“Lost Sorceress of the Silent Citadel”

This week’s piece of fiction being discussed by the Deep Ones over at LibraryThing isn’t really weird, but we cast our net wide. And the story is definitely worth reading.

Review: “Lost Sorceress of the Silent Citadel”, Michael Moorcock, 2002.

This one is a homage to Leigh Brackett, her hero Eric John Stark, and the lovely, romantic – but no longer fashionable – idea of a dying Mars and its aborigines.

In the introduction to the story in The Space Opera Renaissance, Moorcock talks about his admiration of Brackett and her influence on him and other prominent science fiction authors.

The story’s main strength is not its plot, but the back story of MacShard, Moorcock’s literary allusions, and the descriptions of this Mars.

MacShard is a loner, a survivor, an outlaw. Born of a human man and a Martian woman with the blood of kings in her veins, he was orphaned on Mercury and survived. There his name was Tan-Arz. He – along with Northwest Smith, Dumarest, and Eric John Stark – are the only four men who can wield the legendary Banning Weapon.

On Mars, a merchant prince named Morricone needs MacShard to rescue his daughter, kidnapped by the Thennet, degenerate humans descended from a ship of crashed politicians, who like to torment and then kill their victims. “The longer the torment, the sweater the meat.”

To do that, he will have to cross the Paradise zone of killer plants and venture into the hills of Mars.

There he will have a battle of wills with an entity from Mars’ past that feels very much like the climax of a sword-and-sorcery tale that the title suggests.

As you can tell from the names above, Moorcock plants plenty of homages in his story (and there’s more I didn’t mention) as well as political jibes. And you might be reminded, at one point, of one of Moorcock’s most famous creations, the demonic sword Stormbringer. The tale feels like a combination of a Dying Mars story and the related genre of the western as well as sword and sorcery.

I definitely liked this one even if I am too little acquainted with the works of Leigh Brackett herself.

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