Saturday, April 9, 2011

Appendix N: Leigh Brackett III

I have a lot of blogging to catch up on, so the final three volumes in the Planet Stories series reprinting classic Leigh Brackett stories are going to get the short treatment.

The Hounds of Skaith and The Reavers of Skaith complete Brackett's John Erik Stark trilogy begun with The Ginger Star and introduced in The Secret of Sinharat. In my last exploration of Brackett's work, I mentioned that her writing generates world building ideas for me. That statement remains true with both of these continuations.

Brackett's writing is ripe with several world building concepts for the hungry DM's mind. I'm still fighting the temptation to scrap my own world of "the Dark Ways" and base my world upon Skaith. No doubt, several ideas will emerge that are steeped in her writing.

I don't want to give away particulars of the story itself, but I do wish to mention that I feared there would not be a satisfactory ending to the trilogy. In my opinion, The Reavers of Skaith does conclude nicely. I can not say it does so without the use of deus ex machina.

The Sword of Rhiannon delivers just as well as her Stark stories; perhaps even a bit better. As much as I enjoyed the Stark works, I enjoyed Rhiannon even more so. It is a well told, fast paced, action packed work that has just as much imagination as her other works.

In D&D terms, the actual Sword of Rhiannon of the stories name sake serves as an excellent example of how an artifact can be used well to form an excellent story. Other then that, I saw no direct examples of tropes from the game that were obviously influenced by Brackett's works. No doubt, the level of action and adventure were what the games designers were shooting for. In that way, there is a direct influence.

I have a tendency when reading works written around the same time period as Tolkien to see if the old scholar had any influence upon the author. In Brackett's case, it is easy to say no he did not. While there are parallels with Edgar Rice Burrough's works, there is a definite lack of High Fantasy Tolkienism. "High Fantasy" as a sub genre does not apply to her either.

Her stories that I have read would most likely be classified as Sword and Planet; for this reason, Edgar Rice Burrough's name shall always be tagged to her. I believe that to classify her as a Burrough's mimic is a naive assumption. Yes, she does work with the tropes first made popular by ERB, but her writing is too original for her to be called an imitator.

Overall, I have enjoyed Brackett's writing immensely. Of the Appendix N writers I reviewed for this series thus far, I've enjoyed her writing the most, with Poul Anderson being a very close second.

I do have to state a criticism towards Planet Stories itself. The typos continued through all three of these books. Please Pazio, hire better copy editors.

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