In the 1970s I discovered the Raven, Swordsmistress of Chaos books by Richard Kirk. Richard Kirk was actually two people – Angus Wells and Robert Holdstock. They wrote five books in this fantasy series, and I am somewhat disappointed that they didn’t finish it. When it comes to this series we are not talking about high brow literature here, but fairly good swashbuckling sword and sorcery. The main protagonist is Raven, a slave girl who is destined to be the ‘pivot upon which the world turns’ and the harbinger of Chaos. Exactly why I am not sure. She has a supporting cast of friends and lovers and they battle various alien, evil and nefarious schemes over the course of the five book series. A lot is made of the descriptions of sex but to be honest, perhaps I was desensitised by all the Penthouse Letters I read as a teenager because I found it pretty tame. That being said, Raven was ambidextrous and definitely played for both teams. One of the things I loved about the books were the covers by Chris Achilleos, one of the great fantasy and sci-fi artists of the last century.
Some of you may remember these images of Kate Bush that are based on the Achilleos artwork used on the book covers. She was a hotty then and still is.
Anyways, I always liked the world the series was set in. The World was dominate by the Worldheart Ocean. Around it were the various nations and lands of Raven’s world. Beyond the known lands were mountains, snow, ice and mist – which was never really explained. The known world was like a bubble and everything outside was chaos. The preeminent state was the Altanate, with it’s cities and gold. Sly is home to tribes of black skinned warriors, Ishkar to blonde hotties (this was Raven’s home after all ) and a rift full of lost cities, jungles and half-human beastmen. The South is characterised by deserts and grasslands. The land of Xandrone is where tribes herd and ride giant war cows called Xand. The Lost Lands is where you find your fairly traditional S&S barbarian and tribal states. The North is home to great craftsmen in metal in the land of Quwhon. The island of Kragg was a viking type culture. The mysterious Isles of Kharwhan is home to a cabal of sorcerers whose machinations seem to piss Raven off no end while she continues to do whatever it is that they want. If that sounds confusing it is because it is. All in all you find all the usual tropes required in good old fashioned Sword and Sorcery. If you want to spend an hour chilling out I still think these stories are fun. Just don’t take them seriously.
So here is my take on the map that was included in the Raven books.