Its time to stop following this multiple-book, tenfold novel stories of horrendously huge proportions and just simply hunker down with a few tirades about a hero. While I can enjoy long storylines and have in the past, I just didnt want to start a long journey this time around. So I picked up Zelaznys (yes, Zelazny again, why not?) Dilvish, the Damned. There are probably other books that tell of Dilvish, though I cant guess for sure. What I do know is that this book seems to be the tales that made this fantasy character popular.
First lets talk of what type of story Zelazny penned down in Dilvish, the Damned. RPGers take heart here is something that Im willing to bet came straight out of gameplay. For those familiar with the Albinor Chronicles or the Serpents Inn, youll find similar tales in this book. Dilvish is so obviously AD&D, that youll feel youre playing a campaign as you read it. The half-elf has visited planes, rides a metallic mount from Hell and even wears Boots of Elvenkind (though they arent identified as such). A hero who was banished to Hell for hundreds of years, his escape to the Prime Material plane (read: Earth) begins his quest to find Jelerak, the evil wizard (of course) who originally sent him to his supposed doom centuries before.
On his travels Dilvish goes through a number of challenges and hurdles, not unlike the twelve labors of Hercules. From rising undead armies to once again save a city from an amassing army to winding his way through a magical maze of a city as time ticks away, Dilvish continues on his way in search of his arch nemesis. The stories are set apart, so that while you may find nuances where one leads into the other they can easily be arranged in whatever timeline you like much like the Albinor chapter series that Legends readers are familiar with. Tower of Ice is the longest of the lot, and details Dilvishs journey to one of Jeleraks abodes.
Other favorites include Devil and Dancer, where Dilvish must unravel the mystery of a lost god who lives through the life of only a single living worshipper. And The Places of Aache another mystery where Dilvish must fend off a curse he brought on himself by killing a thief named Rogis who served a supposed goddess named Aache. Dilvish is a moralistic man at heart, even though consumed by thoughts of revenge for the time he lost during his banishment, so he stays at the Aache shrine to set up a more lucrative and therefore non-thieving way for Aache and her people to survive. And at the end of the book he once again, much against the wishes of his mount Black, follows a proverbial damsel in distress to what could have been yet another pile of mysteries and adventures.
However, you never get the complete story. Still by the end of this book, Dilvish has yet to face Jelerak again in a final battle. Thats what makes me say earlier that there are probably more. Maybe I have them, maybe I dont, but the stories are lots of fun and will light up that dungeon masters fire in your belly from days gone by. As a matter of fact, when I was done with the book I just had to make sure I knew where all my dice were D20s, D10s, D4s just in case.
Dilvish, the Damned by
Cover Art by Michael Herring
A Del Rey Book
Published by Ballantine Books
Copyright © 1982 by Roger Zelazny
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 82-90441