This review originally appeared in Scrolls of Legendry #2.
Howden Smith is a rare name to mention this era and it's a damn shame because he was one of the stars of Adventure and chances are his work influenced Robert E. Howard himself. This paperback trove collects four of the nine stories featuring the Grey Maiden, the first fighting blade forged from iron. The stories are heavy on Sword and spare on Sorcery, with the running legend of the sword having a fickle soul of its own being the only reference to the otherworldly. It's no worries though; Smith leads us through the ranks of Alexander The Great, into the centuries of Rome and well beyond as men cheat, swindle and fight for their chance to swing the fabled blade. Things rarely pan out for Smith's characters but you'll have a grand old time reading about it anyways. Snag this gem on eBay for cheap, or grab the recent edition from Altus Press (containing all nine stories) for a few more dollars.