Saturday, September 3, 2011

Conan the Adventurer: Episode 7

Well I thought for a few days that I wasn't going to be able to continue my reviews of the TV series. Netflix has decided to remove it from their streaming service. However, I was tipped off that the entire series is still available on

So here we go.

From Hyborean Apocrypha
Episode 7: The Ruby Fruit Forest.

Conan and the crew are riding through a vaguely jungle-like swath of land, they find a ruby lodged in the hoof of Bayu's horse. A brief argument ensues as to the ownership of said gem. Conan simply chucks it into the river to settle the spat. Upon crossing the river however they come upon a man who was killed by a booby trap. They decide to head back, but Otli is knocked from the back of Zzebens horse necessitating an unsuccessful rescue by the Cimmerian. The three remaining companions set off to follow the river looking for Otli.

They soon realize that Otli is still alive, but has been taken by some unknown party of individuals. They also find traces of Hissar Zhul's soldiery. Soon finding themselves in the midst of a battle between the soldiers and the forests native inhabitants. The soldiers are defeated but the natives shoot the three companions with poisoned darts, as they drift off to sleep they finally see the elusive foe.

Sporting face paint and jungle headdresses, these natives survive by their cunning in laying traps and outwitting Hissar Zhul's soldiers. They also have Otli, who they consider the representation of their God, Mordan. Otli revels in his new position of power, but soon has the three companions freed. He goes onto explain that the Rubies that are so plentiful in the forest, contain a special power for summoning spells. Hissar Zhul has a great and insatiable lust for the gems, and sends his soldiers to raid the villages and secure all they can find.

Bayu also has a lust for the rubies, not for their magical properties but for their value on the open market. He convinces one of the forest children to show him where they come from. Otli is also having conflicting opinions as to what he should do, he feels obligated to stay with these simple people and help them in their fight against Hissar Zhul. But he also feels that would be letting down Conan and the others in their own quest to fight Hissar Zhul.

Orders have been sent through magical means to Hissar Zhul's general in the area. He is to raid the villages, leaving none of the forest people alive and collect every gem he can find. Bayu has gone to the source of the rubies, while he attempts to explain to the child why he wants them, the child also explains to him why he dosen't. They aren't there long before the soldiers appear, they threaten the boy and Bayu springs into action to protect him.

The boy escapes but Bayu is captured and tortured for the location of the rubies. Having been taught something important about life by the simple words of the forest child, Bayu would rather endure the torture than help the soldiers. The boy soon returns to lead Conan and Zzeben to where the soldiers have Bayu. They arrive in the nick of time to save him from death, and prevent the soldiers from getting the magical rubies.

Upon their return to the village, Otli decides he cannot continue to lie to the forest people and so decides to continue with Conan on his quest to destroy Hissar Zhul.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Conan the Barbarian - 2011

Alright, the review you've all been (Not) waiting for.

I'm going to preface and say that I did not go into the film with a goal of being objective. I went in with pre-existing bias. I had read the Novelization, written by Michael Stackpole some weeks ago. I very much enjoyed it, it had the right feel of a Conan story. Sure there were still some bits that I didn't care for, but on the whole it was a good attempt. The author prefaced the novel by saying that, what he tried to write was the novel which the movie was adapted from, rather than the other way round. I think now that I've seen the film, he definitively accomplished that goal.

The Movie itself felt like a slapdash attempt to adapt something. Certain scenes from the film were re-created perfect, but some of the best scenes in the book were no where to be seen. The film felt truncated, sloppily edited, as if large chunks had been excised from it in order to string endless action-set pieces together. It edited for people with no attention span, and then directed by a director who seems to be incapable of directing a good movie. Uwe Boll revels in his (in)ability, and ignores criticism.. but I actually enjoyed In the Name of the King. At least as much as I enjoyed this new Conan film, which is not to say I didn't enjoy them at all.

Conan certainly could have been better if a lot of things were done differently. The one thing they got right though was Jason Momoa as Conan. Unlike when I watch the 1982 film, and I just see a brawny barbarian on screen.. while watching this I felt I saw Conan on screen. Sure there are a few posing homages to the original film, but those are gone from the screen nearly as soon as they pop up. Sure his eyes should have been blue and his hair could have been darker, but he looks so much like Conan it's totally believable.

The Script on the other hand was, in a word, dire. It's the perfect example of two many chefs ruining the soup. The problem is, the first two chefs used all the cooking time and ingredients to make a crappy pot of soup, and then were replaced at the last minute by a chef who's unenviable task it was to try and make the soup edible. He made these changes, and then was promptly told that the original soup was superior and it was mainly what was served to the unsuspecting audience. It was tepid and flavourless, and essentially was pretty weak sauce. Whats worse however, is that it completely squandered the talent of the actors.

