Lord of Darkness

Written by Robert Silverberg
Review by Jo Ann Butler

I read quite a bit of science fiction in the 1960-80s, and fondly remember Robert Silverberg’s captivating short stories, novels, and anthologies. They are still being published today. Therefore, I was a little surprised to learn that Silverberg’s had also forayed into historical fiction with Lord of Darkness.

Seeing the wealth gained by his elder brother as a privateer, Andrew Battell goes to sea at the age of sixteen. In 1589 he eagerly signs up with an English captain off to raid Spanish gold ships off the Brazil coast. Andrew hopes for riches. Instead he is marooned, and then enslaved by his Portuguese rescuers. For nearly three decades, Andrew Battell serves his captors as a ship’s pilot on the East Africa coast. His adventures, and transformation into Andubatil of the cannibal Jaqqas, are an epic tale.

Lord of Darkness is based on the true life of English sailor Andrew Battell, whose reports were printed in 1613. Andy Battle appears in a novel by Walter de la Mare, which was cherished by young Robert Silverberg. In 1983 Silverberg realized his dream – to recount Andrew Battell’s adventure, using de la Mare’s biblical cadences.

Silverberg’s beautifully-told novel is newly released, and rightly so. It deserves to be brought to fresh notice by historical fiction readers. Andrew Battell’s tale is one you can really sink your teeth into. Silverberg’s vivid descriptions will satisfy the most ravenous – Oops, I’m remembering a Jaqqa feast. Suffice it to say that I truly enjoyed Lord of Darkness!