The Blackgloom Bounty is one of those rambling, picaresque fantasies which makes occasional hectic detours into a universe strongly resembling the 10th Century border region of present-day Northern England and Southern Scotland. The story rackets along at a tremendous pace; rather like an amusement park ride or a fiendishly complicated Dungeons and Dragons game. At the end of it, you are dumped out with a spinning head and a perhaps not-quite accurate memory of everything that went on, but in no doubt that you and everyone else had a tremendously amusing ride.
The reader remembers that there was an enormous cast of characters, rushing about, and it was all something to do with curses, stolen inheritances, a stalwart young heir hidden away, a feisty wench, brave warriors, secret tombs, ghosts, wicked noblemen, spells and shape-changing, magic stones and a treasure of wonderful wealth, a sea-monsterâ€¦ and then, and then and thenâ€¦ the review would be about as long as the book itself, if I attempted to do even a short recapitulation. And it wouldnâ€™t be anywhere near as amusing. Just think of â€œThe Blackgloom Bountyâ€ as the fantasy-novel equivalent of the stateroom scene in the old Marx Brothers movie â€œA Night at the Operaâ€.
When young Daynin and his grandfather find a curiously carved stone while plowing their field, they have little idea that it is the legendary Scythian Stoneâ€¦ but a wandering magician named Kruzurk Makshare doesâ€¦ and with a few brisk preliminaries, Daynin is off and running on the adventure of his life, to find and liberate an enormous treasure, and then to keep hold of it. The author has concocted an intricate yarn, briskly paced, and in a writing style which is always workmanlike and quite frequently sparkles. He also has an ear for conversation, which also serves the story well. This is the first volume of a projected series, and a worthwhile read for any devotee of the fantasy-adventure genre.
And there is a bit with a dog, too.