Tuesday, December 21, 2010

14. Tor #1, Conan the Invincible by Robert Jordan. part 5

As Karela exhorts her men on in preparation for the coming fight against the army of Zamora, Conan has his own battles to wage. The spectre Imhep-Aton, the sorcerer who first hired the barbarian all that time ago in Shadizar and then who became convinced of his betrayal has decided to take his revenge in hand. Taunting the cimmerian to distract him, three of Amanars reptoids attack. Conan is wounded in the battle, and then taken captive by Amanar. Karela seems to be in league with the sorcerer now.

In the dungeon Conan finds himself with another man who has already suffered at the hands of Ort the jailer. The man inquires as to Conan's nature, and so Conan relates his tale. How he sat the council before 15, and was in the horde who smashed Venarium. How he has traveled far and seen kingdoms fall. While he is relating all of this, several other men are brought into the dungeons. One of Karela's bandits, and the captain of the Zamoran army, Conan now is able to put a plan in motion on how to escape.

Karela is enjoying the luxurious hospitality of Amanar, but it's not to last as Conan and his escaped band are causing havoc in the castle. Still looking for the girl, who's amulet Conan is convinced can slay Amanar, he stumbles upon the room of sacrifice. During this, he also becomes witness to the death of Imhep Aton at the tentacles of one of Amanars summoned beasts. This turns out to be Amanars undoing, as the beast he summoned is beyond his ability to control. It begins to destroy the keep, pulling it down over it's own head. Conan uses this confusion to find the slave girl, and the two make their escape leaving Amanar to his grizzly fate.

Some time later on the road back to Shadizar, Conan and the girl encounter a wandering Karela.. but Conan dosen't offer to help her a third time, despite her entreaties of how wealthy she could make him. He instead rides on, what need does he have of Karela's riches? After all, there is always the abandoned city of Larsha to plunder.

Review -

This was a bit of a slow book. It has lots of information in it, but it does seem to contradict the map a bit. The amount of time spent traveling "in the mountains" doesn’t work how small they appear on basically every map of the Hyborian world. However it is also packed with references to other books. Conan is reminded of Yara's tower, and of how dangerous amulets may be because of the Eye of Erlik, He recounts his origins in Cimmeria and the destruction of Venarium. But for all of that, it is a slow book. By the time you get to it in the chronology, you are going to likely be very tired of traveling in mountains and slaying sorcerers. This makes close to a dozen magic wielding malcontents which Conan has dispatched or taken part in the dispatch of since I started, Highly monotonous. Adding to this monotony is the nature of these previous stories. They all seem to start in Shadizar, or Arenjun, and then take Conan on these vast treks into the wilderness surrounding them. He slays a monster or a wizard and then goes back to the tavern. In other words none of these books really upsets the status quo, none of them become integral to the story, and unlike the previous volumes from Perry, Carpenter, Offut, et all, don't move the story forward. But then Robert Jordan went on to become something of a master of the sideways divergence in order to avoid moving the story forward. So these Conan tales can be seen as sort of the prototype of many of the divergences in the Wheel of Time books. Except in Conan's case he has no Waygates to travel through to cut out the walking.

It also introduced a rather obnoxious character in the form of Karela the Red Hawk. Which is almost as if Jordan wanted to use Red Sonja and was told he couldn't. I understand this character shows up again in another of his books.. but I'm not looking forward to it.