"An Exorcism Straight, Hold the Elvis"

First published in The Sword Review, October, 2005

Reviewed in Tangent Online, November, 2005, by Alasdair Stuart

"Michael Ehart's story, "An Exorcism Straight, Hold The Elvis," continues Kelly's theme of turning horror stereotypes on their head, but opts for black comedy instead of poignancy. The story follows Joe Dunfar, a fifty-something professional exorcist from a long proud line of them; a line which, given that the job the story revolves around is Joe's first for two years, will probably finish with him.

Ehart has an easy, wry style and gives Joe a real voice. Told through a combination of first person narration and dialogue, he puts the reader inside the head of a man who has been doing this for far too long and no longer knows how to be surprised. It's a dangerous move, one that threatens to tip over into 1940s pastiches, but Ehart pulls it off. Not only is he able to give us an unusual and likable character in Joe, but his take on ghosts is both original and well thought out. Like Kelly, Ehart manages to make new clothes out of old cloth and does it well. While the dialogue, which is almost completely devoid of contractions, seems a little stilted in places, this is a fun, evocative story that plays three card monte with the reader's expectations and wins every time."
 

"Voice of the Spoiler"

First published in The Sword Review, October, 2005

Reviewed in Tangent Online, November, 2005 by Alasdair Stuart

"Michael Ehart's second story this issue, "Voice of the Spoiler," couldn't be more different. It begins with the narrator sitting quietly amongst a group of bodies, then moves steadily backward toward the beginning; both of the incident we see and the narrator's part in it.

Instead of the Tolkien emulation, so beloved even now by many authors, Ehart instead takes a far calmer, historical approach to his world. There are no guilds here, no huge kingdoms, just people trying to make their way and leave their mark. It's a stylistic move that reminded me a lot of David Gemmell's work; there's the same gritty, personal feel to the story that Gemmell brings to his work. The interplay between the past and present is well handled and the unusual structure provides the reader with a puzzle they are sure to enjoy solving. Ultimately, this is a superior story to "Exorcism" for a number of reasons. Ehart's style seems more assured here, the central structure and premise are more unusual and involving, and the tone is an unusual one for fantasy stories to take."

 

"Servant of the Manthycore"

First Published in The Sword Review, April, 2006

Reviewed in Tangent Online, May 2006 by Paul Abbamondi

""Servant of the Manthycore: A Tale of the Ancient Near-East" by Michael Ehart follows a female protagonist, the servant of the Manthycore, as she discovers a scene of murder and destruction by a desert oasis. Waiting there for her is Ananth, a goddess of death, ready to offer her a chance for freedom from the beast of sorcery she serves.

 
Reminiscent of the classic sword and sorcery tales by Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock, Ehart's yarn of servitude and choice is finely crafted. A vivid setting, a strong, intelligent heroine, a moody atmosphere, and a battle with the undead, make this the best entry of the issue. The ending is wickedly fun."

 

The Servant of the Manthycore (Book)

"Behold a warrior woman as ruthless, bloody, and honorable as the ancient world in which she walks, spanning more than forty lifetimes, while Ur and Babylon seethe with a thousand gods.... What we have here is no less than a bright new epic, written with the bold spirit of the 21st century, yet spanning back into the mists of time. From Michael Ehart's fierce imagination comes an unforgettable gritty heroine, both human and goddess, and yet something much more.... Gilgamesh, Elric, and Conan have finally met their female match!"
-- Vera Nazarian, author of DREAMS OF THE COMPASS ROSE and LORDS OF RAINBOW

"Michael Ehart's 'Servant' stories are thrilling, involving, surprising, and complex. The smell, touch, and taste of Bronze Age life come through sharply, clearly, with the tang of authenticity and the gritty detail of thorough research not just thought through but felt through. His sword-wielding heroine scythes down opponents like they were bad ideas, moving from episode to episode as gracefully and inevitably as death itself.
Also, these stories are just plain fun to read."
-- Nisi Shawl, co-author of WRITING THE OTHER

"Fast-paced, richly detailed, good, clean bloodthirsty fun."
-- Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

