The Golden Sword

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Golden Sword by Janet Morris.

Janet Morris  The Golden Sword

This second volume of Morris’s Silistra series is built around the board game motif that is a feature of arterial sword-and-planet fiction. Rather than the Jetan of Barsoom or the Kaissa of Gor, Silistra has the yris-tera (“Weathers of Life”) in which sixty carved figural pieces are deployed somewhat at random onto a set of three seven-by-seven square grids, placed one above the other. In keeping with the more supernaturalist angle of the Silistra books, the yris-tera is understood as an oracle, even more than as a game.

Whether the protagonist Estri is a piece or a player is the central conundrum of the book, which seems to have been highly influenced by Dune, as well as the sword-and-planet classics. At the outset, she is returned to her home planet, deposited in a wild desert where the culture is alien to her. In this volume, she starts to understand and exercise the godlike power to which she was introduced at the conclusion of the first book, but often with reluctance and misgivings that she will forfeit the emotional attachments and satisfactions of merely human reality. Over the course of the story, the religious hierarchy of the “day-keepers” gradually acquires a more hostile and oppressive aspect for the heroine; thus the story somewhat echoes Burrough’s Gods of Mars.

A number of mystical and visionary episodes are littered through the book. They begin and end rather abruptly, and they have a certain charm. The text as a whole is not a flawless performance, but it is a pleasurable one for someone of my tastes. [via]