The film itself suffered from other problems, it had way to many producers, who if the reports around the internet are anything to go by were constantly undermining one another in an attempt to push their version of the film. Essentially whatever the focus groups wanted, the producers wanted. What we got was a film that should in all likely hood have been a PG13 film billed as a "Hard 'R'". It wasn't. If Conan was an 'R' then plenty of other films are unfit for human consumption.

The whole project was a tremendously poorly executed venture. Almost everything beyond the initial casting of Jason Momoa and Stephen Lang was done poorly. They mandated the re-use of pre-existing set pieces to save money, yet still gave the project 100Million dollar budget. Considering that's roughly what the first season of Game of Thrones cost, I expect a lot more bang for the buck.

All of that said, I feel that the movie shows that with some improvements a serious attempt at adapting an actual REH story is possible. Jason Momoa is capable of playing the Barbarian Warrior. The only thing that seems to be missing are audiences willing to go and see the film.

My personal feelings regarding that, runs towards the idea that they didn't do enough to differentiate the movie from the 1982 one. They didn't resolutely contend with the enduring legacy left by the other films. There biggest misstep was naming the film "Conan the Barbarian". They should have left it alone, simply Conan. They should have abandoned the storyline of Conan's village being attacked, Abandoned his father being killed, Abandoned the entire revenge angle. Simply put they should have scrapped everything about the movie that would lead people to assume it was a re-make. It wouldn't have eradicated that belief, but it might have helped. They should have scrapped some of the ludicrous effects pieces and used the money to promote the film. Most importantly they should never have converted it to 3D. That alone would have freed up considerable funds to aggressively promote it. All of these are things they should have done, but didn't.

At this point though it's all relatively academic, the film is a fairly well known dud. It's likely it will damage a lot of peoples careers for a long time. The actors probably worst of all. At this point I think the studio needs to quickly edited an extended Cut of the film, They should add an animated map ala-Indiana Jones to help fix the continuity and flow of the film, they should add anything else they have to put back in it that will help it make more sense, any more naked breasts they can put in it in order to get a "Not Rated" label. Then release this new one on DVD. Don't wait 6 months to put it out, instead they should try to have it out by Halloween, anything they can do to try and re-coup their budget.

Then what they should do is, abandon Hollywood, and court overseas investors who are less enthralled to the focus groups and ratings agencies. Personally I'd like to see them make a Television series, try and sell it to Cinemax or Starz or Showtime to compete with Game of Thrones.

In the end I didn't hate the film, I was just disappointed in it. I'll buy it when it comes out on DVD, Especially if they provide me with a longer more fleshed out cut. There are hints in the script and in the novelization and in the film itself that there are, at least in theory, more scenes waiting to be shown to us.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

30. Tor Conan #8, Conan the Valorous by John Maddox Roberts, part 5

The battle against the Vanir and their lizardmen allies has begun in earnest. So far did Conan's call for arms go that even a band of Aesir made the journey to answer it. Perhaps after this battle is over, They ask if he will go raiding with them again. While the bulk of the army fights outside, Conan and the Khitain wizard make their way back into the mountain to the central room. There Conan completes his mission and brings Hathor-Ka all the way from Stygia.

With the help of the Khitain, Conan slays the Vendhyans. As the Cimmerians are mopping up the forces outside, they free a few more captives. Hathor-Ka's trust in Toth amon seems to be poorly placed, as her own summon ritual begins to fail. Soon the caverns below Ben Morgh begin collapsing and Conan and the Khitain wizard make their way outside. Crom's home is now purified from the taint of southern sourcery. Conan's mission is done.

Declining the offers of his family to stay the winter with them, Conan opts instead of journey onwards with the Aesir instead. Their good cheer, song and strong drink are more to his liking now. Cimmeria is home, will always be home.. but his feet have started to itch once more.


Okay, this was the first John Maddox Roberts Conan that I've read so far. I had intended to start with Conan the bold, which chronologically would be the very first story. But at the time I didn't have either that or Conan of Venarium. No great loss on Venarium, but I kind of regret not waiting now for a copy of Bold.

Outside of REH himself, John Maddox Roberts writes what has to be by far the best Conan story I've read in quite a while. I'm really looking forward to reading another. The nicest thing about this volume though is that it wasn't padded. It felt more like a trilogy of interconnected short stories. The bit in Koth and Nemedia, then the Border Kingdoms and finally Cimmeria. It also sets up "The Frost Giant's Daughter" quite nicely.

