This collection focuses on the early work of C.L. Moore and, in particular, the stories about two of her major characters: Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith.
Jirel of Joiry, the bold, beautiful, vengeful and fearless queen who lets nothing steer her from here course or divert her aims. She overcomes her adversaries almost by sheer force of will and fury. Whether it's following her enemies into magical realms, demonic dimensions or haunted castles, she will not balk.
Northwest Smith on the other hand is an inter-stella space rogue, smuggler and illegal trader, who frequently finds himself caught in the alluring call of a siren, or simply a woman of unimaginable beauty, whom he must extricate himself with his very life and soul at stake. Invariably, on the very precipice, he manages to come back to himself, often with the aid of his faithful ray gun.
Moore's prose is luscious and deeply evocative. She paints vivid land and mind scapes and dwells upon getting these across to the reader rather than plot and action elements of the narrative. There is very little background and development with her characters.
She is fascinated with the extreme emotional response and her characters frequently find themselves in perils that induce (and feed upon) such responses, or else require that they find such depth of feeling in themselves in order to extricate themselves and regain their humanity.
I found a certain similarity of style to Clark Ashton Smith but, from what was contained here, she lacked his range making the stories feel repetitive after a while. Sometimes I feel that she belaboured the point a little, needlessly drawing stories out. But on the whole I think she was an excellent writer but her style certainly isn't going to appeal to everyone, particularly those of modern tastes who prefer more emphasis on characters and plot and less descriptive passages.