Originally printed under the pseudonym F.J. Hale, Ogre Castle and its companion,
In the Sea Nymph's
Lair, were printed in the late 80s. But the vagaries of publishing in the last few
decades delayed the release of the final volume, The Wizard's Spell Mirror. The author,
Robert E. Vardeman, went on to write a wealth of science fiction and fantasy works, including
The Cenotaph Road
of Chaos series, and the
Masters of Space
series, as well as two original Star Trek novels,
Mutiny on the
Enterprise. Vardeman also has a
Peter Thorne mystery
series, the Karl
Lassiter western series, and numerous works of short fiction, including his own collection
called Stories from
Desert Bob's Reptile Ranch. Needless to say, Vardeman is not only prolific but a legend in
several distinct genres.
Zumaya Publications picked up Vardeman's Star Frontier series last year and printed
Alien Death Fleet (also reviewed
on Myshelf) and will have the second book out later this year. They also breathed life into Vardeman's
After the Spell Wars series of which Ogre Castle is the first installment.
The After the Spell Wars series deals with the inhabitants of the Plenn Archipelagos who are
dealing with the ghostly remnants of the devastating Spell Wars, where magician was pitted
against magician. The kingdom of Loke-Bor is especially besieged because of the fierce animosity
between Lord Zoranto and the powerful wizard Rahman'dur, who had reportedly destroyed each other.
When Zoranto's successor, Lord Northdell, is summoned from exile to take the throne, the young lord
is practically driven mad by ethereal phantoms who can cause great harm in the real world but who
cannot be killed with ordinary weapons.
It is thus the task of itinerant wizard Durrril and his young apprentice Arpad Zen to vanquish
these vestiges of the long ago Spell Wars. Ordinarily, that would occupy these two sorcerers with
minor wizardly duties for a few days. Unfortunately, what they find at Lord Northdell's castle
aren't ancient magical leftovers but newly-cast monsters, including a giant ogre who whisks away
Lord Northdell's beautiful bride-to-be. As Durril and Zen attempt the young woman's rescue, Lord
Northdell pulls together a ragtag army to invade the Valley of Ultimate Demise, Rahman'dur's former
stronghold. Both attempts are fraught with disaster and lead both groups face to face with a very
much alive Rahman'dur, who has only gotten stronger since the Spell Wars' end.
Without a doubt, Vardeman can write an exciting page-turner! Like his Alien Death Fleet,
there is one danger and clever narrow escape after another, calling on more creative skills his
protagonist, Master Durril, and his student, must begin to pull from deep within themselves,
facing inner demons as well as outer ones. And Lord Northdell learns more than he cares to about
Ogre Castle is a great read and one that fantasy lovers will thoroughly enjoy. I myself
can't wait until In the Sea Nymph's Lair is available so that I can return to the Plenn
Archipelagos and see what else awaits after the Spell Wars.