"Michael Ehart transports the readers of The Servant of the Manthycore back to a fantasy Bronze Age Mesopotamia. In this world, the Manthycore is a sorcerous Beast who feeds on human flesh. For centuries, the servant has served the Manthycore "in bitter unwillingness," until she has forgotten her own name and become an immortal legend in her own right: the Betrayer. Long ago, she fought to free her captive lover, but now, after so many centuries, she has come to seek death as the only way to be free of her curse. If she can only find a warrior skilled enough to defeat her - and the Manthycore....even the gods hate and fear the Manthycore."
--Lois Tilton, Author of WRITTEN IN VENOM
 

In the fine tradition of Mary Renault, Henry Treece, Thomas Burnett Swann or Rex Warner, Michael Ehart has given us an outstanding story of the ancient world. This is a narrative concerning the fantastic unlike most books published today as fantasy fiction. It resonates with the authenticity of genuine myth, bringing a deep, true sense of the past; a conviction which does not borrow from genre but mines our profoundest dreams and memories; the kind which give birth to myths. As Ehart's protagonist, the beautifully realized warrior woman sometimes known as Ninshi, tells us "Songs all end up right. Life does not." Yet, as she demonstrates, it is part of the human condition that we are forever striving to make things end up like the songs.

This novel demonstrates the difference between a good folk tale, a genre story and an enduring myth. The genre story usually dodges the facts of genuine tragedy while the myth, or the story which retains the quality of myth, does not.

Michael Ehart's story of dark bloodshed, torment and betrayal invokes the earliest civilizations of Mesopotamia, of Ur and Babylon, set against landscapes we all now know so well from our nightly news bulletins. These are the places where our oldest mythologies began and where our youngest ones are now being created. He provides us with telling images as well as some tremendous descriptions, none more so than the terrifying monster of the title.

This is a grim and gripping tale appealing to all of us who grew up fascinated by our Indo-European heritage, by Fraser's Golden Bough or Graves's White Goddess, by Zoroaster and the Epic of Gilgamesh or tales of the Minotaur, even Beowulf and The Green Knight.

This book is a thoroughly engaging page-turner. It's a very long time since I read a fantastic tale as good as this. Michael Ehart is an impressive talent.
-- Michael Moorcock
 

The Servant of the Manthycore is a compilation of several short stories featuring a tragic, morally equivocal, but truly likable protagonist--a deadly warrior woman in a very small package who reminds us that we often do beautiful and awful things for love because we are human and cannot help it.

The stories are terrificly paced, filled with plenty of sword-and-sorcery action, and leave the reader pondering in the mist between right and wrong. Ehart skillfully treads the familiar ground of old myths while blazing a trail for a new one. This is part of what great fantasy is all about.

I do wish Ehart would have fleshed out the setting a tad more. I feel he could have described the Middle Eastern Bronze Age in more detail while maintaining the swift movement of the story--though this is a delicate balance.

Despite this, Ehart imbues Servant with the gritty flavor of the Pulp Era while maintaining his own distinct and modern style. Readers who enjoy the stories and style of Robert E. Howard, Harold Lamb, and other historical fiction authors from the early 20th century will enjoy this book, as will readers of modern fantasy.

I definitely recommend it. ---Nicholas I Hawkins

 

I read Servant of the Manthycore on the recommendation of a friend. I was frankly skeptical, because shy of a couple of heavy-duty classics, I simply don't like to read fantasy. I find the attention to the "worlds created" typically outweighs the attention to the characters revealed. Not so here! Ehart pulls from a known world (expertly and factually), and while it's far enough removed from our own to solidly qualify as fantasy, it freed him to create a fascinating heroine and story. I like my characters morally ambivalent...people who do what they know they gotta do -- but suffer exquisitely and privately for their conviction. The Servant is that and more. She is a warrior woman hell-bent, literally, yet utterly sympathetic. (Buffy who?!) This book is fast-paced, terrifically-written, and character-driven - and it is both heart-breaking and optimistic. Buy it today - you won't put it down until you're done with it. --- M. Pizzo

 

The Servant of the Manthycore is a series of stories I've been following for some time. These are just plain good; I love 'em and I think you will too. The book is nicely made, easy to read, and has some great illustrations.

The stories that make up the narrative arc are all top notch. They are filled with good guys and bad guys and fighting and blood and magic. There's just nothing not to like.

