DAY 3: Seth Skorkowsky’s “Mountain of Daggers (Tales of the Black Raven Book I)” – Swashbuckling, Roguish Fun
My review of and some behind-the-scenes chatter about Seth Skorkowsky’s debut Black Raven Anthology “Mountain of Daggers”
THE REVIEW: “Mountain of Daggers (Black Raven #1)”
4.5 out 5 Stars
Get ready to root for the bad guy….
With Skorkowsky’s ‘Mountain of Daggers’ we are treated to a collection of roguish stories that aren’t afraid to cut and bloody their hands on the razor’s edge between classic Sword and Sorcery and Outlaw Grimdark.
‘Mountain of Daggers’ introduces us to the Black Raven. Some outlaws are blood-thirsty killers. Some are thuggish fighters. The Black Raven… is a thief — lover of the chase and an old fashioned adrenaline junkie. Once you get to know the Black Raven, you realize he does these things, first and foremost, because he CAN. In a cutthroat world of ruthless criminals, killers, and outlaw power-brokers “Mountain of Daggers” follows the Black Raven through the opening acts of a journey that becomes as much for his soul and sanity as it is wealth, infamy, or the thrill of the hunt.
Not without a capacity for ruthlessness, the Black Raven’s sinister streak claws at the surface as his adventures in this game of outlaws turns bloody and personal. Veiled just behind a playful smirk is a man on the edge of becoming just as cold and brutal as any scoundrel he shares Skorkowsky’s vivid criminal underworld with.
If Ian Fleming had possessed a penchant for Sword and Sorcery rather than Walthers and Martinis, the Black Raven could have been his
Skorkowsky’s fantasy world is crisply and meticulously realized in culture, concept, and style. Boasting exceptional atmospherics throughout, the environment of the fantastic locations – cities, ruins, tombs, estates, brothels, wine-soaked taverns, and the grim rotten underbelly of civilization – come alive in a narrative truly immerse of the five-senses.
Punctuated by gritty outlaw-versus-outlaw capers and the most vividly narrated tales of a fantasy rogue’s trade-craft I’ve ever read, ‘Mountain of Daggers’ keeps the spotlight burning bright on the concept of the master-thief and turns up the heat from beginning to end.
If you are a lover of swashbuckling rogues and merciless outlaws – pick up a copy of Seth Skorkowsky’s ‘Mountain of Daggers’ today… and get ready to root for the bad guy.
The Rest Of The Story…
NOTE: A couple of items in my recollection of this timeline might not entirely add up, but hey, you’ll understand why here shortly. -CS
Okay, so let’s go back in time. Track with me, this story has a purpose and comes full circle.
It’s 2006/2007 (I think that’s right). At the time, I’m an Event Coordinator for the World’s Largest Paintball Event (a monstrous, week-long, D-Day Themed paintball event, culminating in a 3,000+ Player game, Germans vs. Allies, winner-takes-all). It’s sort of like a Ren Faire, except the participants play the parts of Allies and Germans and all week long EVERYBODY FIGHTS IN BATTLES.
My fellow Coordinator and I, along with a cast of about 100+ contributing Allied and German Staff Players, have just spent a year overhauling and rebuilding the game. If the redesign is a customer-satisfying success, woo-hoo, we get waffles. If it’s not, we’ve pissed off thousands of players and ruined their summer vacation. There are no second chances.
*insert nervous clearing of throat here*
Throughout the year leading up to The Big Week, we host a number of Staff Meeting / Work Weekend events where our contributing staff come to the park, spend a few days getting frozen/exhausted or hot/filthy (depending on the season) helping us prepare for the game in June and meet with us about Game Design, Logistics, Player’s Issues, etc… etc… etc…
Once the work is done and the critical Staff Meetings are over — we blow off steam.
Lots of it. Because, that’s just one of the perks. Basically, we’d party like it was 1999 and drive around in Army Trucks and Tanks and shoot machine guns. A good time was had by all.
THIS particular Staff Meeting, I look through the crowd and I spot this dude. He’s grinning a lot, and as luck would have it, he’s holding THIS mug (which may look familiar to some of you):
He is in attendance with his lovely and charming wife. Being well-cupped, as was our custom at said after-hours events, they/we were chatty and in a good mood. A fine time was had by all.
But see, here’s the trick: There’s a serious shortage of Rennies at major Paintball Events. I don’t know WHY the two event formats don’t tend to cross paths (both being events where adults play dress up, pretend to be characters from an interesting historical period, and wail the crap out of each other, finishing it off with copius drinking, camping, and partying) but they don’t. At the time, I was 99% certain that I was the ONLY Rennie/SCA Geek in the entire 3,000+ Player / 10,000+ Camper horde.
Then I saw that mug.
And I thought: “Son of a bitch. Who is this dude?” I’d never seen these people at a Staff Meeting before, and I knew everybody.
Because this was odd and I was intrigued, I hoisted my beverage and went over to say hello. “Ah, perhaps one of my own kind walks these halls this night,” I thought. Huh. Sure enough. We talked, we introduced ourselves and recognized each other from the event forums. We chatted, we drank, we played get-to-know-ya. Somewhere in the cups, we exchanged crossfire revelations/admissions that we were both writers. The plot thickened. So did the drinking. And most of that conversation was… well… essentially forgotten.
Fast forward to a future Staff Meeting. This dude and his lovely, charming wife return. Apparently they think we’re okay folks. We agree. We like them too.
I was sitting in an easy chair with a Crown and Coke on my knee, having a fine time. This dude comes over to me and says, “Hi, how ya been?”
We catch up. We enjoy our beverages and our tales of daring do. Then he produces an issue of (correct me if I’m wrong, Seth — or if I have the entire timeline wrong — whiskey fog and all) “Flashing Swords.” Contained within its illustrated pages is a story titled “The Porvov Switch” by this dude, Seth Skorkowsky.
Now, here’s the truth. It’s a party, I’m on Cup Number X, and this guy says, “Would you like to read my story?”
My instinctive answer is “Oh, hey, that’s great! But, no. I’m drinking right now.”
For some reason, though, I went 180 degrees against my normal grain and said, “Yeah. Sure.” I don’t know why. I liked this dude, I liked his wife. I’m gonna humor him. I’m gonna skim over his god-awful story, smile a bunch, and hand it back to him with a pat on the back, and thank him for the opportunity to read it. Because, sometimes, that’s what you do.
I cracked it open. I began to read.
Two pages deep, my plans changed. Because, lo and behold, this dude from Texas could actually write.
Sometime shortly thereafter, we started having fewer serious conversations about paintball and far more of them about writing. The rest is history. I’ve never been able to look back in time and say I was thankful that I set a well-mixed Crown and Coke down. Until then.
PS: Oh, yeah — and shortly thereafter (or possibly before) there was also pancakes. But that’s a story for tomorrow.