Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books: Teot's War


“Heat beat down on my shoulders, my face cloth. My armor dragged at the riding sores underneath. Little sparkles danced behind my eyelids, and the strains in my joints were cramping to knots in the muscles. It had been a long ride. A grating call made my shoulders twitch. The carrion crows, who glided after us day after day, were waiting.”

Thus begins Teot’s War by Heather Gladney, published in 1987 by Ace Fantasy. It was followed by a sequel, Blood Storm, in 1989, although I understand the two were originally written as a single book and were broken up at the publisher’s behest. The first part, Teot’s War is one of my favorite heroic fantasy novels, and by virtue of its stellar prose owns a rare place on my inspirational shelf. This is the shelf I select from when I want to read some truly fine and fantastic prose as an inspiration to my own attempts to construct beautiful language.

Teot is the last name of the main character of the book, Naga Teot. Naga is a desert warrior, known sometimes as “Dance of Knives.” He carries twin short swords called scaddas and uses them with the grace of ballet.

Teot’s War creates a fully realized world that combines elements of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Glen Cook’s Dread Empire series, the Hyborian World of Robert E. Howard, and the real world of Earth’s Bedouin tribes. It contains a delightful and realistic created language. But the best element is the superb writing--“The blades hung tight a moment, swung free in a spray of red with a gasping sound”--combined with a wonderful attention to the details of the world’s politics and art.

Teot’s War is not only something of a forgotten book, although it has a strong fan base, but Heather Gladney is also a bit of a forgotten writer for many fantasy readers. That’s almost to be expected when you’ve only published two novels, both in the 1980s. For years there have been hints of a third book in the saga. So far nothing has seen print, although I’ve found out from Ms. Gladney’s website that she has actually submitted sequels to big publishers and had them rejected. It sounds to me like she should consider going with a smaller publisher; I would certainly be one person who would buy the book. I know Gladney has produced some short stories but I and many of her other fans would love to see the third book in her series. In my experience, few writers had such an auspicious start to their careers. I’d love to see her ignite a new surge in that career. Whatever it takes.

See Patti Abbott's blog for more Forgotten Book Friday.
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35 comments:

Leigh Russell said...

the carrion crows... were waiting. So succinct and atmospheric...

Cloudia said...

Great opening!
Aloha

BernardL said...

Your initial excerpt is stunning enough to make a reader actually shift uncomfortably. A very good choice for your Friday Forgotten Book day.

Randy Johnson said...

Sounds right up my alley. Threads of Herbert and Howard was enough to make me order the first book anyway.

Middle Ditch said...

It's funny how things go. This writer had successfully published two books and now lays forgotten as so many others.

It happens with script writers too. And play writes. They might have been successful but once some years have passed and no other work has been forth coming, no one seems to want you again. Which is such a great shame.

ninthmuse (roz m) said...

*Grabs you by the lapels*
THIS IS MY FAVORITE BOOK! I also have the sequel, BLOODSTORM. I have always regretted the fact that the story remains unfinished.

Avery DeBow said...

Thanks for this. I love hearing about writers I've missed out on. From that first paragraph, I think I'd enjoy her work.

Charles Gramlich said...

Leigh, yes, I love it. She influenced my writing style.

Cloudia, and that promise was fulfilled.

Bernardl, her style was so unique. It really just grabbed me.

Randy, let me know what you think.

Middle Ditch, I know. And although they weren't bestsellers they really developed a pretty strong fan base. the new book should have been published.

Roz, It's a beautfiul, beautiful book. Your sense to taste is confirmed. ;)

Avery, her style is quirky and unique, but lovely.

L.A. Mitchell said...

It's a shame someone you view as talented cannot remain on the publishing radar. Sadly, I fear it's all about the bottom line, not great prose.

Paul R. McNamee said...

Sounds delicious! I'll need to hunt these down!

Charles Gramlich said...

L. A., yes, the bottom line has sunk more than a few talented writers.

Paul, I bet you'd like Teot's War. It combines the elegant and the brutal so well.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Charles. Always a pleasure to read your words.

laughingwolf said...

wow... are the books still available, charles?

writtenwyrdd said...

Thanks for sharing about this book, Charles. I think it is familiar looking, but I've read so many books I may have just seen it in a bookstore. it sounds familiar, though. Now I might have to get a copy.

I feel teh same way about PC Hodgell's God Stalk. For years it was an orphan book, but there are several sequels now. None are quite as brilliant as the first, but they are all worth the wait.

ivan said...

Hm. Hladney sounds Slavic.

There is a terrific account of a disastrous campaign against an unbeatable tribe called the Polotsis in The Lay of Prince Igor's Campaign from the ancient Kievan Chronicles... sort of a narrative bible of antique Russians.
But sadly, no Teot appears to twirl his skhor swords among the doomed knights.
There is blood, sickness, crows and ravens feasting on dead bodies. Prince Igor and his campaigners sicken and die while ambushed all the time by the Polotsis, probably Scythian offshoots of that ancient ethnic group.

Ah hell. I think I took one Slavic Studies course too many...Not sure if I even got it righ.
But I can see where sagas of any people can be real grist for the fantasy writer.

Donnetta Lee said...

