Magic, martial arts and an undead army all come together in Jon F. Merz's The Undead Hordes of Kan-Gul.
All Ran really wants is to travel to the west, to the kingdom of Valrus. After rescuing Princess Cassandra, Ran had to report back to his clan, but now that he's out on a wandering quest, he fully intends to wander his way west.
His choice of boat is rather unfortunate, however, and he quickly finds himself shipwrecked on an island rumored to be the home of an evil sorcerer. Ran isn't the type to believe fantastical rumors of armies of dead soldiers risen once more, but there's something odd about this island. Besides the swarms of mosquitoes, there doesn't seem to be anything else alive on it. No birds, no mice, nothing. And when one of the castaways disappears seemingly without a trace, it becomes apparent that they need to get off this island, however they can.
His fellow castaways are something of a mixed bag. The rich merchant that Ran first encounters at the pub seems like he'll be completely useless in a situation where money doesn't help. The ship's captain seems pragmatic enough, but that shark bite to the leg is going to slow him down a bit. The beautiful sorceress-to-be and her bodyguard are surprisingly able, and the old warrior whose background is as fuzzy as Ran's is a strong ally.
As they cross the island, one thing is made perfectly clear: the rumors of Kan-Gul are absolutely true.
Merz creates an alternate Asia for this novel, and gives the reader glimpses into what seems to be a very fully developed world. The characters gain depth and personalities during the course of the novel, and the reader ends up rooting for the good guys simply because they're likable. It's a classic, clean-cut good-guys-versus-bad-guys tale that leaves the reader wishing the next book was already out.
Highs: Watching Jysal develop from a young damsel in distress to a very powerful, if uncontrolled sorceress in her own right, is fun to watch
Lows: I caught a few of the 'twists' pretty early on, but that might be because I've been reading a lot of 'twist-y' books lately
Verdict: A very fun, traditional adventure novel, with dark magic, ninjas and zombies tossed in for fun
Further Reading: Under a Graveyard Sky, The Legend of Eli Monpress, Moribito