Rereading: DON RODRIGUEZ, CHRONICLES OF SHADOW VALLEY by Lord Dunsany

This 1922 novel shows Dunsany trying new things, and exploring new territory, in this case Spain in what he calls the “Golden Age,” which I’m guessing is probably the 1500s. There’s just this one illustration by Sime, but it’s a fine one, though the protagonist looks rather more sinister than he seems in the book.

Don Rodriguez is raised in a well-off family in southern Spain, but when he reaches manhood, his father sends him out with the family sword in hand to find his fortune, as his younger brother is chosen to inherit the family castle. Rodriguez’s first night at an inn ends in the death of the innkeeper, who was himself in the habit of murdering guests to enrich himself, and he makes a lifelong friend in the inn’s servant Morano. The two of them flee before La Garda can arrive to investigate, and head north. An odd episode in the mountain home of a magician takes them on a spirit journey to the surface of the sun, fantasy edging toward science fiction, but the rest of the book is more traditional heroic adventure.

Rodriguez comes across officers of La Garda preparing to hang a man, and decides to free him. The man turns out to be a powerful leader of a band of outlaws living in Shadow Valley, and he gives Rodriguez a golden pass to that vast forest kingdom that proves valuable. Later, Rodriguez meets a woman, Serafina, and falls in love, but is driven away by swordplay with a rival. As he enters Shadow Valley, he and Morano receive a surprising welcome and many gifts because of their golden token. They ride on across the mountains into France to find their fortunes in war, but things are not so easy as that.

Well written, if in a somewhat slow and old-fashioned style, appealing characters, an exciting story. Recommended.

Don Rodriguez by Lord Dunsany

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