Greg's Reviews > Lords of Dyscrasia

Lords of Dyscrasia by S.E. Lindberg
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Oct 27, 2012

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bookshelves: horror
Read from July 24 to October 19, 2012

There is much that I like about Lords of Dyscrasia. For one thing, I like the author's illustrations, which have a dark and brooding quality to them that matches the narrative. The cover illustration is spectacular in colour and I wonder how some of the book's other illustrations would look this way too (I'm presuming they are all grey-scale versions of original colour works). I also like the appendices, which I didn't realise existed until I came to the end of the book (I read a PDF of the printed volume provided to me by the author). These appendices provide a chronology of key events, a pedigree of the heirs of the Queen's Muse, a genealogical diagram showing the inter-relationships of humans, elementals and elders (deities), and an index or dictionary identifying places, people and things that appear in the narrative. They are not critical to understanding the story as you read it but they are a handy aide mémoire for anyone writing a review, or perhaps discussing the book with friends, afterwards!

I also liked the descriptions of horror – notably the often visceral ways people were tortured and killed in the course of the story. I expect to read at least some disturbing scenes from dark fantasy and horror and there are plenty of them in this book! The genealogical dimension to the plot reminds me a little of Frank Herbert's Dune , only with a more tragic dimension than is found in the latter. In common with many epic fantasy novels (and ancient mythology), the main characters' lives in Lords of Dyscrasia seem to be pre-destined, although they struggle against their destiny. It is this struggle that is at the core of Lords of Dyscrasia, with humans being used not only as pawns in the machinations of two elder beings but also for their very life-force. So one wonders whether the humans or the elders (and their allies, the elementals) will triumph in the end.

My only real problem with the book is that it is bleak. The main characters experience tragedy after tragedy so that, after a while, a sense of hopelessness develops for the reader even while the characters struggle on to avenge these tragedies but at increasing cost to themselves and to others around them. And when the elders pit one character against the other – one victim against another – it's impossible to take sides and so the only way to continue reading the story is to detach yourself from the main characters and see how the outcome unfolds. A somewhat precarious hope is restored with the appearance of a legion of warriors later on in the book but to say what happens as a result would give too much away.

One interesting aspect of the story was the emphasis on art and craft and how, essentially, almost all human activity in the world was viewed as both. Thus, individuals like Dey not only took pride in their art but also the different human clans specialised in distinct crafts with which they became identified. Craftwork and art also had a key role in ritual. It's notable that the author himself is not only an artist but also a chemist who works as 'a complex fluid microscopist, employing his skills as a scientist and artist to understand the manufacturing of liquids analogous to medieval paints' (p. 258). This helps explain the author's use of archaisms with respect to both the artistic and medico-scientific endeavours of his characters. An an artist himself, I suspect that the author agrees with Dey's view 'on the purpose and value of art' as he discusses a special mosaic he has created:

I had given birth to a wild, awesome work of art while affirming my skills and self-worth as an artist. I could feel my soul bond with this earth [....]. It was part of me now and vice versa.

The art one creates, the subject of it, and the artist are three separate entities – though they imprint their souls onto each other. On rare occasion, the process of this sharing is orgasmic and resembles procreation; the product assumes a sentient thing, possessing some spirit of the creator's although ultimately a new being. These events are special, happening only a few times in one's life. Some artists are infertile in this regard.

These children of beauty are an artist's legacy, and I have had none ere now. To date, I had completed only minor feats of artisanship and had felt correspondingly worthless as an artist, so the present moment was indeed the pinnacle of my happiness. (p. 64)


While likening the production of art to having children is probably a common enough notion for artists of all hues, I wonder how many people would agree with Dey's later assertion that 'to willingly bear witness to art is to accept it and promote it' (p. 246). Hmm. Perhaps, having read Lord of Dyscrasia, I have willingly borne witness to it and by virtue of this review I am therefore promoting it, but I don't think I've fully accepted it – is this my struggle against my destiny?! ;)

Lords of Dyscrasia is a good example of literary horror in terms of the high quality of the writing and that the author does not shy away from using rare, archaic or obsolete terms in his text. Because many of these terms were in vogue in the seventeenth century or earlier (e.g. aliquot, cataplasm, cruor and dyscrasia), their use helps to posit the narrative in an antique era – that the story happened long ago. Such archaic terminology appeals to me as an archaeologist and historian and also as somebody who likes to learn new things. I also always chuckled when I read the word 'baldric', though, as I'm sure fans of Tony Robinson's character in the various Blackadder series will appreciate! I was less happy with the appropriation of the word Pict/Picti (the name given to the pre-Scottish inhabitants of Scotland but used here to mean the 'native, tribal humans of the Land'), and also of dolmen and cromlech(-on) (Breton and Welsh terms for megalithic tombs), as they give an unnecessary pseudo-Celtic dimension to the story, which is otherwise not overtly 'Celtic'.

While well-written, there are occasional slips. The formulation 'comprised of', which is a common confusion for the distinct phrases 'comprised' and 'composed of', is used on eight occasions throughout the book, although 'comprised' is used correctly on its own on three occasions (on pp. 127 and 253). Other errors that ought to have been picked up by an editor include 'a children's finger' (as opposed to a child's finger) on p. 238, the repetition of 'he' in 'Make your children sad, and he will he feed on their sadness...' on p. 244, and references to 'a larvalwyrmen' (pp. 111, 226, 235) when perhaps 'larvalwyrman' would've been more appropriate in referring to an individual. Nevertheless, errors like these are few and far between.

Overall, I enjoyed the book for its literary and artistic qualities as well as for its interesting plot and its depictions of horror, but its unrelenting bleakness made it harder to keep reading after a certain point without putting it down for a while – there is only so much tragedy one can take! That said, I will be interested in reading further books by Seth Lindberg in the future.
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message 1: by S.E. (new) - added it

S.E. Lindberg Greg, saw your comment in Horror Aficionados. I welcome your feedback. I hope you enjoy sentient skeletal warriors as much as you did the zombies in Moody's book "Autumn". Cheers, SE


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