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Jirel of Joiry by C.L. Moore

C. L. Moore created Jirel, ruler of Joiry, in reaction to the beefy total-testosterone blood-and-thunder tales of '30s pulp magazines, but Jirel is no anti-Conan. She's a good Catholic girl, stubbornly purposeful, relentless in pursuit of enemies or vengeance, hard-boiled and a little stupid, and cannot be distracted by mere physical attractiveness. Indeed, in Jirel's world, beauty = decadence = corruption. Were these stories written today, inevitably Jirel would have a lot of hot sex, but as they were first published in Weird Tales between 1934-1939, sexual attraction is mostly only vividly implied. No loss. Jirel's journeys through unnatural landscapes and her battles with supernatural opponents are still wonderful to read, and though newcomers Red Sonja and Xena are more famous now, Jirel rules as the archetypal, indomitable redheaded swordswoman in chain mail and greaves, swinging her "great two-edged sword."



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