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The Sword of Rhiannon

3.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  605 Ratings  ·  98 Reviews
Matthew Carse was a Martian archaeologist turned looter, selling priceless historical relics for his own gain, until the sword of a fallen god sent him hurtling back in time to a Mars still lush with life. Captured by the cruel and beautiful princess of a degenerate empire, Carse must ally with the rebellious Sea Kings and their strange psychic allies in order to defeat th ...more
128 pages
Published January 1st 1979 by Gregg Press (first published 1949)
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Bill  Kerwin
May 12, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Since I have been reading a lot of Leigh Brackett recently, I decided it might be fun to watch the first half of "Eldorado" again--one of my all-time favorite Westerns--for which Brackett wrote the screenplay. I was struck--as always--by how elegantly and efficiently the first half is constructed, how it delivers all the necessary information of a complex back story--not to mention a wealth of memorable incidents and images--and leaves us almost a full hour for an equally rich development of the
Feb 28, 2016 Algernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016

After a long while he reached out and took the thing in his hands. The beautiful and deadly slimness of it, the length and perfect balance, the black hilt and guard that fitted perfectly his large hand, the single smoky jewel that seemed to watch him with living wisdom, the name etched in most rare and most ancient symbols upon the blade. He spoke, and his voice was no more than a whisper:
"The Sword of Rhiannon!"


Planetary Romance may have been invented by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but I believe it
Executive Summary: I don't really like much classic sci-fi, and unfortunately this was no different.

Full Review
This book wasn't on my radar. I only read it because it was May pick for Sword & Laser. I wish I had been able to get it from library, but at least there was a cheap ebook available.

This felt more like a pirate fantasy book than sci-fi. There are a few sci-fi elements, such as a laser gun and time travel, but the setting of Mars may as well be Middle Earth or Narnia.

The characters
May 07, 2015 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK, let me just get this out of the way first: Brackett's use of the name "Rhiannon", and various other Celtic terms (Caer Dhu, e.g.) just bugs me way more than it probably should. And yes, they're very nice, sounding names, but she was more than capable of coining utterly gorgeous names -- Jekkara, Valkis, etc. -- so the Irish-sounding stuff just felt really out of place.

Having said that, what a great book! Admittedly shorter than the "what has come before" section of your average Game of Thron
Jenny (Reading Envy)
May 25, 2015 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mike W.
I read this because it was selected as the May book for the Sword and Laser book club and I hardly ever get a chance to read along! I had not heard of this author or this book in either form (it is also known as The Sea-Kings of Mars.)

It is important to look at the era a book was written. This is from 1953, pre-moon landing, pre-scientific Mars information. It isn't surprising, then that the main character (Carse) and all the other humans on Mars don't mention struggling to breath or survive. Yo
This book is an anachronism, a relic of a heyday of Martian tales that reached its peak in the 1930s, 20 years before the publication of this story. It isn't the last tale of it's kind, that honour probably goes to A Rose for Ecclesiastes by Roger Zelazny (which I think is actually the better story). At the time of its writing, Mars still held the possibility of life of some kind, and it would be another 10 years before that dream ended forever with the first Mariner flybys. Even so, most author ...more
Feb 04, 2016 Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: appendix-n
This is my first Brackett, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Even though some cliches of early SciFi and pulp novels remain (a modern man travels to a strange world, modern scientific explainations given to magic, vague strong and silent heroes, maidens in distress), those cliches exist to fill a section the writer would rather not develop so that a rich world may instead grow. It also fits with the author's habit of leaving certain details in shadow so that they can be tended to and developed in the
Stephen Richter
It is hard to rate this. D&D has had this book listed in its inspirational reading since day one. Leigh Brackett had a great career as a writer for various magazines in the 1930s & 40s, as a screenwriter in the 1940s & 50s and finished up with credit on the Star War's Empire Strikes Back screenplay. While her role in the screenplay has been downplayed through the years, it is interesting to note that the strongest movie of the series is the one she had influence on. As for this story ...more
Meh. Not my thing. But not really surprising, given that one thing that Leigh Brackett is known for I've never heard of and the other thing she seems to be really known for (one of the Star Wars movies) really isn't my thing. Pulpy sci-fi, much like an Arnie movie, not particularly deep and not really my jam. I guess it was least it was short.

