Black God's Kiss (Trade Paperback)

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by C.L. Moore, with an introduction by Suzy McKee Charnas

First published in the pages of Weird Tales in 1934, C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry is the first significant female sword-and-sorcery protagonist and one of the most exciting and evocative characters the genre has ever known.

Published alongside seminal works by H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, the five classic fantasy tales included in this volume easily stand the test of time and often overshadow the storytelling power and emotional impact of stories by Moore’s more famous contemporaries. A seminal work from one of fantasy’s most important authors, Black God’s Kiss is an essential addition to any fantasy library.

  • "Where No Man Had Gone Before" (introduction by Suzy McKee Charnas)
  • "Black God's Kiss"
  • "Black God's Shadow"
  • "Jirel Meets Magic"
  • "The Dark Land"
  • "Hellsgarde"
  • "Quest of the Starstone" (with Henry Kuttner—the Northwest Smith crossover story)

224-page softcover trade paperback ISBN: 1-60125-045-2
ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-045-2

"For those who have never read the wondrous adventures of the First Lady of Sword-and-Sorcery from the First Lady of Sword-and-Sorcery... oh, gods, how I envy the dark pleasures before them," says Ryan Harvey of Black Gate magazine. Harvey's essay, "Jirel of Joiry: Mother of Us All," gives a terrific overview of the character's history and contribution to sword and sorcery fiction.

"Rich with lush description"—Dave Truesdale, Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine

About the Author

Twenty years after her death, Catherine Lucille Moore (1911–1987) remains one of the most influential female fantasy authors of all time. Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, Moore published her first story in Weird Tales in 1933, where it met with immediate success and earned praise from contemporaries such as H.P. Lovecraft. In a time when female authors were still marginalized and practically unheard of in genre fiction, Catherine hid her gender by publishing under the name C.L. Moore. She proceeded to write high-profile stories for Weird Tales and Astounding for the next decade, earning particular acclaim for her characters Jirel of Joiry, the first strong female protagonist in the sword and sorcery genre, and daring spaceman Northwest Smith. Moore met science fiction author Henry Kuttner in 1936 when he wrote her a fan letter, mistakenly believing her to be a man, and in 1940 the two were married. Together the couple collaborated on numerous stories and scripts for television shows under their own names and at least 17 pseudonyms, of which Lewis Padgett and Keith Hammond are the most recognized. In 1998 C. L. Moore was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

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Not my cup of tea...

**( )( )( )

This book just bored me.

I can't quite place my finger on what it is that I don't like, but I went into it expecting something more.

I made myself get through the first two shorts in the book, "Black God's Kiss" and "Black God's Shadow". I started "Jirel Meets Magic" and read the first couple pages and couldn't go on. It just didn't captivate me. I tried it again a week later and got through the same first couple pages as I didn't even remember what had gone on. I struggled on and got four pages read before I just realized I had better things to be doing. Its been sitting where I left it about a month ago. I'm fairly sure I won't get back to it. In the mean time I've read through three Adventure Path modules and other various books and magazines. I enjoyed them all very much.

C.L. Moore paints a vivid environment, and I can easily picture the Dark God's world in my minds eye, but the angst, pointless anger, and inner dialog is so maddening that my mind wanders. There just seems to be no point in her adventures. She sets out to do things just because she needs to do them, with no idea what she is going to do when she gets there. Then by some stroke of luck she manages to achieve what she set out to do, essentially wandering blindly the whole way.

I see that another of the Planet Stories books is written by her. It's still a few down the list in my queue, but I hope that it's better than Jirel's adventures.

Following Jirel into Hell and stranger lands...


Reading Black God’s Kiss made me realize what have I lost at not knowing Catherine Lucille Moore. The five histories (and the crossover with her husband’s character) appearing in Black God’s Kiss (which is both the first story’s name in the volume and the one which marks Jiriel of Joiry as an extraordinaire and quite human character) let me taste something of what Moore really is.

There is no other way to begin talking about Black god’s Kiss and C. L. Moore than analizing Jirel of Joiry, which can be defined with one word: Fire. Jirel is nothing if not passionate; rage and passion and love (in a sort of way) rule her live, more than once this deep rage, this lust for life is what lets her survive the ordeals she confronts; from dark gods, to evil men, to dark wizards and men from the future. But Jirel is not only fire in essence, but also in body, from her long red hair, her lion yellow eyes, to the passion present on the feminine curves of her body, to her expression of eternal defiance or her burly celebration after victory. That is what defines Jirel of Joiry, such passion that forces us, as it does to her men, follow her into battle and sometimes into the abyss and stranger lands.

Yet still, Jirel is quite human herself. She is pasional, courageous and sometimes barbaric… yet she is also honorable, naïve, superstitious, and human in her desires. More than once she has found herself vulnerable and afraid, but most of the time her fury gives her the upper hand… other times she is as much afraid as any other girl… but in the hells she has taken to visit, who would not be afraid.

