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The Ship of Ishtar    by Abraham Merritt order for
Ship of Ishtar
by Abraham Merritt
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 1991 (1924)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Abraham Merritt wrote great romantic fantasy in the 1920s. In The Ship of Ishtar, John Kenton (an early Indiana Jones) is sent a stone block by a fellow archaeologist 'from the sand shrouds of ages-dead Babylon.' In response to a strange fragrance that seems to plead with him, Kenton breaks the block open to reveal a miniature statue of a manned ship, which appears to be split into contending forces.

Naturally, Kenton falls into the world of this 'ship of warlocks', where a priestess of Ishtar (goddess of love and beauty) is under eternal siege by forces of evil. Kenton falls for Sharane and becomes her champion ... 'As young as Spring, she seemed - yet wise as Autumn; Primavera of some archaic Botticelli - but Mona Lisa too'. He moves back and forth in time between the modern world and this ship, and as he does, details of the statue change to match unfolding events.

Kenton finds constant adventure, danger, and strange allies - a dwarf, a Persian and a Viking. From a chained galley slave, he becomes master of the ship, captures another, and saves Sharane when she is taken by the evil priest Klaneth to a city of sorcerors ruled by the 'Lord of the Two Deaths.' Suitably the climax of the story is back on the ship, in yet more action against the bireme of the black priest. The Ship of Ishtar is a great read, a fantasy classic that should not be missed by anyone who enjoys the genre.

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