Go Buy Secret History #2: The Castle of the Djinns

22 04 2007

A little plugging never hurt a blog. In hectic February I missed the boat when another series I’d been translating for Archaia Studios Press made its debut on the racks the week after NYCC—namely, The Secret History. Here I am, catching up with a few words in time for the release of the second issue.

Archaia’s Secret History 2

I’ve now read and translated my way through four books of The Secret History, taking me in the story’s chronology up through the late Middle Ages, via the Crusades and the Wars of the Guelphs and Ghibellines, and the Renaissance siege of Rome, featuring everybody’s favorite action hero artisan, Benvenuto Cellini, whose classic memoirs I’m now inspired to read. The series has definitely grown on me, and the transition from crazy Igor Kordey’s art in the first two books to the more even, if less impassioned work of Goran Sudzuka in the third hasn’t been jarring. There’s some particularly lovely brushwork in the third volume, when a band of evil monks raid a sacred forest (shades of Broceliande and Fangorn, and also naked killer druid chicks. That phrase alone should draw some Google traffic my way).

 

Each book has entailed some illuminating delving into period history, to make sure the names and places of real people and events Pécau weaves into work get correctly rendered—that is, translated as historical precedent demands. For instance: you’d probably not saddle a modern day Rénaud with the medieval-sounding moniker of Raynald (Reynold, Ronald, or even Reginald spring to mind), but that’s just what holy crusader Raynald of Châtillon, Prince of Antioch and Lord of Oultrejordain, requires. Pécau delivers an impressive addition to what Wikipedia identifies as a genre unto itself.

 

Personally, I tend to side and identify with the human characters in Pécau’s epic far more than the recurring Archons, immortals whose power struggles not only make them more distant, godly embodiments of eternal forces, but come to seem sort of the same—a backdrop against which the more intimate stories of their doomed human pawns stand out in fierce relief. In each volume there’s been some pivotal human figure whose story or inner torment has made the Archons’ wars pale in emotional impact. In the first book, it was Moses and his sacrifice, in the second, Raynald and his chivalry. In the third, there’s a loyal knight whose tale is made especially moving by a leap in time that covers almost his entire life while remaning but a blink to the Archons.

 

But this post is about the second volume, out this month from Archaia, which you should all go out and buy! For Châtillon and the Order of Mountjoy!

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