When Christopher Sinclair takes a walk one night in Arizona he suddenly finds himself waking up in a strange land gripped by a freezing winter. Sinclair is quickly quickly finds himself embroiled in the affairs of the titular Bright Lady as her consort, the God of War Marcius, offers an exchange: Christopher’s help in dealing with the the threat of war for Marcius’ help in returning to his wife and home. From its initial layout Sword of the Bright Lady there is a sense of familiarity to the tale that reminded me a bit of the Thomas Covenant or even A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court series but hearkens back even further to the old fairy stories of mortals wandering into strange in new lands full of magic and water.
Sword of the Bright Lady stretches credulity with Sinclair coming off a touch like a Mary Sue. He knows a bit too much to be able to survive in a pre-industrial society as he is able to bring techniques and technologies to bear in order to improve the quality of weapons and armor. Similar his prowess with a weapon, though below that of the native in the novel, is a bit too good for someone from our world. The world of Sword of the Bright Lady often feels familiar, particularly to anyone who has played a video game or enjoyed a session of Dungeons and Dragons. Magic-users are measured by rank and their power is increased by taking on the energy of expired lifeforms, particularly other ranked individuals. It comes off a little corny and a bit derivative but I none-the-less found myself enjoying the loosely explained narrative context for “levels” and “experience points.”
Sword of the Bright Lady isn’t a particularly great novel but it is an entertaining diversion. Planck leaves the mystery of the Sinclair’s journey between his world and the magical world largely in the dark. It’s something I’d like to have seen explained a little more. While the novel lacks depths it makes up for that lack with some excellent action scenes and the pure entertainment value of watching a headstrong, independent-minded American butt heads with a rigid feudal society. If you’re looking for a fun, goofy read Sword of the Bright Lady is worth a shot.