard "don't judge a book by its cover" repeatedly when I was young, of course, but I have to admit that the covers had a HUGE influence on me. That's why I got into Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels to begin with & I probably spent as much time admiring the artwork as I did reading the books! Michael Whelan blows me away even to this day.

Rick said...

I'm going to track that book down, wrassle it to the check-out, buy it, take it home and read it at least twice because it sounds great!

I've never heard of Gardner F. Fox, but after reading your post, I won't forget him.

Although I've never read a sword & sorcery novel in my life although my kids have begged me to. Would you recommend this as my first?

ivan said...

Not familiar enough with the genre.

I can only intuit about the book cover, which, I think has a crow in it.

Johnny Cash out walking one day:

"Hey, I caught a crow. That doesn't ofent happen", as he walked home with the crow in hand.

ivan said...

Eric 1313,

Sharp, as usual.

Hey, you back or what?

You've obviously survived some large disaster, but you did 'er.

L.A. Mitchell said...

I'm completely clear on why your fifteen year old self would be SO into this cover when her only accessory is a

Anonymous said...

I picked up this book a couple of years ago, but have yet to read it. I liked that cover too. Even though I haven't read this book it still brought me back to that era when I was getting into sword and sorcery.

Erik Donald France said...

Man, you capture the excitment prefectly. I *do* like book covers and agree, this one is cool.

Three cheers!

Travis Cody said...

When I was a kid I used to choose new books by the covers. The synopsis on the back cover helped, but it was the art that made me pick up the book.

I came across a few clunkers with that method, but not too many.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, Whelan has some great stuff. He does spaceships as well as anyone.

VWriter, actually, if you were going to just start out with Sword & Sorcery, I'd try Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane or his Bran Mak Morn. Howard is the granddaddy of sword & sorcery. Another great writer to start with would be David Gemmell.

Ivan, is that why Johnny became the "Crow in black?"

L.A. Mitchell, I do believe my eyes bulged out when I first saw it.

Jack, I personally really enjoyed it but it's not up there with Howard or Wagner or Gemmell for quality.

Erik, covers can really be gravy for a book.

Travis, I think it was the blurb and the first few paragraphs more than the covers that sucked me in, but the covers added to the whole package if they were good.

Miladysa said...

This week I learned something of factual sword and socery - up until now I had now idea of its existence.

I am hoping to post about it soon :-D

Charles Gramlich said...

Miladysa, I'll look forward to that. You've wetted my curiosity.