by H. Rider Haggard
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Ayesha is She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, a 2,000-year-old queen who rules a fabled lost city deep in a maze of African caverns. She has the occult wisdom of Isis, the eternal youth and beauty of Aphrodite, and the violent appetite of a lamia. Like A. Conan Doyle's Lost World, She is one of those magnificent Victorian yarns about an expedition to a far-off locale shadowed by magic, mystery, and death.
Tim Stout writes, in Horror: 100 Best Books, "As the plot takes hold one has the fancy that [Ayesha] had always existed, in some dark dimension of the imagination, and that [H. Rider] Haggard was the fortunate author to whom she chose to reveal herself." Haggard did, in fact, write this book in a six-week burst of feverish inspiration: "It came faster than my poor aching hand could set it down," he later said.
This edition of the 1887 classic features an introductory essay by literary critic Regina Barreca, who likens Ayesha to Flaubert's Madame Bovary or Tolstoy's Anna Karenina--"literally fantastic female figures who must be stopped before they love again."
There are some events of which each circumstance and surrounding detail seems to be graven on the memory in such fashion that we cannot forget it, and so it is with the scene that I am about to describe. It rises as clearly before my mind at this moment as thought it had happened but yesterday. It was in this very month something over twenty years ago that I, Ludwig Horace Holly, was sitting one night in my rooms at Cambridge, grinding away at some mathematical work, I forget what. I was to go up for my fellowship within a week, and was expected by my tutor and my college generally to distinguish myself. At last, wearied out, I flung my book down, and, going to the mantelpiece, took down a pipe and filled it. There was a candle burning on the mantelpiece, and a long, narrow glass at the back of it; and as I was in the act of lighting the pipe I caught sight of my own countenance in the glass, and paused to reflect. The lighted match burnt away till it scorched my fingers, forcing me to drop it; but still I stood and stared at myself in the glass, and reflected.
In what may be the greatest pulp fantasy adventure ever written, She is Ayesha --She-Who-Must-Be-Obyed, ruler of a lost city deep in Africa caverns: beautiful, wise and voracious. A wonderful page-turner of death and desire, magic and mystery.
Card catalog description
Although aware that many of his ancestors have failed in the same mission, a young Englishman attempts to find the mysterious white queen who rules a lost African civilization.
About the Author
Henry Rider Haggard (1856-1925) worked in South Africa during the time of Britain's war with the Zulus and the First Boer War. He turned those experiences into fiction on his return to England and achieved popular and critical acclaim with King Solomon's Mines, Allan Quatermain, and She.
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