In the Vales of Pagarna
“And those monsters saw not a young man with a sword but a scarred and screaming horror with the rising red doom of the sun at his back and a hellishly shrieking, flashing, living sword in his hands.”
To find the girl and take his revenge upon the fiend who took her, Skallagrim, wounded and exhausted, must endure a journey like no other. He’ll face madmen, ghouls, tentacled horrors, and witches, both foul and fair, as he races toward a final showdown that will have readers on the edge of their seats.
An awe-inspiring tale of adventure, triumph, and tragedy, set in a brutal, unforgiving wilderness and packed with heart-stopping action, Skallagrim – In The Vales Of Pagarna marks the first installment of an outstanding new series.
Stephen R. Babb’s novel, Skallagrim – In the Vale of Pagarna, is a deep dive into a world of epic fantasy. The book is a tale steeped in all of the classic elements of the Sword and Sorcery genre and will no-doubt delight fans of the work of Robert E. Howard, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis (with maybe even a hint of H.P. Lovecraft for good measure).
Babb wastes no time plunging the reader into the story. From page one, we identify strongly with Skallagrim, the hero of the piece, already in a fight for his life as the tale begins. From the start, Skallagrim’s memories of what brought him into his predicament have been wiped clean, putting the hero and the reader on equal ground. We learn the what and why of what’s happening as he does – a wonderful story-telling device that pulls the reader deeply into the adventure from the first sentence. And what an adventure it is!
“…The air was chill but calm. Dawn was at least two hours away, and the silver disc of the moon rode high in the sky, unwilling to yield up the heavens. Like Skallagrim, it seemed a lonely thing—for it rode the firmament in solitude, its light drowning even the brightest of stars. …”
In the hands of a lesser writer the story could become just a series of pulp-fiction blackouts but Babb writes with a finesse that bridges the gap between epic adventure-writing and poetry. Even our protagonist, Skallagrim, the thief/lover whose quest we’re following, isn’t the typical Conan-based character. He’s a warrior that has no real desire to kill, but has to cooperate with a mysteriously aggressive sword to do the task when it’s called for. Skallagrim’s inner motivation isn’t simply to smash and hack his way through life – there seems to be much more of a romantic soul beneath the scarred exterior, making it easier for the reader to relate. The main joy of the way Stephen R. Babb has constructed this story, though, is that – just like Skallagrim – we have no way of knowing what lies just around the corner, at the end of the tunnel, behind the half-opened door… on the next page. Bert Saraco – The Phantom Tollbooth
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The Lay Of Lirazel
An Edenesque garden, a haunted tower, a forest shrouded in twilight wherein dwell Centaurs, Elves and a myriad of creatures fantastic and mysterious; this is the setting in which Babb’s “Lirazel” comes to life and where the tragedy of her life must unfold. Her doom is fixed, deadly, unavoidable and all the more tragic because of the choices Lirazel makes as she spurns wisdom for folly in a desperate gamble for love.
In the world of Lirazel there exists an evil; ancient and monstrous, seductive and sorcerous. Its malice is hyper-focused on revenge and the usurpation of power. To satisfy its plots the Princess Lirazel must die. Perhaps then, a powerful relic will be revealed and then claimed by the usurpers. A crown, made for a princess but desired by a treacherous elf-witch and a fallen Knight; for this thing a brutal war must be fought, heroes must die and a maiden be cursed.
The tale of this crown is the story Lirazel will uncover, as will the reader. This is the tale, told as poetry, in which she finds herself enmeshed and ultimately bewitched. The Lay Of Lirazel is narrative poetry told in epic fashion, but it is poetry fully equipped with fangs and enough terror to keep a reader turning pages till the last curse falls and death and doom claim their prize!
Author and scholar Bradley Birzer has compared the poetry to that of Beowulf and The Battle of Maldon and has credited Babb with “some of the best lyrics in rock history.” The Lay Of Lirazel originally provided the inspiration for prog-legends Glass Hammer and their 2005 magnum-opus The Inconsolable Secret. Babb, though he had no idea at the time, had composed his lyrical or poetical magnum-opus as well. Best known for his work with Glass Hammer, Babb is stepping out at last into the world of straight-out saga-making and storytelling. Rock D.J. Chris MacIntosh (a.k.a. Grandfather Rock) says of the author, “As a rock-n-roll bass player, Steve Babb is flawless; as a poet/storyteller he is excellent. …Babb ranks along with names like Stephen Lawhead or Jeffrey Overstreet. Excellence from beginning to end!” But Inkling scholars and Tolkien experts like Dr. Amy Sturgis are also taking note. She says, “What makes The Lay of Lirazel an honest act of sub-creation and a deeply moving meditation on the human condition… are the subtler and infinitely more difficult choices with which Lirazel struggles: the choices to sacrifice and to trust, to obey and to believe, to know remorse and to accept grace.”
Inspired by the poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson, the paintings of John W. Waterhouse and the writings of George MacDonald, William Morris and Lord Dunsany; The Lay of Lirazel is the essence of the mythopoeic set to verse. Perhaps not since J.R.R. Tolkien penned The Lay Of Leithian has a modern writer attempted poetry on such a grand scale.