Save For Sacnoth

David Eddings recommended Lord Dunsany as his favourite fantasy author and one of his own influences, and I stumbled upon The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save For Sacnoth. As one of my favourite video game developers was named after Sacnoth (they created the Lovecraftian horror RPG series, Shadow Hearts) I just had to read it.

The story (published in 1908) is closer to a fairytale or even sword-and-sorcery than the epic fantasy pieces common nowadays; in fact it does not even meet the definition of “high fantasy”, as it is set on Earth, mentions Assyrian scimitars, and has the villains worship Satan. Nevertheless, fairies and elves and magic exists, and dragons are fearsome metallic beasts, and evil wizards ride comets and send dark dreams to peasant villagers.

The story consists of set pieces arranged around the power and renown of the legendary sword Sacnoth – most enemies flee from the name of the sword, and indeed the fortress itself bears a sign “The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save For Sacnoth”. It’s more about atmosphere than plot or characterisation, or Enlightenment rationalism. I can see how Dunsany influenced Lovecraft and Robert E Howard.

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