Monday, December 22, 2008

Gay romance and fantasy come alive: The Swordsman

If I had a wishlist, one thing that would definitely be on it is this: "Mel Keegan decides to write a sequel to The Swordsman." Because if there was ever a book that was crying out (screaming pitifully) for a sequel, this is it.

A few times across the years I've asked MK if there are any plans to write the book and I get the same answer. "A definite maybe." I've had thoughts about organizing a letter campaign, or a petition. Or maybe, if 250 red-eyed readers showed up on MK's driveway and made vague threats while waving their arms around ... pitch torches optional.

It's not that the story of The Swordsman ends unfinished or that The End is not satisfying. It ends beautifully. You just want more. There's so much that lies ahead of these guys, and as a reader I want those stories. So write to Mel and complain, people.

The book was put out by DreamCraft in 2002, with one of the best covers that's ever appeared on an MK book. The artwork was repainted for the version that is now printed in the USA, but nothing else was changed ... for which I'm glad. You don't change what's perfect already. (If it ain't broke, don't fix it.)

The story is a romance -- in fact it's two romances in one. On the cover you see Seb and Jack (Jack being the swordsman of the title), but there's a second couple, Janos and Luc ... the gypsy shaman and the captain of the guard. And unlike a number of other gay romances and fantasies, this one has some spice! At least enough to steam up your reading glasses -- though you could give The Swordsman as a gift to a coming-out late teen, without anxiety. In other words, when you get to the love scenes, they're real ones. Gay ones. [evil grin]

Jack Leigh arrives in the Riverlands of Rhondia as a soldier of fortune. He fights for money, which he needs to rescue his imprisoned father. The pickings are rich in Rhondia ... but street fighting (dueling) is illegal, so Jack has to be careful.

Meanwhile, almost a prisoner in the citadel, Michael Sebastien d'Astaghir is in mortal danger. Somebody's trying to kill him, and they come so close to succeeding that his friend, Luc Redmayne, reckons he needs a bodyguard. So, when Luc is privileged to see Jack fighting -- and is amazed by the swordsman's skill -- he recruits Jack as the bodyguard. It's Jack's job to see that no harm comes to Seb ... which means Jack is going to get very close to Seb.

Are you drooling yet?! Don't drool too soon, because MK makes you wait for it. Seb starts out as a gorgeous, haunted, troubled, hurting ... bastard, you'd like to kick his shins. Till you realize what's going on. How he has been, and is being, abused. It takes Jack to get through his armor, and then it all happens at once.

The love story runs side by side with a tale of dark magic, horrifying revenge, and mythical creatures that turn out to be real. It's very hard to say anything about the plot without blowing it. I can tell you, it's intricate, fully developed in the Mel Keegan style ... nothing left begging, everything rich as technicolor.

The landscape of The Swordsman is dark forests, stone castles, deep caverns and the river, the canals. This fantasy world is filled out with a history, even a kind of genealogy. The one thing it doesn't have that I wish it did is a map. (I like fantasy maps. Call me weird.) The action of The Swordsman is Gothic and intense: it's like being inside a place, and you know something is out to get you, but ... what? And I really, seriously can't even hint at what it is without telling you the plot, for which Mel Keegan and DreamCraft will excommunicate me!

Does the book have a downside? Only the fact there isn't a second one! As I said before, let's get up a petition.

Highly recommended, and then some! AG's rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

You can read the first part of the book online as a PDF. I'll link you through right here:

And the book is currently available from Amazon:

You can also buy it in hardcover, from the Lulu Online store:

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