It also re-introduced Thoth Amon, who we haven't seen for quite a long time. Still up his sorcerous tricks, but this time we get some vague inkling of just how powerful he truly is. Thankfully though there seems to be a rival, perhaps more Benign, but certainly far less malignant branch of sorcery in the east which can oppose his plans. I suppose we will see in the coming adventures!

Up next, I'm going to put up my review of the new Conan The Barbarian film, and then rather than jumping back in and reading 'The Frost Giant's Daughter' I'm going to go back to the very beginning and read Conan the Bold by John Maddox Roberts.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

30. Tor Conan #8, Conan the Valorous by John Maddox Roberts, part 4

Some what surprisingly, during their first day out, Conan meets a familiar face. The Khitain fortune teller. This is some what unexpected since the last time we saw him was way back in Koth. He has journeyed the whole way alone, come to give aid to Conan against the ancient evil which he now knows wants to be unleashed. He knows that what lies beneath Ben Morgh is an Old One, ancient before the Earth was born.

The men approach the mountain, but are wary of getting to close until nightfall. Caution is the order of the day, The Vendhyans and their tame Vanir have gotten there first. Many score of the fierce northern warriors now guard the mountain of Ben Morgh. The Khitain is incredulous that Conan and his friend Chulcain still mean to go through with their plans. Conan to take the vial into the heart of the mountain, and Chulcain to find the missing villagers. If he knew the barbarians were this exciting, he would have come here a long time ago.

The three set off at night fall, making their way through the precipitous rocks to the base of the mountain. They wander for a while inside the caverns, but eventually come to where the captive villagers are being held. They hear tales from the villagers of the demons who kidnapped them, descriptions that Conan recognizes, Lizardmen. They free the villagers and send them back out of the caves with Conan and the others standing behind to fend off the lizards.

They make their escape fighting the lizards the whole way, and on their emergence from the caverns find several a vanir dead. The villagers had killed him and gone to warn the other tribes. Soon many score of Cimmerians, from most of the tribes begin to gather. Vanir on Ben Morgh is a travesty against their god, and must be dealt with. All inter-tribal enmity is buried for the moment until this new threat is dealt with. Conan begins to lay out the details of what he knows and how to deal with the problems and soon the Cimmerians are ready to move.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

30. Tor Conan #8, Conan the Valorous by John Maddox Roberts, part 3

having now spent some time adventuring in the border kingdom, Conan has at last made his way to Cimmeria. Before long he comes to the attention of two men, one who can see him from afar, and the other who knows immediately who he is. They are two of his kinsmen, though the youngest is about 10 years Conan's junior. He's also jealous of Conan's taking part in the sack of Venarium, which is spoken over campfires still. The older man is not jealous however, but callow and hateful towards Conan's time spent adventuring in the south. But kin is kin, and they offer to take Conan back to their hut while he is in his homeland.

The youth spends some time asking questions of Conan's adventures, Conan telling him and his father of the glories of the south. Of sea battles and cavalry charges thundering across the plain. The adults remain unimpressed, and begin to talk about things happening more locally. Several people at a steading were found butchered, They had been gnawed upon. Among them was the younger man's betrothed.

The following day, Conan helps his kinsmen move their stead down into the valley. Winter is nearly upon them and they need to get the cattle down from the mountains. After a days labour they have a party, after the Cimmerian fashion. News comes that three families have not yet arrived, fearing that the same monsters who attacked the steading may have also attacked these kinsmen. Conan and several others make plans to go searching.

While this is going on, the Vendhyans and their new Vanir guides are slowly making there way through Cimmerian territory. Their destination is Ben Morgh, and with the delays that Conan has had to contend with they may just beat him there.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

30. Tor Conan #8, Conan the Valorous by John Maddox Roberts, part 2

Nemedia now dwindling into the distance behind him, Conan enters the Border Kingdom. It's a Kingdom in name only, the only law present is what steel buys. He comes across the smoldering remains of a village, barely enough left even for crows to fight over. Soon, he is hailed by a woman, a warrior chieftain named Aelfrith. Those were her people who were slaughtered, though many escaped to her fastness. She offers Conan hospitality for the night, and he accepts and follows her and her band back to the fortress.

Conan tries to avoid becoming embroiled in her conflict. He thanks her for the food and shelter, and heads north the following day. Less than a day's ride he comes across a group of slavers, he overhears them talking about kidnapping a person he assumes to be Aelfrith. Knowing this he heads back to her fortress, upon ariving he finds out that the slavers had already struck, but not to take Aelfrith. They were paid by another chieftain to steal her daughter. She hopes to convince Conan to help her rescue the girl.

Conan agrees, he feels he owes her that much at least for the meal, and he has a special enmity towards child stealers. The two set out towards this rival chieftain's camp, splitting up and sneaking inside. Aelfrith quickly gets captured and brought in front of the man who has her daughter. While this is going on, Conan tries to formulate a plan to get them all out alive. Things go well for a while but quickly turn south. Before the day is out Conan has to fight his way through a score or more of warriors, and a rampaging bull.

