Some years ago, I belonged to a writer's group, one of whose members worked at a bookstore. On occasion he'd bring in a box of stripped (front cover removed) books for people to take home if they wanted.
NOTE: This is an illegal practice, though I didn't know it at the time. "Stripped" books are recorded as "returned" by publishers and are supposed to be destroyed. There are aspects of this practice that I'm unsure of in terms of whether it really makes sense, but I just want to make clear I'm not promoting free stripped books as a legal or reasonable alternative to regular channels.
One day, I picked up a book that I recognized, having seen it with a cover on it before, but not having had the money to buy it at the time. It was titled Lure of the Basilisk, by a guy named Lawrence Watt-Evans, and the reason I remembered it was because the cover had shown an inhuman, red-eyed figure, who I suspected was the protagonist, walking in front of a huge green lizard-creature which I presumed was the titular basilisk.
So I took the book home and was immediately hooked, and realized that this was the first book in a series which was formally titled The Lords of Dûs, but which I always thought of as the Garth the Overman series. (It's now available in a large omnibus edition from Wildside Press, which I not only bought but got signed.)
One of the real hooks of the series, to me, was that the protagonist Garth was not a human being, but an Overman – a race of humanoid but very non-human creatures who had supposedly been created by a wizard long before, and who had a quite different culture and some very different biological functions (for instance, they had essentially no sex drive as we know it due to sexual interactions being much more scheduled by a biological cycle than being possible/likely at any time). Garth was an interesting character – mostly logical, considered, patient – but with motives that were still understandable and a code of honor and behavior that made him sympathetic. He leaves the land of the Overmen specifically in search of one thing that's a very human desire: something that will ensure he will be remembered for ages to come.
So he is sent south by the direction of Ao, one of the Wise Women of his people who serves as a prophet, to seek out a being called the King in Yellow who will send him on some mission or set of missions which, he is assured, will win him fame "from now until the end of the world".
The first mission is to retrieve the legendary creature called the Basilisk and bring it to the King. This Garth does – while at the same time becoming embroiled in the politics of the dying bordertown of Skelleth, opposing a wizard and gangs of brigands, and solving numerous puzzles with a combination of logic, resourcefulness, and stubborn, unbending will.
I discovered that there were a total of four books in the series: The Lure of the Basilisk, The Seven Altars of Dûsarra, The Sword of Bheleu, and The Book of Silence, and bought all the others as soon as I could.
The four books confirmed that this guy "Watt-Evans" could really write a darn good story. Each of the other volumes revealed more and more of Garth's world… and the terrible nature of both the King in Yellow and the likely outcome of serving him. But Garth turns out to be more than anyone – even the King in Yellow – realizes, and even the course Fate has laid down for him will be walked as Garth wishes, under his terms.
As with many of my other reviews, I am trying to avoid spoilering the series; it is still well worth reading, as is (at least in my experience) everything Lawrence Watt-Evans has written (I'm currently off-again, on-again making my way through A Young Man Without Magic).
The Lords of Dûs series is still probably my favorite by him, though that's undoubtedly at least partially because it was the first story by Lawrence Watt-Evans that I read.
But part of it is Garth himself, the huge, skull-faced, red-eyed, methodical Overman whose simple desire not to be forgotten after his death would transform his entire world.
A salute to Garth, and his more human creator!