Warlord of Ghandor

Warlord of Ghandor by Del DowDellWarlord of Ghandor front
DAW Books, 1977
Price I paid: 75¢

The fighting men of Ireland were gathering to repel Cromwell’s invasion—and with them marched the Dowdalls under their brave young chief Robert. Master swordsmen of Europe, he had returned to lead his kinsmen’s steel against the invaders. And then—to the confusion of history—he vanished.

Here at last is his story—the story of Robert of Eire who marched to fight an Earthly foe only to find himself in desperate combat against the beastmen and alien warriors of another world, another Earth, but not the one on which he had been born.

This is a novel in the grand tradition of John Carter, of Dray Prescot, of Tarl Cabot. Here is one man against a world, one man to save princess, one man to fight, to lead, to conquer or to die.

Everyone who loves high heroism on a distant planet will thrill to the mighty adventures of Robert of Eire on Ghandor.

Oh, DAW Books, you never fail to fill my heart with joy. Sure, sometimes that joy comes from knowing I won’t ever have to read a book again, and such is the case with Warlord of Ghandor.

I would say that this book is a ripoff of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom novels, but that would really be giving it too much credit. It’s more of a find-and-replace-Barsoom-with-Ghandor situation, and as such it took me a lot of effort to actually finish. I mean, I’ve read it before, in a much better form.

The book kicks off with an introduction by the author. It’s more of an author-as-character thing, since the author claims that the book is taken from a manuscript he found while researching his ancestry. He gives us some information that isn’t actually covered in the “manuscript,” such as the fact that Ghandor is a counter-Earth. There’s nothing really wrong with a story taking place on a counter-Earth, I suppose, even though everything about the idea flies in the face of science, but this book was basically fantasy anyway, of the sword-and-planet type, so I guess scientific accuracy isn’t anybody’s greatest concern.

One thing really bugged me, though. Once Robert, the hero of the story, finds himself on Ghandor, he mentions that the constellations are reversed. At first I was like “Oh, yeah, it’s on the other side of the sun, that makes sense.” Then common sense caught up to me and I realized that if that were the case, our constellations would somehow reverse themselves between January and June and then go back again. As this is, I believe, not the case, I found myself annoyed at this book already.

John Carter Robert of Eire is a Virginia Irish fightin’ man who, on the eve of a great battle against Oliver Cromwell, gets transported magically to Mars counter-Earth. Once he gets there he finds himself freakishly strong due to the lower gravity of the planet and finds himself in love with a beautiful princess, Dejah Thoris Marjano.

If the gravity on Ghandor is lower than that of Earth, that’s because it has less mass, and thus if it has the same orbital path as Earth it should be travelling more slowly than its counterpart and thus couldn’t possibly be an undetectable-by-humans counter-Earth because eventually the two planets would collide. Wouldn’t they? Is my science wrong here? Why do I even care so much? Phil Plait, where are you when I need you?

But I get ahead of myself.

Robert gets transported to Ghandor and right off the bat meets this gorgeous lady who is under assault by some ugly people. I wondered at this point if maybe she wasn’t necessarily all that attractive, it was just in comparison to the people who were attacking her. Apparently not. Anyway, Robert discovers that this point that not only is he freakishly strong, but also his sword so amazing that it cuts through the swords of his foes. Apparently Ghandor doesn’t have steel.

Robert fights off a large number of these guys and manages to help get this lady back to some of her people. Apparently they crash landed in the forest, and also apparently they have some kind of airship. With a heavy heart, Robert watches them fly away, right before he gets ambushed by the ugly people again.

This time they manage to capture him and take him back to their village. Robert faces off against their leader and manages to kill him by punching him in the face. Once. Lower gravity, people.

Because of this, the people make him their king. These people, incidentally, are called the Bomunga. DowDell (or his ancestor) goes into tremendous detail about these guys, their language, and their customs and all sorts of stuff like that. Robert rests a while, learning what he can and helping hunt horrifying monsters, and eventually institutes a democracy among the Bomunga. They’re pretty cool with democracy, and Robert leaves them.