Thankfully though he has some experience in dealing with bulls, and upon dispatches the beast effects his rescue of Aelfrith and her child. The three then head back to Cragfall fortress, and Conan sets about planning out his departure and return to Cimmeria.

Monday, August 15, 2011

30. Tor Conan #8, Conan the Valorous by John Maddox Roberts, part 1

After the failed attempt to acquire the treasure of the Blood Stained God, Conan has headed east. He is now in Khorshemish, one of the major cities in Koth. He's been there about a month, slowly gambling away the remains of his Turanian gear and even his horse Ymir bought before his run in with the cult of Zath. It is at a low rent inn where his newest adventure begins. While sitting drinking wine, Conan is approached by a sultry woman. He can tell from her dress and the eye makeup she wears that she's a Stygian. She has a quest for him. Return to his homeland, travel to a certain mountain and there complete a spell. The only problem is, this particular mountain is Ben Morgh, the home of Crom. Cursing at her, he tells her he will go.

After agreeing and the woman leaves, Conan is approached by an aged Khitian fortune teller. The man explains to him that though he thinks himself a free agent, the hand of the gods are moving the chess pieces this time. The Khitian gives Conan an amulet which he claims will keep him safe, Conan laughs about it, and runs the man off. The next day he goes to the market and spends some of his payment on a new sword and a new horse. It's a long trip to Cimmeria, and he must be well prepared for any eventuality. Having been gone from his homeland for several years now its difficult to say what may have changed.

While this is happening he is also being watched, Several Vendhyans also have plans to make it to Ben Morgh, but their road is different than Conan's. They plan to head to Argos, and from there take a boat up the coast to Vanirheim. Vanirmen raid Cimmeria all the time, and they will just pay some Vanirmen to take them to Ben Morgh. It's a race, and they aim to get to Ben Morgh before Conan can.

The following day Conan sets out at first light. Conan realizes almost at once that he is being followed. The trap takes several days to spring however, and then he is in the fight of his life. He slays an Argosian and a Turanian with little effort, though he takes a wound to his shoulder. Their Gunderman captain however is a different story, and that battle lasts some time. Eventually he bests his foe, and sets off. Several more days pass before Conan, his wound now infected, makes his way through the gates of Belvarus.

He goes to see a leech, who cleans and poultices the wound. The man is afraid that some sorcery is preventing the laceration from healing and may be aiding the infection. There is only so much he can do, It's now that Conan thinks back to the Khitian fortune teller, and the amulet the man gave him. It may indeed have been the only thing that kept the noxious sorcery at bay long enough for him to make it to Nemedia and get help.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

29. Ace Conan #2.2 "The Blood-stained God" by Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague DeCamp

When this story opens, we find Conan in Arenjun. He's chased some one there who took something from him. A stolen treasure map. This particular map leads to the temple of the blood-stained god. He finds several men torturing the one who stole his map, and interferes in their sport. In the confusion though he is knocked out, and the men who now have the map manage to escape on the trail of the blood-stained god.

Conan comes across another man, who is also seeking the treasure. The two join forces and set out south into the most forbidding reaches of the Kezankian mountains. It's a treacherous area sandwiched between Zamora and Koth, and also claimed by Turan. They reach it in a few days, and make their way into the mountains. Soon they have found the men who took the map, and make short work of them. Now all thats left is for them to find the treasure.

Deeper and deeper into the mountains they trek. Until eventually they come across a disguised door. Entering the chamber behind the door, they soon come face to face with the blood-stained god. Near the pedestal on which the god sits is a large and very deep pit. Probably where the priests threw the victims they sacrificed to the large gold, ruby encrusted idol. All is not as it seems however.

Upon approaching the idol, It moves. Standing up to its full height, The Blood-Stained God takes a few faltering steps towards Conan. He picks up a large piece of wood and slams the construct in the back, forcing it to lose balance and fall into the pit. With the endless wealth lost forever, Conan heads out into the morning sunshine and sets out for further adventures.

Review ~

This was a decent enough Conan tale. But of course, It's not really a Conan tale. It started out as a Kirby O'Donnel Tale and was set in Afghanistan, called 'Curse of the Crimson God'. L. Sprague DeCamp, in his haste to have more Conan yarns from which to reap rewards, altered the tale and made it into a Conan tale.

