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Fantasy Book Review Jack Vance Cugals Saga

Cugal travels a long way to take revenge against a wizard and faces many adventures on route.


The third book in the Tales Of The Dying Earth Quartet, taking up immediately after the preceding The Eyes Of The Overworld, though written seventeen years later.

Cugal has once again been sent thousands of miles across the planet now infested with demons, monsters, powerful sorcerers and all manner of charlatan, thief and lunatic. The previous adventure had seen Cugal having to return from a distant land to get vengeance on the laughing wizard who sent him there, only to be launched right back at the novel’s close to where he started.

Now Cugal makes the journey again, though by a different route. He seems more rational, brave, cunning and genuinely clever on this new odyssey. He is often just unlucky and many of the people and cults he faces are extremely eccentric.

Cugal stumbles on a colony that thrives on extreme greed. Their currency is the scales of a giant demon that exploded in their swamp. They gain a living by diving into the mire to fish out the creature’s scales, which their leaders sell to the wizards. Cugal takes one such scale, the Spatterlight, as he knows the wizard he seeks vengeance upon will covet it.

Other episodic adventures on route to the final confrontation include the discovery of boots coated in gravity defying resin enabling Cugal to kick a ship into the air. At an exhibition of wonders, a man shows off an army of cockroaches, armed with little muskets. Cugal finds a hole in the ground leading to another World, and in an age where the Sun is visibly dying out, he sees a group of men using solar powered beams to try to give the Sun its light and life back again, clearly an exercise in futility.

More subdued in pace and satirical than the proceeding work, with a terrific conclusion. As with so much Vance work, well worth a look.

Arthur Chappell

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