I’m sharing this review of Swords of the Four Winds sent by my new friend – and dare I say fan? – Peter Politis. He contacted me on FB from out of the blue to chat about the stories, and we found out we had a lot of shared interests in both sword and sorcery and sword and planet. I’m of course incredibly happy with this positive review, the more so because the points he made lined up almost exactly with my objectives and vision in writing those stories, particularly those set in the island milieu which is of course based on my homeland. Here’s Pete, after I asked him which story he enjoyed most:

As for the stories: this will be hard because I thoroughly and completely enjoyed them all… each cycle had a very distinctive tone and quality which made digesting each one a treat. The writing was excellent and very visual, I don’t know how fantasy television is doing in your country but you should consider screenplays, I think there is always room for more high-octane swords and sorcery/martial arts adventure.

Art by Raymund Bermudez
From The Unholiness at Zogurthang – frontispiece art by Marvel artist Raymund Bermudez

And before I answer your questions about the stories I will say that I had stumbled across Gods of Gondwane on rpgnow without knowing your blog (I have recently come back to gaming after a long absence) – and I hadn’t even found your blog (I found it after I read the stories). I literally purchased your stories on a whim and I  am so enjoying your writing and stories I am considering it an act of fate or the gods.

At first blush the Snow Leopard, Orhan Timur, was my favourite. A big part of that may have been his resemblance to REH’s Conan who I first read at 11 or 12 or so. Not to say it was a pastiche, but the resemblance in the character was there physically and in his directness of mind and spirit, though maybe a Conan with a real plan. And also I might add, starting off the collection it was the first introduction to the shared world these characters seem to inhabit.

I love your world-building! It felt real and to my mind it had the strengths of REH’s world-building – the fact that the peoples and nations described were essentially historically-based with a perfect layer of ancient and debauched sorcery overlaid. It really felt like I was reading a chronicle of things and people that actually happened in some far past.

I really enjoyed the Pandara stories. These seemed to embody an even more exotic feel with a pirate prince on the sea. Both Serpent King and Law of the Knife seemed to capture some unique aspects of this Sword & Sorcery Far-East in the magic that really stuck out in my mind. Pandara as a character had a broodinq quality I enjoyed. As a North American, these stories particularly had that exotic quality which made me think of Moorcock’s Elric (which was the second set of sword & sorcery books I read after Conan).

Thinking back the Arios stories also resound loudly, it seems he is based in the past of the shared world? (DRQ – yes, he is.)  The sorcery seems more immediate, manipulable and accessible than in the other stories. Those stories also had a mythic quality, like super-saturated colours or something. Being of Greek descent myself I appreciated the Hellenic quality to the hero, not only in the naming of people and places, but in some of mythological borrowings: Odysseus, Prometheus. To my mind Arios could have been a soldier in Alexander’s wandering army conquering the arid Persian Empire (DRQ – you found me out!), except for chained alien gods and sorcery however. His stories made me think of Gene Wolfe’s Soldier of the Mist (though it may just be the Greek thing) and KEW’s Kane-particularly in Dragon’s Blood.

Finally, if I have to choose a single one as a favourite – it would have to be Datu Buhawi.
Fantastic setting and story, (not sure if it is maybe the future of the setting already used or a different thing altogether but very cool).* The story was poignant, with complex themes and action filled. I find the protagonist a fascinating mix of Kurosawa’s Sanjuro, Bruce Lee and REH’s Solomon Kane – fantastic stuff. I cannot wait to see our hero deal with the Tartessian black magician Don Mauricio de Selvan and the other invaders colonizing his homeland.

Again, fantastic stories, great writing, and memorable heroes. The Far-East inspired and
informed Sword and Sorcery you’ve written is just what I needed! Thank you. Please let me know when your next selection of stories is published. – Peter Politis

*The stories in SOFW are indeed set on a shared world, with the exception of Datu Buhawi, which was written earlier.