Though it really says a lot about both DeCamp and Howard that this tale worked. It shows that, Howard's writing is high quality and very adaptable (take note Hollywood!)no matter the venue or setting. It also shows how little respect DeCamp had for Howard's work, that he felt that all of Howard's characters were so one-dimensional you could simply substitute one for another. It worked this time. I think he did four that way, but this one was one of the best. One of the later ones, which we will not get too for some time, he left quite a few anachronisms present that really showed that it wasn't a true Conan yarn.

It also makes for a nice counterpoint to one of the earliest tales in the Conan Pastiche world too. The Thing in the Crypt, also featured a statue which comes to life. When taken with the Cult of Zath from Conan and the Spider-god, it really does feel as if a Chapter is looping back around to close in on itself in the life of Conan, which will completely lock tight when Conan returns to his homeland of Cimmeria in his next adventure.

Up Next, Conan the Valerous by John Maddox Roberts

Saturday, August 6, 2011

28. Bantam Conan # 5, Conan and the Spider-god by L. Sprague DeCamp, part 3

Conan continues to mess about in Yezud for a while longer, spending more and more time with his inherited Apprentice's family. Especially more time with the boys sister. At one point Conan even contemplates whether it is time to settle down(!). That brief idea of domestic bliss flies away, and Conan instead concentrates on figuring out how to steel the Eyes of Zath and uncover what he can about the kidnapped princess.

After several more days, Conan finally succeeds in locating the missing princesses room. He also now has a plan on how to steal the gemstones, and make his escape from Yezud. Though many, including the King of Zamora are after him, he feels the safest bet will be to head south to Shadizar, and from there west back into lands where he is less well known. Setting out at night and having estimated the distance to her window, throws his grapnel and rope. He soon comes to her window, keeping introductions short, escorts her back to the Turanian ambassador. The pair leave with the promise to try and sort out Conan's problems at court. That deed done, Conan retires to his blacksmiths shop for some much needed rest.

The following day, the priests are busy making inquiries about the escaped girl. They question Conan but cannot connect him to the deed. With time limited Conan puts his plan to steal the eyes of Zath into action. Inside of 2 days he has everything he needs to raid the temple. When night falls he slips inside quietly, using the magical lock-pick device to get into the main chamber. He soon finds that the temple is guarded by more than just spear wielding Brythunians. A determined clicking sound on the cold tiles alerts him to the presence of something much larger, with a great many more legs.

He wheels around, and finds himself face to face with a gigantic hairy spider. He attempts to fight it, but it' keeps dodging his blows. It grows annoyed with him, and departs to go back to its hiding place. Conan follows it, picking up a torch along his way. He finds the horror in its nest surrounded by many of its children, both hatched and eggs. He breaks open the oil pipe which feeds the censures in the main temple, and oil pours into the spider filled chamber. When a sufficient amount is on the ground, Conan throws his torch. Thus ends the Children of Zath.

As the fire consumes the temple, Conan thinks wistfully of the surely ruined gemstones. No matter, he's alive and thats what counts. He goes back to the blacksmiths shop and gets his gear, and saddles his horse and sets out to get as far away from Yezud as he can. Back to Shadizar, and on to further adventures.

~ Review.

What can I really say about this.. It's pretty bad for one. I mean, It's not Steve Perry Bad.. but it's not really even up to DeCamp's normal standards. I've always heard it rumoured that his wife co-wrote this one. That would be the genesis of the domestic longings of the barbarian. Nothing more than a bit of holdover prudery. I really didn't bother to summarize most of that as it's painfully tacked on and does nothing to serve the story at all. Conan acts nearly completely out of character during this entire book. Like most of DeCamp's pastiches it really is just a very mediocre book.

It's interesting that we are now coming back around full circle, since we first were introduced to the cult of Zath way back in Conan the Defiant. Conan's hesitance to go back to Shadizar also shows a bit of depth considering just how many nefarious things he's gotten up to in Zamora over the last 27 stories.

Up next, "The Blood-Stained God"

Friday, August 5, 2011

28. Bantam Conan # 5, Conan and the Spider-god by L. Sprague DeCamp, part 2

After several more days of riding, Conan finds himself before the gates of Yezud. He requests to speak to the man who does the hiring, but tonight the gates are closed. He is told to return tomorrow. He goes back to the town of Keshron and stays in the inn. Returning the next morning and soon finds himself employed as a blacksmith. He knows somewhat of the skill thanks to years spent helping his father. He also inherits the bellows boy from the previous smith, a young man named Lar, son of Yazdates, Who is eager to learn the smithing trade.

Since the town is not furnished with an inn, Conan makes arrangements to take his meals with the boys family. He learns the older sister is a temple girl, and asks the boy to take him to the temple one day. He needs to learn the rituals of Zath, as part of his job requires him to attend no less than thrice a month. Meeting the temple girls is a good by product as well. For now though, they must get back to work. Horses need shoeing and nails need making.

