THE NINE NATIONS
Book One – The Sliding World
By Jim Beard
A Becky Books Production
The truth is we are not big fantasy readers. Oh sure, being involved with pulpdom, we’ve read our share of Robert E. Howard’s Conan and Charles Saunders’s African mythology books but not a whole lot more. In fact, we tend to avoid the genre these days in the place of masked avengers and noir mysteries. So why this one? Well, in all honesty, because the author is someone of unusual talent whose past efforts have always entertained us. We opted to give it a go.
At the start of the tale, we learn that things are rather bleak in the world of the Nine Nations. Apparently, the land mass upon which the varied countries are situated is actually sliding over the edge of a bottomless abyss. It’s as if Mother Nature has decided to destroy humankind and nothing can stop this slide to oblivion. Amidst this dismal predicament, something happens in the land of Complin that predicates an unusual quest. A notorious thief has stolen a pendant that is somehow mystically connected to the land and its retrieval becomes King Green’s singular goal. To that end, he assigns his General Ketch to put together a small group of warriors and take the Warrior’s Road through other nations on a quest to find the pendant.
Ketch chooses an odd assortment of male mercenaries and a group of fierce maiden Horse Wardens of Uzzlin. As this is transpiring, the King orders his chief law enforcer, High Warrant Jon Torck to accompany a magician named Stoan and a separate mission. It is the King’s belief that the mage may be able to divine a way to end the slide and save civilization. Torck, who abhors any kind of idol worship and mumbo-jumbo, is reluctant but acquiesces due to his staunch loyalty. Their journey leads them to the mysterious uninhabited zone known as the Graylands where nothing lives; not animal, vegetation or human. There, Torck will meet his destiny head-on.
As ever, Jim Beard has woven a totally original story, unlike any other sword and sorcery adventure. It is filled with intriguing, complex characters and the pace is relentless from beginning to end. Oh sure, there are the required fantasy elements, but it is how he weaves them into his narrative that we found refreshing. Like all good sagas, Book One ends on a cliffhanger and we are looking forward to it with relish. Don’t let us down now, Mr. Beard. We’re having too much fun.