Dwellers in the Mirage (Abraham Grace Merritt) Review
I am a big fan of lost race stories, and 'Dwellers in the Mirage' is pretty decent, but not near the top of the list for me. (King Solomon's Mines, Abyss of Wonders, and The Seal of John Solomon are some of my top favorites in the sub-genre.)
The strange inhabitants and the "lost" elements in A. Merritt's novel are introduced so near the front of the book that I feel the story lacks the very, very important 'adventure' element--there is not much journey or struggle to find this lost race/civilization here, though certainly the "mirage" is a very well detailed bit of eerie geology, and the prologue is exciting, though it does reveal too much.
Although Merritt is considered one of the classic fantasists, a lot of his fantasy ideas here (and in The Face in the Abyss) are not really that imaginative. For instance: It's a slug, but it's really a big slug; he's a pygmy, but a pygmy with golden skin; it's an octopus, but with twelve tentacles rather than eight. The weirdness, prose, creativity, imagery, irony, and darkness of Clark Ashton Smith's worlds appeals to me far, far, far, far, far more than do the romantic, melodramatic ones Merritt built here and in The Face in the Abyss. (There's no better fantasy--pulp or otherwise--than "Isle of the Torturers," "Colossus of Ylourgne," "Dark Eidolon," and "Xeethra," by CAS.)
Since Merritt's lost Dwellers are found so soon, and the protagonist is so gifted and powerful (a problem that plagued the one and only Harry Potter book that I suffered through), most of the happenings in Dwellers in the Mirage are politicking, chases, and romance, rather than adventure and discovery. But as far as dense, highly magical, and very romantic fantasy goes, this book is pretty enjoyable.