Later in the week, when Lars family attends temple, Conan accompanies them. Lar explains the various rituals of Zath worship to the smith, but the smith only has eyes for the giant gemstones embedded in the statue of Zath. He makes a few discreet inquiries about them, but isn't able to find out what mode of gem they are. He will just have to come back later and find out for himself. This evening he goes back to Keshron to wash the dust of the smith out of his throat with a few jacks of wine.

Weeks pass, the smithing trade is an easy one for a capable man of sound strength and Conan excels at it. He goes to temple on schedule, always learning more each time about the inner workings. Working towards his goal of the gems. On one occasion even learning how the oil fires are replenished through pipes from a central cistern. He also makes regular visits to Keshron to have his fill of ale. Perhaps too regular. On one occasion he is approached by a man who knows who he really is.

This man is Parvez, something of a diplomat from Turan. It seems that one of the emperors daughters has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom by the priests of Zath. Perhaps the rescue of the girl would get Conan back in Yildiz's good graces after the unpleasantness back in Agraphur. Conan agrees to do what he can, but demands 100gold coins in payment.. half now.. half later. He also bargains for a bauble which Parvez possesses. It's something of a magical lockpick, and will no doubt come in handy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

28. Bantam Conan # 5, Conan and the Spider-god by L. Sprague DeCamp, Part 1

After many years and no small number of daring feats, Conan has finally made it to the royal guard of King Yildiz. This entitles him to a number of things, being close to certain royal personages. Tonight for instance, he is to spend the evening with a certain Lady Narkia. As usual in Conan's life, things don't go quite as planned. Her protector, High Captain Orkhan, bursts in on them. Conan slays the man out of necessity, and then flees the ladies chambers. He must escape Agraphur, make his way to safety.

Telling the man in the stables that he is riding out to deliver an urgent message to Khauran, Conan soon turns north and heads towards the Marshes of Mehan instead. For three days he trudges through the marshes, thankfully seeing neither hide nor hair of the dread Swamp Cat. Soon however he hears the screaming of a horse, going to investigates finds that others have not been so lucky as to escape the notice of the giant feline. Conan dispatches the beast, and then accepts the hospitality of the travelers whom he delivered. He plans to head out early the next day, and so gets himself bedded down before long.

He awakes the next day to find that the "Travelers" have stolen his horse. Cursing he sets out across the marshes on foot. Four days pass, Conan finally arrives in Sultanapoor. He seeks out an acquaintance he had there. The seer whom he has gone to visit, spends some time helping Conan concoct a new identity. They settle on Nial, which was Conan's fathers name. The seer also takes some time to explain to Conan a new science, arithmetic. The Following day, Conan purchases a horse and sets out westward.

He soon comes to Shadizar, and learns of work in the northern Zamoran city of Yezud. This rings a bell, Yezud is the home of the Spider worshiping cult of Zath. (Which if you remember, Conan tangled with way back in Conan the Defiant) On his way he rides through the town of Zamindi, finding an old lady being menaces by a mob, he stops to assist her. Soon the mob turns on him as well, and he takes the old lady and they flee the town. Still going north, they stop at her hiding place in the hills, and she tells him somewhat of the history of the area. The next day, Conan continues on and reaches the city in the crags, Yezud.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Conan, The Stories that inspried the Movie.

So here we have it, the tie in book that actually reprints Howard's original stories. In this volume you get 6 of the best Conan yarns written. Including two of my personal favorites, "Rogues in the House" and "Tower of the Elephant". If you've read the novelization of the Marcus Nispel film, then you know that these two, along with another included tale "Queen of the Black Coast" are alluded to multiple times. Alas it seems, none of that made it into the movie itself. From early reviews it seems, the Novelization is worlds better than the film.
Fear not however as these 6 swashbuckling yarns will more than make up for the lack of coherent plot or abundance of Chicxulub impact site sized plot holes. They feature Conan at his most heroic, and his most un-heroic, showing the true depth of his character. Most importantly showing the range of Howard's capabilities as a writer.

If your a first time reader of Conan, and don't want to invest the nearly 50$ for the three volume Trade Paperback set then this book is for you. It has your name written all over. I envy you. Why, back in my day, all we had was tatty ol' Ace copies picked up from the trade-a-book. Kids these days. Just don't know how good you've got it.

So do yourself a favor and buy a copy of it on Amazon.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

27. Tor Conan #16, Conan the Valiant by Roland J. Green, part 5

At Fort Zheman, Sergeant Kemal has begun preparations for the coming attack, Bringing in all the civilians but not the live stock. The last thing they need are fevers and fluxes running rampant in the cramped quarters. They know that sometime in the next few days Eramius will throw the full weight of his Transformed at the fortress. Kemal has also sent runners to those officials he knows he can trust, hoping for reinforcements.

