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Posted August 11, 2005
Seekers of high fantasy in the manner of Lord Dunsany will find a treat in Clark Ashton Smith's The Double Shadow. One of the 'big three' writers of pulp fantasy in the 1930's, along with H. P. Lovecraft and Robert Howard, Ashton Smith wrote many well-crafted, stylish, and decadent short stories in several series. The six stories in The Double Shadow are independent of these series, but just as stylish as any of their stories were. 'The Voyage of King Euvoran,' a sardonic account of a king's quest for a missing crown, should please any reader of the Arabian Nights. 'The Maze of the Enchanter' is a chilling tale of transfiguration that surely inspired some of the early tales of Jack Vance's Dying Earth. 'A Nightfall in Malneant' is spiritual journey through despair worthy of Poe himself. 'The Devotee of Evil' follows a pursuit of the source of cosmic malignance to its ultimate wellsprings of madness. 'The Willow Landscape,' on the other hand, is a charmingly written Chinese fairy tale showing Ashton Smith's versatility as a writer. The title story, 'The Double Shadow,' is a masterpiece of dark fantasy, tracing in delicate, poetic, and malific tones the course of a conjuring of the unknown. In his work Ashton Smith plumbs all of a decaying world's dark emotions. Maybe nowhere else will a connoiseur of fantasy find such variety and quality in so small a space as in the collection of six stories published by Wildside Press.
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