Black Cat Square: The 'warrior brand' of the Altaii, a snarling predatory cat, is depicted on the cover
'Warrior of the Altaii' is Robert Jordan's first novel. It was not published until 2019 because the publishers who bought the novel in the '70s and '80s failed to publish it. By the time the rights reverted back to Jordan he had moved on to other projects and, eventually, 'The Wheel of Time'.
This book is a real treat for diehard Jordan fans, but, for most readers this book will just be a really fancily packaged 1970s barbarian fantasy novel. It was on the strength of this manuscript that Jordan's editor and future wife would recommend him as a new writer for the 'Conan the Barbarian' novels in the 1980s. No one is trying to sell this book as anything but an awesome Easter egg for Jordan fans.
Even if you haven't read much barbarian fantasy or seen any of those movie-films you know there's going to be some, uh, dated, troubling, cringey, problematic, you-name-it elements to the book. You may ask, 'Is this going to be a 'Gor'-sized garbage fire, or just an amusing macho exercise?'
I forgot it was friggin' Robert Jordan so I did not expect the last-act genre-twisting awesomeness.
But first, let me confirm for you that there is slavery, torture, one fade-to-black rape scene where it was non-consensual for both parties (it's hard to explain), and so, so much gratuitous nudity. The men aren't exempt from all of that, but its mostly the women who get the sex drug smeared on their breasts for some reason. Jordan wrote scenes that would make the most eye-catching covers, it was the times.
All of that is terrible. But WAIT! Robert Jordan created here a world where magic is a woman's domain and the 'Sisters of Wisdom' offer up some interesting characters. There are one-way dimensional travelers known as 'wanderers', who are exclusively female, and its implied that they come from Earth! A very cool concept that doesn't get used as much as it should have. The female characters end up being the most interesting of the novel. The warriors, heroes and villains, tended to blur together, but the women were more distinct as allies or as enemies.
The bulk of the novel is macho warrior ego stuff and battle strategery for those who like that sort of thing (Jordan was great at it), but there are further genre twists that I won't give away that make the novel interesting reading for someone looking for seeds of 'WoT'.
Moment of zen: One character, a man no less, is described as having 'slashed' clothing to better show off multiple colors of fabric. It's a Jordan thing.
I enjoyed this.