Never one to sit around and wait, Conan opts to take a group of men out and bring the fight to Eramius. Illyana and Rhaina go with him, along with the boy Bora who plans to lead them to the valley where he knows Eramius's alter to be. They follow a mountain stream further and further into ever winding valleys. After a good bit of traveling they finally draw near to the valley where Eramius is at. Conan and Rhaina creeping into a good position, draw their bows and let fly at the Transformed who are milling about.

They shoot a good number of them before Eramius reacts, they then flee back into the higher passes and hole up in a cave. He does his best to block the entrance, knowing they only have a matter of time before Eramius sends his minions to attack them. Using the time they have, Illyana beings to prepare a magical offense to be used against Eramius. As soon as night falls, they are attacked by the Transformed. Conan goes out, leaving Rhaina to shoot their remaining arrows. Illyana attacks with her full magical might.

Conan sneaks through Eramius's camp, eventually coming upon the mad sorcerer himself. He surprises the man, and quickly slices at him with his sword before the shock of it wears off. With Eramius dead, Conan heads back to the cave to collect the others. With the sorcerer gone, his foul creations cease living also. Conan, Rhaina, Illyana and Bora head back to the fort, and from there the original three companions set off back to Agraphur.

Review ~

For all the horrid things I've heard about Roland Green, this book was something of a surprise. It was easily better than all but one of Steve Perry's books. At least as good as two of the three Leonard Carpenter's I've read so far as well. But not as good as anything that Sean A. Moore or Robert Jordan wrote. It's perhaps only because my expectations were so low that it wasn't as bad as I feared. The story line more or less made complete sense, though it was rather annoying to have yet another evil sorcerer and yet another magical gewgaw. These things are clearly very standard in the Conan yarns produced by both Tor and Bantam/Ace.

I'd have preferred it have been just a political thriller, rather than involving magic. That aspect of the story was much more interesting.

Having now read my first Roland Green novel, this still leaves me with one of the more prolific Tor authors unread, John Maddox Roberts, but soon I'll be catching up with him.

Up Next, one of the more atrocious of the novels I've already read. Conan and the Spider-God by L. Sprague and Catherine DeCamp.

Friday, July 29, 2011

27. Tor Conan #16, Conan the Valiant by Roland J. Green, part 4

The following day, The Sorceress Illyana decides they need to take the refuges of Crimson Springs and head towards Fort Zheman. Now that she has stalled Eramius's plans, he will have to use brute force to achieve his goals. So they organize the villagers, and then the trio of Conan, Illyana and Rhaina set off to warn the fort of the impending arrival of the villagers.

The Camp's captain is not thrilled to hear about it. But he quickly is made to understand, at least in so far as if he dosen't do what Illyana wants Conan will pummel him. With reticence he gives them leave to prepare the fort. Over the next two days they slowly get things in order just as the first of the villagers begin to arrive. Conan wastes no time asserting his authority over the camp. He too is a captain, but is less concerned with debauchery and more with getting things into shape.

Meanwhile Eramius fumes over his setbacks. He takes it out on Achmai's men and on his Transformed. Cursing them all for their failure to secure the jewel for him. He sends them to destroy another village out of spite for his loss, and to gain more people which he can convert into the Transformed. He will need as much brute strength as he can get now that he no longer has the jewels.

Scouts at fort Zheman report in that they have spotted an army of demons marching towards the caravan train of refugees. They obviously plan to slaughter the helpless civilians. Conan and one of the bases sergeants organize a cavalry patrol and ride out to head off the horde of Transformed. It's a bloody battle, but after many hours of fighting they manage to get the villagers safely to the fort. Now they at least have a good wall between them and Eramius's forces.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

27. Tor Conan #16, Conan the Valiant by Roland J. Green, part 3

The group continue away from Achmai's Keep. Traveling quickly to avoid being followed. After several days of travel they stop in a village, well out of Achmai's territory. They find in the village a girl,"Possessed", by the power of one of the Jewels of Kuarag. Ilyana instructs Conan and Rainha to wait outside, only she has the magical aptitude to try and save the girl.

During the night, Eramius and his Transformed attack the village. Using sorcery and brute strength they quickly secure the second jewel. Conan's strength and cunning weren't enough to stand up against shear brute force. With both of the jewels, Eramius is now far more powerful. And even more difficult to defeat. All they can do is try. Illyana's Sorcery however was just enough.

She took the time to lay a trap on the second jewel. When Eramius placed it onto his staff, the magic took effect. It removed his ability to control not just the second, but also the first jewel as well. He suddenly finds himself far weaker than he had been before this night. His grip over the Transformed is steady for now, but who can say how long? And that Barbarian has managed to rouse the villagers into a show of defense.