From the first story to the last France, from where she reigns Joiry, is nothing but a background to give us a frame of reference to understand Jirel. As some say, “Jirel comes from a naiver era”. From this background we rarely see something more than the walls of her castle and those of her enemies, we learn that she has a cousin with a fortress close to her land, an allies and enemies too, yet we heard nothing of her parents or suitors. She is a catholic and has god in high regard, yet she wouldn’t think twice in damn her soul or leave the protection of the cross if that is what she needs to destroy her enemies.

That is France… but the true stories always take… well… elsewhere. From outlandish worlds what when seen in the plain light of day will take your sanity away, fiendish and esoteric worlds that can only be understood under the veil of illusions, fae-like worlds with doors to worlds unimagined by mortal minds, esoteric places between the worlds of reality and fantasy. They all are populated by strange versions of ourselves, or bizarre creatures we hardly imagined in our weirdest dreams, where Jiriel usually travels alone, moving between alien creatures, some of which from human, only have the appearance… and usually it’s never the true one.

Reading Dark God’s Kiss and many of Jirel’s stories is like reading an story of a female medieval Conan crossing in between worlds that H.P. Lovecraft would have imagined. An interesting and dangerous mixture, where she understand the impossibility of what she lives, but only has her senses to guide her and her rage to impulse her to win against, sometimes, impossible odds. But as always, her rage is a two bladed sword, as much times saving her, as making imperiling her, or destroying what she loves… more than once taking her to death’s door if not for outside forces.

So, what can I said about C. L. Moore and Dark God’s Kiss? Simply, I enjoyed deeply her stories and fall deeply in love with Jiriel, so much that the last stories I drank them like sweet wine, unable to stop and taking myself a day to savor the aftertaste this story left me before beginning with something else.

If you have the chance… don’t doubt it, and give Jiriel an opportunity, I am sure she will bewitch you as she did with me.

One of the First Ladies of Fantasy is returned


I am delighted to see that Paizo brought the collected Jirel stories back for a whole new generation to enjoy. These were, and still are to me, some of the very best heroic fantasy ever written. The setting has a sort of fairyland feel to modern readers -- but this is classic Grimm's fairyland, a very dark and frightful land indeed that truly needs someone as brave and stubborn as Jirel to defend it against the ever-encroachng forces of darkness.

Just one complaint: why did they show Jirel as being another Red Sonja in the cover art? But that aside, this is one of the best fantasy books you could ever read. Buy it and marvel.

Stuck on Jirel.


I could talk about how nice Black God's Kiss is physically. I could thank Mona and Planet Stories for bringing this historic piece forward so that I could discover it. I could talk about how Moore's writing saves me from enjoying story only and holding my nose when it comes to quality of writing, as is not uncommon for me when it comes to pulp stories. Instead, I want to focus on her enigmatic heroine.

Moore produces in Jirel, the sword-swinging Lady of Joiry, a character that left me hungering for more. To compare Jirel a moment to Moore's sci-fi hero, Northwest Smith, it is undoubted that with Northwest she achieves a much fuller explicit portrayal. But there is something magical in her characterization of Jirel. By hints, suggestions, and even absence, Moore somehow painted in my mind a picture of a compelling presence: Jirel is subtle, conflicted, and full-blooded. As I indicated, after reading pulp fantasy, I often feel a deep enjoyment of story beyond the quality of the writing. Just as rarely as I have satisfaction in the writing itself, do I feel the presence of the character as compelling and lingering. But in the Jirel stories, I felt as if a shadow passed me, of a powerful heroine, and I regretted that there were not more of them. Still, I am glad for those we have, and I recommend this volume as a must-read for the genre, both in terms of historic importance and—above all—for pure enjoyment.


Ok, these Paizo Planet Stories books are pretty cool. Rather than some of the cheaper looking flimsy trade paperbacks around with ordinary paper this is nicer, and has one of the covers designed to make it longer last with an indentation before the spine - whatever you call that.

Also, not as tall as I thought they would be - around 20cm by the looks, so going for a bit more retro look, if not all the way to the old mass market. Retro font, too. The cover art is fairly nice, too.

Black God's Kiss is about a bazillion times better a title than 'Jirel of Joiry', too, which an earlier not complete collection of stories was titled. My sister had this book, and the dodgy fairy-sounding title put me off it for a while when I was much younger.

That aside, there a 10 page or so intro by Suzy McKee Charnas detailing the history of Moore's character, and how such an aggressive female heroine was important to her when she was young and looking for heroic fictional role models.

As she points out, Moore has a different style to fellow Weird Tales denizen Robert E. Howard, and while these aren't quite as good as his major the stories overall the quality is high, and the crossover with her other character Northwest Smith is great.

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Who did the cover art for this edition?

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