Lure of the Basilisk, Lawrence Watt-Evans, 1980 Book One of The Lords of Dus.
Another book found when I was not even into my teens that somehow has survived house moves, bookcase-pairing-downs and damage (for the most part!) to remain on my shelf to this day. It follows the tale of an ‘Overman’ called Garth.. distantly related to humans in some way but markedly different in appearance. Near seven feet tall, extremely strong, nose-less.. and as you progress through the novel hints will be dropped as to how else his biology is different which leads to some surprises contained in otherwise innocuous sentences. The Overmen live in exile in the snowy northern wastes of the continent after the Race Wars.. though physically superior to humans, they were smaller in number and now have little contact with their relatives to the south. The Overman begins his journey with a visit to the Wise women of Ordunin, seers among his kind. He explains that he is sick of death and decay, and wants his name to live on far past his death, to be remembered forever. He is sent south to the human lands, to a decrepit border town called Skelleth, there to find the Forgotten King, who can grant him his wish. Garth is not only different physically from humans - in attitude and outlook, he struggles to understand humans and their emotions and it is a great credit to the author that we can sympathise with the protagonist despite his differences. This is a short novel really, if you put your mind to it you could probably read it in a single sitting on a wet Sunday afternoon, but despite this Watt-Evans manages to weave an interesting world, leaving tantalising clues as to the origin of the Overmen (and their steeds, massive panther like creatures incorporating traits of other animals) that leave you wanting more. Garth’s quest also intrigues - who is the forgotten King, what does he want of Garth, and the spoils of the task he sets him? Is the cost of the fame Garth wants too much? While there may be many such slim (just over 200 pages) fantasy novels on the shelves, none of them have stuck with me quite like this one, and it is not just out of sentimentality. There arre four books in the series, but you can start by picking this overlooked classic up at Amazon here, in print and on the Kindle. -V