In all seriousness, what really attracts me to this story is the main character and the weight of betrayal that she carries around for many, many years. Ehart masterfully weaves her through her paces and combines longing sadness with grim determination. She is a character that reveals both the good and the evil that men do.

Buy The Servant of the Manthycore. You won't be disappointed. ---Jeff Draper, Scriptorius Rex

 

How do you like your heroic fantasy? Well written? Michael Ehart is a stunning talent. He weaves a cast of complex, vividly drawn characters in morally difficult situations against a well crafted historical/mythos backdrop and then proceeds full speed with his story.

This is a one sitting book. Adventure, battle, the eternal power of love, betrayal, ambiguous decisions by courageous characters. I can't give this book enough praise.

You're rooting for the protagonist and her doomed love the entire way and through each sword stroke and strategic argument and clever, duplicitous maneuver.

A must read. ---Nathan Meyer

 

The Servant of the Manthycore by Michael Ehart has a foreword by Michael Moorcock, no less, who praises it to the skies, so anything I can say about is somewhat redundant. But I will say that this is a wonderful example of sword and sorcery, written with the gusto of the golden age, but a modern intelligence and sensibility. Against the backdrop of bronze-age Mesopotamia, the immortal heroine, unnamed but sometimes known as Ninshi, is forced to serve the monster of the title, betraying men to be its food, while she searches for a way to escape her servitude, or at least to preserve her humanity. With their highly believable pictures of Sumerian, Babylonian and Hittite cultures - not to mention the strange wandering tribe that worship only one god - Michael Ehart has created a synthesis of historical fiction and fantasy that will haunt you long after the book is closed.
A must read.  ---Nicholas Blatchley

I started reading the Servant of the Manthycore series on The Sword Review site. I found it to be well researched historical fantasy. The characterizations, atmosphere, and action combine to make one feel they are actually experiencing life in ancient Mesopotamia. Mr. Ehart deserves credit for creating a vivid fantasy that lives and breathes.
---Terry Weide, author of Dream of Power, Dream of Glory

 

i finally got a chance to read michael ehart's book. i follow his blog and what piqued my interest was the fact that the tale takes place in the bronze age in the middle east. the book is a series of short stories about ninshi (the lady of the song). she has wandered the land for too many lifetimes, bound to the will of the manthycore, a horrific creature that takes the shape of a massive lion with wings. ninshi's job is to kill, then summon the beast by calling him with its tailisman, a broken tooth from the creature.

we follow ninshi on her journeys and learn that she does this because the manthycore holds her childhood love captive. as the monster feeds, she always asks to see the vision of her lover, radiant and young, as she remembers him. altho ninshi has not aged, she is scarred by the countless fights she has endured, older from the weight of the curse she has beared for so many centuries.

it is her "daughter" miri, a slave girl ninshi purchased on a whim, who allows us to see the soft side of our heroine. it is through miri we piece together more of ninshi's stories. ehart does a fine job in his prose, evoking the feeling and setting of the time. he draws on myths and folklore, uses poetry/song to convey the story. the tale brings to mind the greek myths i loved to read as a child, but with a different cultural bent. each new chapter contains an illustration by rachel marks, which adds to the overall feel of the book. i've not read a fantasy book like this and thoroughly enjoyed it. my only complaint is that i wanted more. ---Cyn, book/book

 

The Servant of the Manthycore is a slender volume set in the ancient Middle East, in which one woman finds herself enslaved to an evil Manthycore and travels across kingdoms and lifetimes seeking to regain her freedom.

Ninshi, the name given to her by a child whose life she inadvertently saves, is a scarred and weary warrior seeking freedom from the corpse-eating Manthycore into whose power she's fallen. As her trek takes her across Mesopotamia and face-to-face with goddesses and heroes, kings and sorceresses, she finds herself as closely bound by love as she is by ancient evil. A killer and a protector, she is in her own way as fierce and implacable as the monster she serves.

Servant of the Manthycore is an accessible and intelligently written heroic fantasy that is inevitably reminiscent of Conan's adventures through Cimmeria, but with a darker edge and more appealing protagonist. Ninshi is a Cain damned for love rather than envy. With luck, we'll read more of her adventures elsewhere. -- Dru Pagliassotti, The Harrow