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Book Review: Crack’d Pot Trail by Steven Erikson

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In the constant struggle of good against evil there are occasions when those who ally themselves on the side of the angels are forced by circumstances into acts which would see them condemned as evil themselves if it wasn't for the sacred nature of their mission. For those unenlightened enough to hold paragons of virtue to the same standards as the rest of the great unwashed it would in fact appear that occasionally there is no difference to be found between those combating evil and the evil-doers themselves. However, to those narrow-minded and self-righteous individuals who have made it their goal to scour the world of evil by any means necessary, the ends will always justify the means, no matter how abhorrent those means might seem to the naive and simplistic unable to see the big picture.

The hand that wields the sword of purity can not be swayed by such trivialities as sentiment, nor can it be judged by the same standards to which others are held. Would you ask the angels to explain themselves as they went about their business? How could anyone expect those blinded by the bright light of goodness to see beyond their own narrow focus to the extent that they be forced to consider the consequences of their actions? Self-appointed guardians of morality, especially when heavily armed, need not answer to anyone, not even their own consciences, supported as they are by the certainty of their own superiority to all those surrounding them.

In fact, would you not say it was a sign of their saintliness, that they will unwaveringly commit atrocities in their quest to combat the forces of evil? Would you have the fortitude, the strength of character, to make the decision to eat your companions in order to ensure the completion of your task? It's not just anybody who can look around themselves and judge others worthy of being the fodder that will keep them strong in pursuit of evil. If you would witness such strength in action, than step onto the Crack'd Pot Trail, Steven Erikson's latest release from England's PS Publishing concerning the travails and travels of the necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. These two personifications of evil have swept like a scythe through the known world, leaving behind them piles of bodies and acres of sin. Needless to say they've also managed to outrage the forces of decency and good everywhere they've traveled and now find themselves pursued by those dedicated to the sole task of wiping them from the face of the earth — the Nehemothanai.

Those familiar with any of the previous installments involving Korbal Broach and Bauchelain will recognize some of the names hot on their tails: Mortal Sword Tulgord Vise from Blood Follows and Well Knight Arpo Relent from The Healthy Dead, and they are joined by the equally redoubtable Steck Marynd and the three Chanter brothers in their quest to exact vengeance on the necromancer duo for their foul deeds against goodness and decency. It's on the pilgrim path, the Crack'd Pot Trail, that we meet up with the heroes and the others making the trek through the harsh wasteland laying between the Gates of Nowhere and the Shrine of the Indifferent God. Aside from the above named there are amongst them a mysterious noblewoman who remains enclosed within her carriage the whole time, her manservant, a rag-tag collection of poets making their way to attend the Festival of Flowers and Sunny Days to vie for title of "The Century's Greatest Artist" awarded there each year, and one Sardic Thew who proclaims himself to be host of this erstwhile band of travelers.

According to the narration provided by one Avas Didion Flicker, under normal circumstances the trek across the desolate Great Dry would take 23 days and is eased by springs of fresh water and the welcoming camps of those called the Finders. Alas for our poor pilgrims, for the wells are fouled, the springs muddied, and the camps are all deserted this year. So the twenty-third day finds them barely halfway to their destination and their supplies depleted. It's the eldest of the Chanter brothers, the inaptly named Tiny (supposedly the result of his mother's tryst with a bear) who hits upon the solution of ensuring the Nehemothanai are fed by having the poets sing not to be supper. Each day the poets will strive to entertain the rest of the party and the first who fails to amuse will be slaughtered to feed the rest.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • Robert

    If it’s undead it’s not a corpse.