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The Hounds of Ash and Other Tales of Fool Wolf
Greg Keyes
Edge, 169 pages

The Hounds of Ash and Other Tales of Fool Wolf
Greg Keyes
Greg Keyes was born in Meridian, Mississippi, to a large, diverse, storytelling family. He received degrees in anthropology from Mississippi State and the University of Georgia before becoming a full-time writer. He is the author of the Age of Unreason series and the Children of the Changeling series, as well as several novels set in the Star Wars and Babylon 5 universes.

Greg Keyes Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Born Queen
SF Site Review: The Charnel Prince
SF Site Review: Newton's Cannon
SF Site Review: The Briar King
SF Site Review: The Briar King
SF Site Review: Dark Genesis
SF Site Review: Newton's Cannon

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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Greg Keyes returns to his world of The Waterborn with the short stories collected in The Hounds of Ash and Other Tales of Fool Wolf. Focusing on the barbarian character Fool Wolf, who is possessed, or at least shares a body, with a rather blood-thirsty goddess, Chugaachik. The collection is written in a style reminiscent of the Weird Tales stories of Clark Ashton Smith or Robert E. Howard with a healthy dose of Fritz Leiber and Michael Moorcock thrown in.

Fool Wolf moves through his episodic existence trying to survive each day against the supernatural and human forces which strive to relieve him of life and/or the goddess. The latter he wouldn't mind, although it often seems like it comes at the expense of the former. This is particularly clear in "The Skin Witch," in which Fool Wolf apparently comes close to ridding himself of Chugaachik, and in "The Fallen God," in which he meets the demon Uzhdon, who recognizes, and fears, Fool Wolf's possessor.

Although reminiscent of the sort of Weird Tales that grew from the early stories of Conan and similar barbarians, the stories that make up The Hounds of Ash do not become pastiches of those earlier tales. Keyes brings a modern sensibility to the characters and action without becoming anachronistic. Perhaps more importantly for the twenty-first century reader, Keyes manages to achieve the same sort of atmosphere without delving into the purple prose that was indicative of so much of Weird Tales's charm.

Not all of the stories work well. "The Hounds of Ash" is divided into three separate sections, three separate stories. The first story starts slowly and never really comes into focus, seeming to simply set Fool Wolf up for the next story and an attempt to reunite with Inah, the half-goddess he met in "The Python King's Treasure," and comes to another face off with Uzhdon. Subsequent portions of the story, however, bring it to an ultimately satisfying conclusion.

One of the problems with the stories in The Hounds of Ash may be endemic to this type of tale, and even the best practitioners of the weird tale suffered from it. The stories are lacking a sense of chronology. It is possible, in fact, necessary, to say that "The Fallen God" happens before "The Hounds of Ash," but the episodic nature of the stories means it is difficult to say how much time has passed and how many adventures Fool Wolf has had, between those stories. Similarly, location shifts, sometimes dramatically, between the stories.

The Hounds of Ash provides a wonderful sense of the stories told during the formative years of the modern fantasy genre. Keyes has updated the language for current sensibilities while retaining much of the general feel of the original style of story. His characters, particularly Fool Wolf, are enjoyable and make the reader want to discover what happens to them next. Even more, just as the original weird stories created strange god-laced worlds, Fool Wolf moves through an intriguing world.

Copyright © 2008 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a seven-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.


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