Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Reign of Wizardry - review by SE

Frazetta's Reign of Wizardry cover
The Reign of Wizardry by Jack Williamson
S.E.: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to the Sword and Sorcery Group on Goodreads continuing to sponsor group-reads, I re-discovered Jack Williamson who wrote fantasy from ~1930-2001. I tracked down The Reign of Wizardry (with the Frank Frazetta cover) and Golden Blood to read. This review covers the first.

This ~142 page novel, first published in 1940, reads as a solid pulpy adventure. It could easily have been a Howard Conan novella. Jack Williamson presents the classic Theseus (i.e., Minotaur slayer of Greek mythology, and founder of Athens) as a heroic avenger out to remove the evil, Minoan sorcerers of Crete.

In fact, Theseus conceals his identity, going as "Captain Firebrand." There is an over abundance of going undercover; Firebrands even assumes the role of "Gothrung the wandering Northman" (a third identity, and very Conan like). It reads real fast, and in a few hours you join Firebrand on a dozen daunting missions. Betrayals and disguised impostor-ing abound. It fits most requirements of Sword & Sorcery:

  1. Magic abounds, and it is usually evil black-robed wizards dishing it out
  2. Our hero has a magic sword with special powers, called "Falling Star"
  3. Melee - lots of battles
  4. Fast pacing, focus on action more than character (though the characters had just the right amount of depth
  5. Lots of early pulp adventure were steeped in historical fiction; Robert E Howard's fascination with pioneer-like adventure and the history-infused Hyborian Age, this one retells classic Greek mythology with pulpy flare
  6. Predicaments - Theseus is constantly challenged by overwhelming odds, and manages to survive somehow.

Highly recommended for fans of pulp adventure and Sword & Sorcery

The Reign of WizardryCover Blurb:
Before the Glory of Greece, Crete ruled the known world - and kept it enslaved by black magic! The evil of Minos held sway, protected by three unconquerable walls. First is the fleet that they call the wooden wall. Then there is a giant of living brass - he is the second wall. Then there is another barrier about the power of Minos, the Wall of Wizardry. Theseus, the tall Achean, the man they called Captain Firebrand, vowed to scale and destroy all three, and to rid the world of the evil yoke of Crete.

But Minos had other defences besides the walls, and many ways to attack as well...

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