Sabazel is a thinly disguised fantasy take on Alexander the Great: The Macedonian who led the Greek world in their crusade against the Persian Empire and won himself a world spanning empire as well as eternal glory. The only difference between that historical figure and the protagonist in this fantasy novel is that they have different names; here, Alexander is called Marcos Bellasteros.
The story begins with our mighty conqueror leading his armies in their crusade. Before the final battle for control of the empire, however, fate leads Marcos to Sabazel. This small nation-state is a land of warrior-women (Amazons) who worship their goddess and only consort with men at certain religious holidays throughout the year. The leader of Sabazel is named Danica.
Naturally, Alexander . . . err, I mean, Marcos and Danica initially hate one another but eventually fall in love; they then discover that their respective gods wish them to join forces to overthrow the Persian Empire . . . err, I mean the fantasy empire that just kinda, sorta resembles the Persian Empire. Together, they then set out on a quest to recover a magical sword, navigate through inevitable political intrigue, fight the final battle of the war and attempt to remain faithful to the love they share – even though they both realizes they can never truly be together.
If all that sounds like a rather straightforward 1980s fantasy, well, it is. But, all in all, Sabazel is still a decent read. Lillian Stewart Carl does a fine job portraying the Macedonian and Greek culture (albeit in a fantasy context), and the story she crafts has plenty of godly magic, political machinations, racial tensions, and even a bit of warfare – though not as much attention was paid to that as the romantic plot – to keep a reader entertained. But, unfortunately, the novel suffers from the same flaw as many fantasy works from this period: A bit of magic, some weird names, and a few fantasy tropes does not automatically make an epic fantasy.
So if you find this one on a used bookshelf somewhere, ask yourself a few questions before you pick it up. One, do you like Alexander the Great, Greek myths, and Amazons? Two, do you prefer your fantasy more romantic than violent? And three, does knowing what is ultimately going to happen detract from your enjoyment of the story?
If you answered “Yes” to the first two questions and “No” to the last one, then you should pick this one up. If not, you better just stay away. 80s fantasy isn’t for everyone after all.