There’s no shortage of fantasy fiction with strong women heroines these days — in fact, if you’re standing in front of the urban fantasy section of your local bookstore, I wouldn’t be surprised if you assume that that’s all there is.
I do hear the occasional observation that this is entirely a modern development however, and obviously that’s not true. Yeah, adventure fantasy was largely dominated by male writers in the 20th Century (and male editors, and male art directors, but that’s a different topic.) But it wasn’t just trailblazers like C.L. Moore, Anne McCaffrey, and Joanna Russ creating popular female heroes. Even in midlist fantasy, there were popular sword-wielding women characters, many of whom are forgotten today.
Are they worth remembering? That’s a different question.
I’ve always wanted to find out. Recently I’ve been curious about the Silverglass books by J.F. Rivkin, four novels published between 1986 and 1991: Silverglass, Web of Wind, Witch of Rhostshyl, and Mistress of Ambiguities. The first one crossed my desk again last night, part of a small paperback collection I recently acquired, and I dipped into it long enough to be intrigued.
Probably the reason I’ve remembered these books so long is the colorful wraparound covers by Royo. For Silverglass, he surrounded our heroine with an interesting cast of characters in what looks like an underground tavern — a setting that immediately spoke to me of adventure in 1986. The main selling point is summarized in the Piers Anthony blurb at the top:
It’s fun to see a tall, handsome, hard-fighting, hard-drinking barbarian hero — who is female.
Here’s the book blurb, and high-res scans of the front and back covers.
Spells, Treachery, and Adventure
The life of a sword-for-hire was often uncertain, but brazen and beautiful Corson brenn Torisk would have no other.
When Corson’s services as a guard were engaged by the Lady Nyctasia, it seemed that fortune was finally smiling upon her. The Lady had a ready wit, an open purse and a reputation for sorcery which she assured Corson was quite undeserved.
While Corson had little liking for magic and still less for magicians, it seemed too good an opportunity to refuse. But when her employer’s enemies proved to be as numerous as her coins, Corson decided that any aid was welcome — even the Lady’s sorcery.
And here’s a bigger version of the front and back covers (click for high-res versions.)
Who is J.F. Rivkin? That’s something of a mystery. He (or she) vanished in the mid-90s.
J.F. Rivkin also collaborated with Jeri Freedman, under the name Ellen Foxxe, on two fantasy novels (Season of Shadows, Season of Storms). One more fantasy novel appeared under the name J.F. Rivkin: The Dreamstone (1991), volume 3 in the Runesword series from Ace Books.
Silverglass was published in 1986 by Ace Books. It is 186 pages, originally priced at $3.50. It is currently out of print, and there is no digital edition.
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