A collection of swashbuckling blood-spilling blade-wielding mayhem, the best of which are the three Dark Agnes stories to begin with. The book ends with a Turlogh Dubh O'Brien tale, a long way from the shores of Erin.
Sword Woman : Sword Woman - Robert E. Howard
Sword Woman : Blades for France - Robert E. Howard
Sword Woman : Mistress of Death - Robert E. Howard
Sword Woman : The King's Service - Robert E. Howard
Sword Woman : The Shadow of the Hun - Robert E. Howard
A woman bails on the fiance she is disgusted by, and meets a rogue knight type in the forest, who has other plans for her.
She isn't the type to go quietly:
"Saint Denis deliver me from such tender care as this hell-cat has shown," quoth Perducas under his breath."
She almost kills him, finding out what he is up to, and decides the military life is for her when she hears of a sword-woman named 'Black Margot'.
When the Commander she is talking to doesn't think so:-
"Bah! I spit on you all! There is no man alive who can face me with weapons and live, and before I die, I'll prove it to the world. Women! Cows! Slaves! Whimpering, cringing serfs, crouching to blows, revenging themselves by taking their own lives, as my sister urged me to do. Ha! You deny me a place among men? By God, I'll live as I please and die as God wills, but if I'm not fit to be a man's comrade, at least I'll be no man's mistress. So go ye to hell, Guiscard de Clisson, and may the devil tear your heart!"
Attacked in her room at night with the man she almost disposed of, she finds a talent for slaughter, dispatching all of her attackers. They begin to believe her military value:
"Aye, Dark Agnes!" said Etienne, lifting himself on elbow. "A star of darkness shone on her birth, of darkness and unrest. Where ever she goes shall be blood spilling and men dying. I knew it when I saw her standing against the sunrise that turned to blood the dagger in her hand."
Ambushed again, the man whose life she spared helps her out.
4 out of 5
"But as I rode through the twilight, I found no regret in my heart that I had traded my life of drudgery for one of wandering and violence. It was the life for which mysterious Fate had intended me, and I fitted it as well as any man: drinking, brawling, gambling, and fighting. With pistol, dagger or sword I had proved my prowess again and again, and I feared no man who walked the earth. Better a short life of adventure and wild living than a long dreary grind of soul-crushing household toil and child-bearing, cringing under the cudgel of a man I hated."
After that is masks and mayhem and rescue for Dark Agnes.
3.5 out of 5
Deciding to arrest Dark Agnes for a crime she didn't commit means we hope you have a nice place to buried.
Gaining aid from a Scots swordsman of some skill: "Two against one will not be too great odds when the one is a magician returned from the grave."
Cue zombie sorcerer scene.
3.5 out of 5
Comparing the bigness of weapons and battles until a dancing girl:
"Another woman a55a55in?" he asked casually. "My throne against your sword, Donn Othna, Anand Mulhar sent her. Nimbaydur Singh is too upright for such tricks-the poor fool."
Then it is time for a serious spot of violence.
3 out of 5
"Turlogh Dubh O'Brien was not as tall as either of his companions, though he was well over six feet. His dark face was clean shaven, his black hair cropped short. From under heavy black brows gleamed his volcanic eyes-blue, and full of shifting gleams like clouds passing across some deep blue lake. Long-limbed, deep-chested, broad-shouldered, his every motion betokened his iron strength and cat-like litheness. He was, in some ways, more the complete fighting man than his friends, for he possessed a dynamic quickness the Saxon lacked, and sheer strength beyond the power of the slender Spaniard."
"It was a hard service the Gael offered the men who came to him from chains or the shadow of the gallows. He promised them only a hard, bitter life, ceaseless toil and warfare and a bloody death. But he gave them a chance to strike back at the world and to glut themselves in slaughter-and men followed him."
Then some advice for the Chaga Khan vs Khogar Khan conflict.
3 out of 5
3.5 out of 5