Brian Daley’s 1977 The Doomfarers of Coramonde is the first of two books in the Coramonde series.
Springbuck, rightful heir to the throne of Coramonde, is going to have problems taking power. He’s short-sighted and a bit timid, neither of which is a plus in the combat-oriented culture of Coramonde. Also, most everyone at court is conspiring against him, in cahoots with malevolent sorcerer Yardiff Bey.
Providentially, stalwart warrior Duke Hightower appears to save Springbuck! Less providentially, the Duke is almost immediately killed, while Springbuck is temporarily imprisoned.
Meanwhile, in Vietnam, American soldier Gil MacDonald and the crew of the APC Lobo are busy saving the Asian nation from the Communist menace.
Evil is terrible at many things, including keeping princes safely ensconced. Springbuck escapes, discovering in the process just how widespread the conspiracy is (and also that villainous monologuing is rife in Coramonde). Fate leads him to a village where a certain Van Duyn has established himself as a teacher.
Van Duyn and his peculiar ideas about egalitarianism have placed the interloper and those around him on Team Evil’s to-kill list. A dragon has just been assigned the task of reducing the village and its inhabitants to greasy ashes. Fortunately, it will be some time before the dragon arrives, which is time enough for Van Duyn’s sorcerous friends, siblings Andre and Gabrielle deCourtney, to summon other-worldly assistance. As it happens, Van Duyn has a creative idea about which other world can supply the assistance.
Lobo and its crew are in the middle of a heated battle with Viet Cong soldiers when they are snatched from our world and deposited in Coramonde. The deCourtneys can return the Americans back to whence they came … but not before the dragon arrives. If the Americans want to live long enough to go home, they must first deal with the dragon.
Defeating a dragon using only modern weapons from a heavily armoured personnel carrier is easy enough, but that is only the beginning of the problems that face the crew of the Lobo . By the end of the book they will have stormed Hell itself.
Depressing thought for the day: pretty much everyone associated with the creation of this book is dead: author (Brian Daley, died 1996), publishers (Judy-Lynn del Rey, died 1986, Lester del Rey, died 1993), and cover artist (Darrell K. Sweet1, died 2011). They were all middle-aged when the book was published; it’s been a mere forty-three years since publication. I am reminded that time’s winged chariot is hurrying near.
Somewhat less depressing: I hadn’t realized how distinctive the Del Rey books of this period were until I set the book face down on a table. I could make an educated guess as to the publisher and era from the font, that shade of back-cover green, and the absence of a bar code.
Forty plus years since first read is long enough that I had forgotten important details. For example, I thought the book ended with the assault on Hell. In fact, that happens about halfway through the book. There’s a whole civil war after that, not to mention a pointed lesson about the drawbacks of using magical swords.
This is not a book that one would read for the worldbuilding, characters, or prose. Coramonde is a stock mock-mediaeval fantasy kingdom typical of the era. The antagonists are gleefully, vocally malevolent, willing to provide extensive lectures on this point lest their foes not understand just how eeeeeeeeeevil the bad guys are. The protagonists are similarly two dimensional. And the prose … well, it’s workpersonlike.
The book is, however, very, very enthusiastic and fast-paced; if it had a soundtrack, surely it would be heavy metal, dialed up to eleven. No doubt, there are people who read this in their personal golden age for whom it still resonates but if you’re looking for original, detailed worlds depicted in exquisitely crafted prose, look elsewhere.
Was the second book any better? Stay tuned in for future installments!
1: Speaking of cover artist Sweet:
While the prince’s mask really is as flashy in the text as it is on the cover, I don’t know what’s up with the shoulder flanges.