Exotic locales, relentless pacing, adventures steeped in the supernatural, heroic deeds, maybe a little romance, and that ever-present sense of breathtaking wonder – I absolutely loved these stories… in many ways, they saved my life.
Jones has not only edited numerous Harold Lamb collections (Swords from the West, Warriors of the Steppes, etc.) but is also the managing editor of Black Gate magazine (www.blackgate.com) so with the book in my hands, I was expecting something great…
…and I’m happy to report that’s exactly what I got.
“Within a half hour of our arrival we had passed treasures and splendors to set a miser fainting in envy and a thief perspiring with greed. The boy filled my mind with wonder, chattering as he went about this or that rumoured treasure. Beyond a heavy door were niches where the boy claimed the very staff of Moses could be found, along with the crown of Cyrus, the sword of Iskander, and a book written by the angel Gabriel…”
The two door pulls together, used by a sorcerer with sufficient arcane knowledge, can be used to open up a passageway to Ubar, a glorious city in the desert – “an entry point into the land of djinn” – that was completely ruined centuries earlier.
The action and adventure are marvelous – but it’s Jones’s narrative tone that powers this novel. It’s atmospheric and darkly lyrical and utterly readable:
“That evening the sun burned like a great red eye that bled down upon the waters; it was as though a grisly end were to come to the world, and judgment were at hand. The evening star gleamed low and proud, like a tiny candle held aloft by a soul drowning in a sea of blood and darkness.”
Read those two sentences again and tell me that isn't fantastic stuff.
I loved this novel – it was a glorious sword-and-sorcery adventure in the vein of the aforementioned classics. And, for me, it was particularly moving; it brought me right back to my childhood, losing myself in Moorcock’s Elric saga in my bedroom as my life seemingly crumbled around me. Jones’s debut was just as powerfully immersive…
Hopefully this novel will spark a sword-and-sorcery renaissance – you can sign me up and give me a scimitar. I'm in.
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for almost the last two decades and has written more than 6,000 reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.