The audiobook was terrible. The ebook from Baen had a lot of typos.
Nate D
Jan 19, 2015 Nate D rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, read-in-2015
Leigh Brackett caught my eye as the screenwriter adapting Chandler of course) fro Robert Altman's excellent version of The Long Goodbye. Though it's always hard to really see the screenplay through Altman's direction, all his movies seem like his movies first, regardless of source. In any event, that together with the kinda art deco cover here caused me to pick this one up. Turns out its that oh-so-antiquated sci-fi genre that's really basically fantasy in space. Following Burroughs (and still a ...more
This very short novel reflects the pulp era in which it was written. Most chapters end in a cliff hanger, which was a style designed for serialization across several issues of a magazine. This one looks like it was published in a single edition as a novella, but the hallmark style is still there.

Very reminiscent of the Burroughs Barsoom books overall. It shows some if it's age but still manage to come off as a decent escapist adventure yarn. Of course, the 'science' of Mars is very different to
I understand this book was written as an homage to the Burroughs "Carson of Venus" and "John Carter of Mars" books, and like them it is very light, but enjoyable adventure yarn, full of cliffhangers, occasional swashbuckling, and card-board thin characters (especially the protagonist). I think that for Burroughs, the undefined protagonists are meant to allow almost any reader to identify with them. Maybe Brackett intends the same thing. Either way, it is fun, with a lot of plot twists and action ...more
May 24, 2012 Christopher rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Another enjoyable planetary romance, much better written than most. Much like "The Secret of Sinharat" and "The People of the Talisman," the story evokes ancient mystery beneath ancient mystery, and by the end, it delivers the answers. In this case, an archaeologist/tomb-robber on Mars actually time travels to ancient Mars to resolve even more ancient questions. But again, there's a problem with the thinness or emotional distance of the characters.
Teo Kos
Oct 06, 2015 Teo Kos rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Sword of Rhiannon" is Leigh Brackett's (who's perhaps best known as co-writer of "The Empire Strikes Back") Martian sword & sorcery epic masquerading as sci-fi.

The term 'epic' applies only to the theme, not the scope - this is a very short novel recounting a grand and majestic adventure. We follow a Martian archaeologist Matthew Carse as he is thrown from a barren and near-dead planet of Mars a million years in into its past, where a vibrant and lush world awaits him. Adapting to the new ag
Dec 24, 2015 Jeffrey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read_in_2015
Also titled "The Sword of Rhiannon", the novella "Sea-Kings of Mars" is from the 1940's era of classic sci-fi pulp novels. I read this as a book club pick, and was looking forward to it as it sounded very similar to Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars books from 20 years or more earlier, which I've always loved. Unfortunately I was very underwhelmed by the whole thing. The author, Leigh Brackett, is famous for her screenplays, (westerns, noir, and a first take on Star Wars "The Empire Stri ...more
Wayne McCoy
'The Sword of Rhiannon' was a book club pick for the month. I've been wanting to read some Leigh Brackett, so I gave it a shot, once I could track down a not-so-easy to find copy.

When Matt Carse, Earthman, archaeologist, and adventurer, has a chance to buy a rare sword from the distant past of Mars, he gets more than he bargains for. He finds himself sucked into the past of his planet, where there is water, and more than one warring clan. He finds himself enslaved aboard a galley on one of the s
May 10, 2015 Casey rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, 1940s
The Sword of Rhiannon is the story of Matt Carse, a human on Mars. He follows a shady martian into the secret tomb of the cursed god Rhiannon, and they uncover treasure. Matt gets double-crossed and pushed over a ledge, and he time travels to the past when Mars was full of water and lush greenery. When he interacts with martians from the past, he is immediately arrested and made a slave on a ship. Unbeknownst to him, Rhiannon is along for the ride in a recess of his mind.

I suppose The Sword of R
Mar 30, 2016 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book_2015
This is a fairly short read from the pulp sci-fi era. It reminded me constantly of Edgar Rice Burroughs A Princess of Mars books. The story moves at a swift pace and is fairly fantastical.
It has not aged well, in the case of the story setting. We now know that there was very little chance of life on Mars, but it did build an interesting Mars.
The story started off a little weird - going back a in time a million years - just to get to the setting. It makes me think if there were more stories of Ca
May 31, 2015 Sandro rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Picked for the book of the month from Sword&Laser bookclub. There’s not really much to say about this book. It was a quick read, fast-paced and overall fun.

It’s old-school Sci-fi, With a man with a destiny bigger than him, a damsel somewhat in distress/that wants to be saved (even if she doesn’t know that) and a villain(?) that everyone is happy to hate and fear.

