Banners of the Sa’yen by B.R. Stateham (1981)
This swashbuckling adventure is unique for couple reasons. First of all, the astronaut from Earth who crashes on a feudal planet isn’t the point of view character. One of the swordsmen who thinks he’s the legendary savior is the narrator. The Chosen One, excited to learn about the strange world he’s landed on, takes to the planet’s airship rigging like a pro. Stronger, faster, and equipped with technology, the Sa’yen captures and captains an airship along with Magdar the Bull, his right-hand man. On this world, there are not flat surfaces or large bodies of water. Ships, complete with sails and rudders, are dirigibles, held up by hot air.
The Sa’yen claims he isn’t the Chosen One, but the vague prophecy says that when he appears to start the holy war, he’ll say he isn’t so, of course, he must be. Tall, blond, and affable, the Sa’yen helps Magdar and his men fight pirates, save a city, stop two enemies from joining together to enslave the planet, and rescue a princess.
Through all of this, we don’t have any idea what the alien Superman is feeling or thinking. We only see his actions through the devotion of Magdar. He has some sinful doubts, especially when Superman gives long speeches about how he’s not the Sa’yen. Yet the Chosen One keeps leading his ship and crew to further rebellion. At one point, the Sa’yen explains how the Ancient Ones, the planet’s long-departed benefactors, are Earth’s ancient enemies and not even human.
I have a bad habit (darn J.K. Rowling) of noticing how close I am to the end of the book and realizing there’s not enough time to unravel all the threads of the story. We haven’t reached the Ancient One’s fortress, we haven’t solidified the different factions of this world to defeat the Ancient Ones should they ever reappear. Instead, we have the Sa’yen rescue Magdar and a pirate prince while exchanging the princess with her mad betrothed. Oddly enough, the beautiful princess spends months with the handsome Sa’yen yet doesn’t fall in love with him nor help him fight the madman at the climax. I liked that. He’s handsome, she’s beautiful. She poisons him with a dagger. Good stuff.
Magdar didn’t need rescuing. In the last pages of the last chapter, he and the pirate prince escape the madman’s dungeon and take out the forty archers poised to kill the Sa’yen. That’s when the princess slices the hero and introduces the FATAL poison. At the introduction, Magdar is an old man, one of the few remaining true believers remembering when the Sa’yen left and promised to return.
Apparently, the princess’s poison isn’t as fatal as advertised. The Sa’yen awakes on the last page and prepares for further adventures. Unfortunately, while Mr. Stateham is a prolific mystery writer, I couldn’t find any sequels to Banners.