On his way out of the city, he discovers that mere hours after he let his lady-love escape on an airship, they managed to crash it again. Robert finds the crash site and sets off to find her. He still doesn’t even know her name at this point, I think, but I’m going to start calling her Marjano, because he figures it out at some point.

The trail, which is described in detail (this book shares a lot of problems with The Day of the Klesh, now that I think about it) leads Robert to the city of the Meoaithai. Please never ask me to try to pronounce that word. The Meoaithai are people with grandiose dreams of world conquest. Marjano’s people, the Thuians, are their bitter enemies, because the Thuians are good guys.

Robert gets into some swordfights and meets the king of the Meoaithai. He thinks things are going well after he spins this big web of lies about being the King of Ghosts or something and how he needs to take Marjano back to his people so he can punish her for crimes against them. The king of Meoaithai seems like he’s going along with this for a while, but instead of being a mensch he just throws Robert in the dungeon. Robert makes friends with a guy named Zynthmai, who, we learn in great detail, is a sort of outcast from society because he wasn’t born on the right day. The doctors were like “Ma’am, your baby will be born on June 8” and he was born on June 7 and everybody hates him for it.


Zynthmai is a pretty cool dude and helps Robert escape and find Marjano. Right about the time that they find her there’s another swordfight with some guards and then a random earthquake (Ghandorquake? Counter-earthquake sounds like some kind of supervillain, or possibly the device he’s created to defeat G.I. Joe) happens, leaving Robert, Zynthmai, and Marjano to fall through the floor.

It turns out that this whole city was built on top of a mine. We learn, again in exhausting detail, what they were mining here. It’s called yaama and it’s magic, basically. Sufficiently-advanced-technology magic, at the very least. The ancient race of Ghandor whence all modern races spring, the Cluvians, were masters of using yaama, and a little of that technology trickled down the ages after the Cluvians went extinct. Marjano’s people use it to make their airships fly. It’s either anti-gravitational or super-magnetic or both. I was never quite able to figure that out. Anyway, the mine still has a lot of it left, and Marjano was under the impression that the world had been mined out of it.

The trio fight some giant bugs and manage to escape the mine.

Once out of there, the gang finds itself in a forest. They have a grand old time heading toward Thu, Marjano’s hometown, when suddenly disaster strikes. Robert heads out to hunt some bunnies or whatever the Ghandorian equivalent that was described in great detail is called, and when he gets back Marjano and Zynthmai are gone. Robert just stands there and yells for a while, and then super-jumps his way up into the trees to see if he can’t get a better vantage point. While up there, he meets yet another group of people that he has to swordfight.

It turns out that the Cluvians, remember the Cluvians?, aren’t all dead. Some of them are still alive, and they live in trees. A city in the trees, it turns out, and their city is protected by a forcefield. The Cluvians have all sorts of technology that no one else has, and it’s pretty much all due to their mastery of yaama.

The Cluvians tell Robert that they don’t have Marjano and Zynthmai and that also Robert can’t leave. Now that he knows the secret dwelling place of the Cluvians, he must stay there forever.

Also, the Cluvians have teleporters. Actually they call them something like windows and they’re probably based on yaama. It was, in fact, a similar window that brought Robert to Ghandor in the first place.

So of course Robert swordfights all the Cluvians and makes use of one of the windows to find Marjano and Zynthmai. It turns out that they were kidnapped by some kind of pirate people, and the king of the pirates has a thing for pretty girls and the advantage-taking thereof. Robert steps through a window to the pirate king’s private chamber, where Marjano happens to be as well, stabs the guy, grabs the girl, hollers for Zynthmai, and heads back. In the meantime, he opens up a window to Thu and Marjano’s dad and a bunch of soldiers come out and finish off the rest of the Cluvians.

