“Black God’s Shadow” is the second Jirel of Joiry tale, a direct sequel to “Black God’s Kiss“. The story opens while Jirel waking from a dream in which Guillaume is calling her named. She’d sent Guillaume to his death with a kiss from the Black God she had encountered in a strange world she’d entered through a tunnel beneath her castle.
Now she realizes that she’s doomed him to an eternity of torment. Overwhelmed by guilt, Jirel returns to that strange otherworld to seek some way of freeing Guillaume’s soul so he can go to his eternal rest.
The whole land is different from the last time she visited. The geography has completely changed. She pursues Guillaume’s soul through the land, more than once using her life force to combat the Black God.
I didn’t find this particular story as interesting as the previous one. The land where Jirel goes didn’t seem to have as many of the weird aspects it did in the first story, although it did have its moments, such as the trees casting shadows that revealed their true nature, such as the tree with the perfumed blossoms having the shadow of a coiled serpent or the one with no leaves that thrashed its branches in the air having the shadow of a writhing woman.
But for the most part, the moving shadows and the river (and all other sources of water) whispering to itself didn’t have the impact of Jirel’s first visit to this realm.
I did find the ending to be interesting. There has been some speculation that the kiss Jirel gives Guillaume at the end of “The Black God’s Kiss” is a euphemism for sexual relations. Here Jirel finally defeats the Black God and frees Guillaume’s soul when his spirit passes through her body.
Moore describes it thusly:
Then one of the small vaguenesses blew against her and through her…and with that instant’s union something as sustaining as life itself flashed through her wonderfully, a bright spark that swelled and grew and blazed,…and that hot blaze was sweling still, until all of her being was suffused and pulsing with it, and the frigid pall of dark melted away unresistingly before the hot, triumphant blaze that dwelt within her. In her ecstasy of overwhelming warmth, she scarcely recognized her victory.
Maybe I simply have a dirty mind, but that’s some pretty erotic imagery there if you ask me.
“Black God’s Shadow” isn’t (IMO) quite as good as “Black God’s Kiss”, but it’s still a powerful story. There are three more Jirel stories, as well as the crossover story “Quest of the Starstone”, in which Jirel meets Northwest Smith. We’ll be looking at all of them as the year goes on.