This is an omnibus collection of 3 of the 4 best short collections of CL Moore. It contains all of the Jirel of Joiry stories, all of the Northwest Smith, the novel Judgment Night, and 4 other short works. All that's missing is "The Best of CL Moore", with some stories such as No Woman Born and Vintage Season (both of which may have been co-written with Henry Kuttner).
C.L. Moore was perhaps the first female writer of "sword and sorcery", with her 1930's tales of heroine Jirel of Joiry. They are better classifed as "weird tales" - the name of the magazine in which they were published - full of evocative description rather than brutal action. There are only 6 stories in total.
Jirel is a warrior woman, a redhead striking rather than beautiful, capable with a sword and strong willed. To an extent however, the adventures happen around Jirel rather than to her: Moore's lush prose swirls around the reader and drags one in, and it is the descriptions and locations rather than the characters that truly drive the story.
Northwest of Earth is science fiction by way of H. P. Lovecraft, where ancient evils meet ray guns and iron will. Northwest Smith is a smuggler and outlaw adventuring through the solar system - Mars, Venus and the moons of Jupiter. He has a Venusian sidekick, Yarol, and it is never clear whether Yarol is near or part human, or something else. That doesn't really matter though, and nor does the fact we see all of one spaceship, and that while heat-guns exist, they are rarely used.
These are tales of femme fatales, forgotten gods and lost civilisations. The imagery is superb - the fall of gardens of the moon in the light of the Earth is vivid in my mind's eye. The action is there, but the real struggle is in the character's head in almost every case.
It's the sensual, decedent prose used to tell the story that makes us read on. Its better to read only one tale at a time, putting the book aside from time to time, as this is similar to how the stories were originally read (and written) : as monthly (or so) instalments in the pulp magazines of the 1930's.
Finally, we have a sci-fi version of Jirel pretty clearly showing through the lines of Princess Juille in Judgment Night - both are warrior-women with a hidden feminine side, fierce in defence of their realm, even to the extent of plotting murder of an emissary under a flag of truce! Juille is fighting a final, losing war against barbarians - in between skipping off to a pleasure moon for a few days to explore her feminine side. There is romance, battle, betrayal and abduction, all on spectacularly drawn worlds. This is full of action, with a surprising and satisfying twist at the end that changes all that you have read.
The other stories are all shorter, and show Moore's range. "Paradise Street" is a sci-fi western, which reads like Moore was channeling Leigh Brackett, at least until you realise she is in fact giving us an older and more hardbitten version of her own Northwest Smith. Jaime Morgan is a man on the edges of civilisation, on a planet that is now becoming civilised, perhaps the last of his type. Themes of freedom, civilisation and corruption all shine brightly, and if you liked Firefly and Serenity, you'll enjoy reading this. "Promised Land" is a story about humanity, alienation, and what makes us human in times of genetic engineering. "The Code" is a little think piece about the dangers of science, and "Heir Apparent" is longish adventure tale with a AI slant.
All of the stories are different, and all cover different types of "science fiction". There is something here for everyone, with the added interest for the distaff that C.L. Moore was one of the earliest female grand masters of sci-fi. If you are prepared to pay a pretty steep cover price, you'll find a work of art, on a number of a levels.