Like it was stated in the podcast for the bookclub, it is a great book to read on an afternoon at the beach.
There's something about Mars. Edgar Rice Burroughs was the first explorer to really map out the fictional canals & cities in detail, but he was hardly the last. Leigh Brackett's Red Planet deserves your attention. --MK
Feb 07, 2016 Antonis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Time Lords before Hartnell and Troughton's Doctor Who. Intrepid crews of diverse mutineers making mythic voyages across dreamlike seas long before Harryhausen got hold of classical myth to make Jason and the Argonauts and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. Artifacts of ancient gods weaving plots of epic proportion three decades before Lucas and Spielberg gave us Raiders of the Lost Ark. And a lone, hard-nosed, wasteland-drifting archaeologist spearheading a time-trotting tale far before Leone's Man w ...more
Jul 28, 2008 Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this one. Adventures on a decaying Mars. Very different than Burroughs, but just as good in it's own way.
Jul 13, 2015 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books, ebooks
The Sword of Rhiannon (or The Sea Kings of Mars depending on which version you get) is another book club pick from The Sword and Laser. Written by Leigh Brackett, notable for writing the initial screenplay for Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back, and first released in 1949 it falls squarely into that classic pulp sci-fi role of the 50s and 60s. In actual fact it barely qualifies as more than a short story or novella at only 131 pages and it was first published in magazine form before la ...more
Jul 06, 2015 A B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: goal-books
This book is for the dreamers who look at the night sky and wonder if we're alone in the universe. Or if there really was once water on Mars. Or if ancient aliens really did come to our solar system. Or if those ancient aliens were really advanced humans who stopped on their way to greater adventures. Okay, must stop daydreaming.

I loved it.

My initial confusion was due to the title. I don't like to read book descriptions, as far too often they contain spoilers. I was expecting a Celtic fantasy. I
Daniel K
Its hard not to compare this book to Burroughs' Barsoom series. And this comparison doesn't make Sword of Rhiannon any good. It being pure adventure clear of any real science fiction attributes is pretty plain and not actually thrilling one. Story is too simple, characters are pretty shallow and typical. There is no intrigue or sudden turns. Story unwraps itself in very predictive way and it seems that book doesn't even try do conceal it's motives from reader.

Maybe in 1949 this story could impre
Nov 05, 2015 Greg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure, sci-fi, fantasy
If you've ever read Burroughs' Mars or Venus stories and wished he'd quit describing things, this book is for you. It's a slim 200-ish page "planetary romance" novel set on Mars in two different eras (a million years apart but both sword and sail eras, oddly).

The hero is the usual Johnny Awesome (archaeologist who can beat anyone in hand-to-hand combat--sound like anyone else from 1980?) and who is clever enough to outwit gods, kings, princesses and entire armies and navies.

It's a fun, short rea
Fun, brisk, pulpy adventure stymied by clunky writing (repetitive exposition!! exaggeration!! over-use of "infinite" (a thief at one point picks a lock "with infinite skill")!!) and a predictable climax. Offhandedly mixes science fiction (time travel, deadly technology left by a ancient, vanished race) with fantasy (flashing swordplay, mind-reading mystics, feudal kingdoms, princess-warriors).

Amidst otherwise one-note characters, I liked that our thieving archaeologist protagonist was somewhat
May 19, 2015 Cliff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sword-and-laser
I'll admit to a fair bit of resistance to this book club selection. I've been burned before by some "classic" science fiction.

But it's difficult to deny the appeal to what is truly pulp fiction. There's no deeper meaning, profound character development or meaningful discourse to be found here, it's just good old fashioned fun.

Here we have an "archaeologist," though he's more of a rake than a professor, who is presented with an artifact that has been searched for the entire history of Mars. But w
This book reminded me a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom trilogy, which Brackett cites as one of her inspirations. However, where the Barsoom trilogy is rather soured for me by overt sexism and rather dated political ideas, Sword of Rhiannon is kind of an interesting SF time capsule. Written by a woman, it also features women in positions of power (although with some very dated ideas about relationships between men and women). The hero is pretty flat, but I did enjoy Boghaz who I kept imagin ...more
I only recently discovered Leigh Brackett and I got a copy of this from the library. I did enjoy it a lot. It was very much pulp science fiction. The beginning read as if it were a film noir in Egypt, rather than a science fiction story on Mars. It was very atmospheric. The story didn't stay quite as strong when it went along though as the setting seemed to be lost in all the action. It was still very enjoyable though and I do want to try and find more books by her. I have to say this edition wa ...more
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Leigh Brackett was born on December 7, 1915 in Los Angeles, and raised near Santa Monica. Having spent her youth as an athletic tom-boy - playing volleyball and reading stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs and H Rider Haggard - she began writing fantastic adventures of her own. Several of these early efforts were read by Henry Kuttner, who critiqued her stories and introduced her to the SF personalitie ...more
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