The book ends some months later. Robert and Marjano are planning their wedding and everything’s going pretty great, when Robert, completely out of the blue, says that he has to go back to Earth to check up on things. He does and gets stuck there and writes down this manuscript.

Dude, you had it all. You were gonna marry a complete hottie who was also a princess and you decide, just for giggles, to head back to Earth, despite all the protestations of the guy who runs the windows saying he might not be able to get you back? What in Christs name were you thinking? I know that it was just so he could write the supposed manuscript that our author later found, but still, what a lame ending to the story.

All told, Warlord of Ghandor was 250 pages of small text and little to no plot. Del DowDell created the whole world and filled us in on all the little details, and like M.A. Foster two years later, completely forgot that the whole point of creating a detailed world with a history and a language and stuff like that is so you can put a story in it. Where DowDell went even more wrong is in the fact that what little story he had was either stupid or lifted directly from A Princess of Mars.

Of note, on several occasions we get footnotes talking about the language of Ghandor (how convenient that the whole planet speaks the same language, incidentally), or the way they keep time, or their calendar, or whatever. These footnotes usually end with something to the effect of “A full detail of this is located at the back of the book.” He obviously intended to include appendices, but when I flipped to the back of the book all I got was an awful ending and the option to buy more DAW books. Either he neglected to actually include the appendices or, more likely, the editor forgot or chose to forget them, and no one decided to go back and remove those three or four instances of “Look for more details later.” That’s sloppy and a little sad, really. Despite the book not being especially good, it’s obvious that DowDell put a lot of work into creating this world, and to see that someone might have wanted to save a few pages at the cost of his world-building exercise seems like a small sort of tragedy.

The book was tedious and a bit hoky, but it was actually fairly well written. Despite all the detail and some weird names, it was easy enough to follow and I actually found myself immersed occasionally. On the whole I feel like the book could have been saved fairly easily with a bit more trimming and a bit more originality. And some character development, I suppose. Most of the characters were pretty flat. But still, reading this book was a good exercise in almost getting it right.

13 thoughts on “Warlord of Ghandor

      1. There’s so much just in the cover — the Feminist has a suit because she’s “trying to be a man” — and the underground movement is run my men AND their women — as in, “property” — this sounds so awful…. Unfortunately, no copy on amazon — argh (this is probably some collector’s item now). And none on abebooks… lame…. well, this might be tricky to find.


      2. And none on ebay — well the review on amazon claims that there were cheap copies available on amazon a while back — perhaps some will be listed eventually.


      3. Yeah, not a copy to be found anywhere on the Internet, it seems. I’ll give my local used bookstores a look and hopefully I can get Amazon to email me if they get any copies.


  1. Actually, planetary mass doesn’t determine orbital speed. Unfortunately, the L3 point opposite the sun from the Earth isn’t actually a stable orbital location.


    1. Hmm, I guess that makes sense in the same way that it makes sense why a heavier object falls at the same rate as a lighter one, ignoring air resistence and assuming all objects in the universe are perfect spheres.

      Still seems counterintuitive at first, though.


  2. Well, one thing at least in WARLORD OF GHANDOR isn’t totally ridiculous. Being born on the wrong day could guarantee your whole life would be lived in the toilet in some theocratic/highly superstitious cultures, even here on Earth. The Aztecs are the best example I know. Their calendar had five “unlucky” days left over at the end, and kids born then were held to be accursed. Since everybody, including the priests who ran the show and the kids’ own parents, believed it — no, KNEW it — their lives ended up accursed and unhappy, all right. But that sounds like the only original and realistic bit in the whole stupid novel, a ripoff from ERB’s barsoom, all right. Thanks for the review, it’s excellent.


  3. The moment I read the name “Tarl Cabot” I actually said “Oh NOOOOO” loud enough to startle my dog.

    You can call the Gor series many things, but I don’t think “grand tradition” is one of them.

    Liked by 1 person

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