I'll go check out the website now. D

Charles Gramlich said...

pattinase, I wish I had the time to take part every week. Love this feature.

laughingwolf, you can find 'em used on Amazon I see. Looks like they have a number of copies for sale.

writtenwyrdd, It was quite popular when it first came out, I think, which is why I'm surprised the big publishers didn't scoop up the third one. I've not read God Stalk

ivan, I'm not familiar with that story cycle. Sounds right down my alley though

Donnetta Lee, it's a bit meager but it does have some stuff about the books.

ivan said...

Charles,

Oh it's there all right, though arcane and obviously very old... Prince Igor's Campaign is in Wikipedia now.

I was trying to mine for some material myself, but found it slim pickings because of the ancient references most of them obscure.

Viz,

Vseslav the Werewolf

In the seventh age of Troyan, Vseslav cast lots for the damsel he wooed. By subterfuge, propping himself upon mounted troops, he vaulted toward the city of Kiev and touched with the staff of his lance the Kievan golden throne. Like a fierce beast he leapt away from them at midnight, out of the white town, having enveloped himself in a blue mist.

Then at morn, he drove in his battle axes, opened the gates of Novgorod, shattered the glory of Yaroslav, and loped like a wolf to the Nemiga from Dudutki. On the Nemiga the spread sheaves are heads, the flails that thresh are of steel, lives are laid out on the threshing floor, souls are winnowed from bodies. Nemiga's gory banks are not sowed goodly - sown with the bones of Russia's sons.

Vseslav the prince judged men; as prince, he ruled towns; but at night he prowled in the guise of a wolf. From Kiev, prowling, he reached, before the cocks crew, Tmutorokan. The path of Great Hors, as a wolf, prowling, he crossed. For him in Polotsk they rang for matins early at St. Sophia the bells; but he heard the ringing in Kiev.

Although, indeed, he had a vatic soul in a doughty body, he often suffered calamities. Of him vatic Boyan once said, with sense, in the tag: "Neither the guileful nor the skillful, neither bird nor bard, can escape God's judgment.
...But I think I should read the The Lay of Prince Igor's Campaign again for the baroque setting of a tale.

Sam said...

Love the opening, and love the cover! Have to go find this one!

Leigh Russell said...

Hmmm - just wondering about my bottom line... note to self - start that diet today!

I wonder if you'd email amazon.com to enquire why they can't dispatch my book before October when it's published in June... USA 5 months behind the rest of the world? Surely not!

ivan said...

I emailed Amazon about my first novel, The Black Icon, which I was pleased to see they had listed.
No answer. Hey, I'm not greedy, I'm not into money, I'm pleased that my book (books) are on their list, but what gives?

Greg Schwartz said...

sounds like a great book... that really is beautiful prose. i'll check it out -- thanks!

Lauren said...

What great imagery with those words--and that was just the beginning? Now I want to know what happens next! I'll have to go check it out :)

If she has a decent fan base, which it sounds like she does, a smaller press would probably welcome her with open arms.

Mary Witzl said...

I checked out her website and I liked what she wrote about her cats and their high standards. The sample of prose you quoted sounds haiku-esque -- a very startling and effective image clearly relayed in few words. I don't tend to read fantasy, but I'll look out for her books.

Heff said...

I'm not in to war, but I DO like Teots. Big ones.

George said...

I've ordered these books right after reading your insightful review. It's sad the author can't find a publisher for her work. She's obviously talented.

laughingwolf said...

thx bud, i'll also contact the local 'previously loved books' dealer :)

Erik Donald France said...

That is cool. I hope she finds a publisher for the next book -- small or large, by nook or by crook.

Charles Gramlich said...

ivan, damn, that's pretty interesting. I'm going to check out the entry on him. Look some of this up. The writing is quite...strange gut cool.

Sam, yeah, I'm kind of sucker for the story that kind of cover suggests. Not sure why but it just seems exotic.

Leigh Russell, I'll try. I'm heading out on vacation very soon and have a pile of stuff I have to get accomplished.

ivan, I've found a pirated copy of my first fantasy novel and an outdated copy of a guidebook that I issued for a writing class for sale on Amazon. They pulled the fantasy novel ref when I asked. but people do weird things out there.

Greg Schwartz, glad you enjoyed.

Lauren, I'm thinking so. A smaller press would be happy to get someone of her caliber. Of course, there wouldn't be that much money but if it took off the bigger publishers might show renewed interest.

Mary Witzl, it definitely seemed on the edge of a very literary fantasy.

Heff, how about the "War of the Teots?" I bet you could get behind that! Or in front of it.

George, talent is only part of the equation unfortunately. Let me know what you think about them, especially the first.

laughingwolf, these days you can get most books through the net somewhere.

Erik, It sure has been a long time coming.

Heff said...

Now yer talkin' !

Nothin' like a good ole Battle o' the Boobies !

Charles Gramlich said...

Heff, lol

Christina said...

Another book to put on my list to buy. I was sold with the blade action you gave.

Wil said...

You truly are a Cretan Heff.

Wil Harrison.com

Steve Malley said...

*sigh*

Still no good wired-ness.
Shambling on dial-up.
Techs say tomorrow,
Always.

Charles Gramlich said...

Christina, I'm just a sucker for good visual action scenes.

Wil, you know, down here we have a building company that is named Cretin homes. Just the kind of house I'd like.

Steve Malley, Geeze man. You'll waste away. Hope the techs get there soon.