This book has been almost five years in my to-be-read pile. To my surprise it turned out to be a short story collection. The stories were written in the 1930s. The stories have been reprinted in “Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams“ and “Black God’s Kiss “.

The stories all have the same main character Jirel of Joiry who is a red headed warrior woman with yellow eyes. She’s described as very fierce woman whose fury and hate burns brightly. When she has given her word, she will do anything to keep it. She’s the military leader of the land of Joiry and the loyalty of her men is very important to her. Apparently, she’s also the only warrior woman in her country, or this fantasy world for that matter. All her followers are males. There’s no mention of who is the ruler of Joiry so it’s possible that she’s the Queen. However, she’s referred to as the Lady of Joiry and not as the ruler.

The fantasy land of Joiry is a medieval country and it even has Catholic priests and religion.

In the “Black God’s Kiss” Guillaume has conquered Joiry. He sexually molests Jirel who vows to destroy him. In order to find a suitable weapon, she descends to Hell.

“Black God’s Shadow” is a continuation to the previous story. The man Jirel killed haunts her in her dreams. She feels guilty and again takes the journey to Hell but this time her goal is to free his soul.

In “Jirel Meets Magic”, Jirel hunts the wizard Giraud who has killed some of her men. However, the wizard has fled through a magic window into another world. Jirel follows him.

In “The Dark Land” Jirel is wounded in battle and is near death. However, at the moment of death, a supernatural creature takes her away in order to make her his queen. Jirel, of course, doesn’t like that.

In “Hellsgarde” Jirel has to enter a keep which has been abandoned for centuries except for the ghost of the murdered man. She encounters a weird and alarming court in the keep.

The stories have been written in the spirit of sword and sorcery genre and reminded me of Conan. However, in most of the stories Jirel is sexually assaulted and even though she is a warrior, she’s always helpless to resist. In fact, in two of the stories she’s rescued in the end. I didn’t like that and I doubt that Conan, for example, will have to be rescued in his stories. Unfortunately, there’s also a confusion between a would-be rapist and a lover. In the first story, Guillame forcibly kisses Jirel and at first she hates him, but in the end she realizes that she loves Guillame. Later, he’s referred to as her lover even though the sexual assault in the only physical contact between them.

Jirel is a single-minded character. Once she has a goal in mind she will do everything in her power to get it. As a warrior woman, she’s the precursor to the modern warrior women such as Xena and even Buffy. As such, she has a great historical impact.