A Short Review of Clark Ashton Smith’s The Return of the Sorcerer
I had read two of CAS’s Zothique Cycle short stories about a year or so ago and have only just picked up a recent collection of his best works. After reading this collection, I have to say that I wish I had discovered Clark Ashton Smith much sooner.
The Return of the Sorcerer collects eighteen of Smith’s short stories from several of Smith’s worlds. They run the gamut from contemporary horror, to science fantasy, to proto-swords and sorcerery. Writing in the early 1930s, Smith manages to straddle pulp fiction in a time when the genres that we know now were in their infancy and had yet to split off and become their own things.
My favorite story from the collection is from his Zothique Cycle; “The Dark Eidolon” is a complicated tragic tale of revenge as the sorcerer Namirrah seeks to avenge a wrong done to him when he was a beggar boy and he was trampled by the Prince Zotulla. I was enthralled as I read the history of Namirrah, the decadence of Zotulla, the horrors that Namirrah’s sorcery conjured, and the destruction wrought by Namirrah’s vengence. I found myself sympathezing and wishing that Namirrah could have found another way.
A close runner up is the short story “The Double Shadow.” Here, a young apprentice sorcerer recounts his master’s obsessive desire to unlock the mysteries of an ancient, prehuman artefact. The build up to the wizard’s folly is excellent and I again feel the horror that the narrator goes through as he realizes the price for his actions.
There are many other great stories in the collection: “The Isle of the Torturers”, “The Holiness of Azedarac”, “The Return of the Sorcerer”, and “The Seven Geases.” I would recommend anyone interested in great storytelling, the pulps, sword and sorcery, etc. to check out The Return of the Sorcerer or you can check out his website http://www.eldritchdark.com.