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Author of ten very bizarre science-fiction masquerading as fantasy novels: all titles involve two entities beginning with a 'w' - The Wizards and the Warriors, The Wordsmiths and The Weaponmasters, The Women and The Warlords, The Walrus and The Warwolf, The Wicked and The Witless, The Wazir and the Witch, The Wishstone and The Wonderworkers, The Werewolf and the Wormlord, The Worshippers and the Way, The Witchlord and The Weaponmaster. Apart from demonstrating his eccentric abilities to create new words starting with the letter W, the real point to the ten (lengthy) volume epic is only discovered in Book Ten - what you thought was fantasy is in fact sci-fi. Each book (with some small exceptions) takes place over the same time span: so you read about the same events happening from different characters' perspectives. If you can get through the ropier ones (Wordsmiths and Weaponmasters (cheesey) and Werewolf and Wormlord (just awful)), the whole thing is actually very impressive indeed.

Hugh Cook is quite under-appreciated as an author, probably due to the form that his work took in the USA.

His huge "The W- & the W-" 10-book series is collectively titled "Chronicles of an age of Darkness". Each novel of the Chronicles was originally printed in the UK, and the books I own are from these printings - all ten of them. At least some of these books were also printed in the USA, a little later, and under different names.

The US printings were hideous. For example, the lead character in his third book (The Women and the Warlords) is Yen Olass, a woman in her mid/late thirties. Her background is that she is one of the few survivors of a race (somewhat like the Lapps), whose homeland was invaded and laid to waste when Yen was a child. Yen herself saw her family killed, and was pack-raped by soldiers. She was sold as a slave, and finally given to a not-entirely-friendly order of Oracles whose induction involved fairly thorough genital mutilation. Despite this harsh history, Yen manages to make something of herself, and her personal outlook is not entirely bitter - she can be quite whimsical at times.

Yen is described as being big and stocky, and she spends most of the book heavily rugged up in bearskin, for simple survival - she lives in a wintery land. She successfully impersonates a male warrior for several weeks, and is just as physically strong and capable as the average male. On a couple of occasions, she knocks men out with her fists, and she withstands a fair amount of physical damage throughout the course of the story.

The US edition of this book was titled "The Oracle", and Yen is pictured as a lithe-yet-curvy chick in a chain mail bikini. The illustration also features a big glowy and mystic-looking orb, and the total effect is that the book looks like a Heroic Fantasy / sword-and-sorcery slasher. Presumably they were attempting to appeal to the same market that buys Conan stories, which is, IMO, a completely witless marketing decision for such a novel.

Another shameful decision was to chop the already small second book in half. The edition I have is called The Wordsmiths and the Warguild, and, whilst it is possibly the weakest of the series, it is quite a decent story. The first half of the US edition is called The Questing Hero, and it simply ends halfway through the story, with an advertisement for the second instalment.

I think these books deserved a lot better treatment, and I am sad that they are out of print. I adored the series because I found his approach to be quite refreshing... the Chronicles are about believable characters behaving in a highly realistic manner, whilst living in a mildly fantastical setting. Reality intrudes in a number of ways that would never be allowed in a David Eddings novel.

Besides the Chronicles, Hugh has written a few other books including The Shift, said to be similar in style to the Chronicles, The Homecoming Man, and Cracked Wheat and Other Stories.

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