Terra Incognita: Lost Worlds of Fantasy and Adventure, ed. Doug Draa

Terra Incognita:

Lost Worlds of Fantasy and Adventure

Edited by

Doug Draa


(DMR Books, May 2022, pb, 222 pp.)

“Shadow of the Serpent” by David C. Smith

“The Place of Unutterable Names” by Adrian Cole

“One Hive. Two Queens.” by S.E. Lindberg

“The Siege of Eire” by J. Thomas Howard

“Warriors of Mogai” by Milton Davis

“Necropolis Gemstone” by John C. Hocking

“From the Darkness Beneath” by Howard Andrew Jones

Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf

Seven new tales of imaginary lands appear in this anthology, with an emphasis on action-packed battles and supernatural menaces.

In “Shadow of the Serpent” by David C. Smith, a warrior cursed with immortality becomes involved in palace intrigue. A pretender to the throne of a fantasy kingdom overthrows the reigning monarch with the aid of a sorceress, who is only using him for her own purposes. The warrior and those still loyal to the usurped king battle the enchantress and her minions with the help of a shapeshifting woman who is one of an ancient race of snake-people, enemies of the sorceress.

The above synopsis may make it clear that this is a story firmly in the tradition of sword-and-sorcery yarns, of the kind that appear in the yellowing pages of old copies of Weird Tales. It features plenty of magic and bloodletting for readers nostalgic for works of this type. The protagonist’s back story, only hinted at briefly, is of more interest than the plot. Although he is a valiant warrior, the fact that he cannot be killed, combined with the extraordinary magical aid he receives from the serpent-woman, makes his adventures less than suspenseful.

“The Place of Unutterable Names” by Adrian Cole is a Lovecraftian tale in which an expedition to the Himalayas leads to a journey into the remote past and encounters with bizarre cosmic beings and arcane horrors. The author captures the style of H. P. Lovecraft skillfully, but the plot is too dependent on concepts created by that writer. Although the story lacks originality, fans of the Cthulhu Mythos may find it appealing.

The narrator of “One Hive. Two Queens.” by S.E. Lindberg is a being shaped from earth in the form of a woman. Her sister reigns over humans as a goddess of fire and lust, while the narrator dwells in a bog with worm-like creatures. The struggle between the two siblings involves insectoid warriors from the remote past, magical weapons, and other strange matters.

I hope that this greatly oversimplified and possibly misleading synopsis makes it clear that the author creates a completely original and highly imaginative fantasy world. The story’s complexity requires careful reading, which is rewarded with a unique literary experience.

In “The Siege of Eire” by J. Thomas Howard, a modern Irishman enters an undersea cave and emerges into a world of Celtic mythology. Seen as the descendant of a legendary hero, he obtains a magic sword and does battle with the enemies of the Emerald Isle, mortal or monstrous.

The author obviously knows and loves traditional Irish folklore. Readers who are not well-versed in the topic, such as the present reviewer, are likely to be confused by many terms and names that appear in the narrative. Those with better knowledge of the subject may not have to stop reading frequently in order to look up unfamiliar words.

We turn from an imaginary Ireland to a fantasy version of sub-Saharan Africa in “Warriors of Mogai” by Milton Davis. A young man is sent on a long and dangerous journey to seek the help of mountain-dwelling people before desert folk invade his homeland. Along the way he encounters his jealous older brother, a young woman who is actually a gigantic river-creature in disguise, deadly snakes, a raging river, and other challenges.

The setting is an unusual one for a fantasy adventure, and the author writes in a clear, readable style that allows one to fully understand the story, even when unfamiliar words from Swahili show up. The plot, as the above synopsis may suggest, is episodic rather than fully integrated into a solid whole. The conclusion is open-ended, allowing room for a sequel.

The narrator of “Necropolis Gemstone” by John C. Hocking is forced to accompany a greedy merchant, a weak aristocrat, a silent servant, and a magic-user on a quest to discover the source of extremely valuable jewels with supernatural powers. After this motley group kidnaps him, his friend, a warrior, follows them. The journey leads them into a distant past of animal-like humans and a deserted city guarded by a huge magical machine.

The weird device that protects the empty community is the most interesting concept in a story that may seem otherwise familiar to readers of fantasy. The assortment of characters also provides a certain novelty, even if their adventures are not always different from those often found in the genre.

“From the Darkness Beneath” by Howard Andrew Jones takes place aboard a ship. The main character is the young daughter of the captain. She has dreams that predict the future. This ability might draw the unwanted interest of three military witch-hunters who force their way aboard if it were to be revealed. Complicating matters is the presence of a merchant and his slaves, a young widow, and an elderly minstrel, all of whom have their own secrets.

Most of all, an evil undead sorcerer is trapped in an ancient tree that forms part of the ship’s cargo, and the spell that keeps him secure wears off. The reanimated wizard feeds off the energy of the living, rendering them desiccated corpses. As if that were not enough of a danger, a ghostly ship carrying his spectral minions is about to attack.

As this lengthy synopsis indicates, this tale of seagoing magic has plenty of plots and subplots, so the reader never loses interest. The various characters also keep the plot moving along quickly. Even for a fantasy story, the true identity of the minstrel strains credibility, and serves as something of a deus ex machina.

Victoria Silverwolf is surprised that spellcheck recognizes the word Cthulhu.