Her magic may have proved to strong though, It's interactions with the jewels seems to have not only denied Eramius their use, but actually dissolved them. As Eramius bemoans the loss of one of the pre-eminent items in the magical demesne. Conan sets out to deal with Achmai's troops who are currently encircling the village waiting for the Transformed to do all the work for them. Using his skills as a soldier, and especially as an officer, he quickly has them fighting amongst themselves.

The night will soon be over, but the threat of Eramius remains to be dealt with. Conan heads back to the house where he and Raihna and Illyana are staying. He wants to know what the sorceress plans to do next.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

27. Tor Conan #16, Conan the Valiant by Roland J. Green, part 2

Before they can set forth, Conan and Rhaina must secure mounts. They go to the horse market and spend some time haggling over stringy mares and threadbare tack. They can't simply take official mounts, as that would arouse suspicions among those best left alone. After some time of haggling, the two set forth. They must first cross the ferry over the Shimak River.

Due to Rhaina's presence however, this doesn't go without incident. A particularly scrofulous Sargent decided to take a liking to her. He also took a dislike to the large man with her. Not realizing that this man was a Captain in the Turanian army, and Conan being under specific orders not to reveal that.. the misunderstanding quickly turns into an altercation. The Sargent is given a much needed bath when he is tossed into the Shimak to cool his heels.

Back in Bora's village in the Illbars, the boy is in conferance with the monk. Though he sent word north, nothing has returned to him from Agraphur. He fears that his warnings have been ignored, and wishes the boy to try and rouse the villages, if no one else will lead, Bora will have to. Meanwhile Eramius's is marching his Transformed to some further unholy task. They can do walk for days between meals, and he has much further for them to go yet.

After several more days of Travel, Rhaina, Illyana, and Conan make their way to the town of Gala. They rent a room in the local tavern, and set forth to seek out any additional information they can about the sorcerous happenings in the Illbars. As with most hill people though, the denizens of Gala prove to be tight lipped. After some persuasion, Illyana manages to find a lead for their investigation. She sets forth to put a glamour on Rhaina, and contrives for her and Conan to enter the service of a lord Achmai.

After walking to the gates of Achmai's keep, the twain are admitted and searched. Some hours pass, but both are eventually put into his service. So far, Illyanas plan is working. After nightfall, they find what they came for and then quickly beat an escape. Their purloining has not gone unnoticed and pursuit is hot on their heels as they make their way out of Achmai's keep.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

27. Tor Conan #16, Conan the Valiant by Roland J. Green, part 1.

In the Ilbars Mountains a Shepard boy, Bora, is watching an unusual ritual. The perpetrator of this is Eramius. He's currently using one of the jewels of Kurag to turn some unwitting person into one of The Transformed. A large, but slow witted collected of mutants. Perfect for doing the bidding of their sorcerous master. This explained the mysterious disappearance of so many from the neighboring tribes. Without waiting to see the end, Bora leaves to go and try and warn others.

His warnings go unheeded, after all, haven't they already been reported to King Yildiz's minister for the region? The man didn't think enough of them to do anything, so clearly there isn't anything that can be done. Having no alternative, he goes to talk to the priest of Mitra. A man not from his tribe, or even from the Ilbars. A man who came to convert the tribes, but not live among them. He is far more interested in the boys news and promises to send the information to his superiors in Agraphur.

Meanwhile, Captain Conan is training new recruits in the use of the Bow. No easy task, and as soon as the days work is done he heads to a local watering hole. It's proprietor is an old soldier himself, full of stories and a sympathetic ear for those still in the service. Before long however, one of the obnoxious Turanian hereditary officers saunters into the tavern. With him are a small handful of sycophants who almost immediately begin to cause trouble. Before the night is out, Conan has slain several of them and wounded the Turanian.

He goes back to his duties as captain, but is soon requested. He knew this was coming, but had hoped to avoid it. He is summoned to the residence of Lord Mishrak. King Yildiz's cheif of spies. A certain job has come up that they feel he can help them with. It's been two years since he broke the Cult of Doom, an action that lead to him joining the Turanian Military. In return they will make sure the problems with the Turanian lordling will go away. Conan is to escort the Rhaina, the assistant to the sorceress Illyana south to the Illbars, and from there search for clues as to what is going on there.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Definition of the day - "The Bandit Run"

My concept of "The Bandit Run" comes by way of the film 'Smokey and the Bandit' in which the central character Bandit, a decoy for a truckdriver, is contracted to drive from Atlanta to Texarkana to bring back a truckload of contraband beer. The basic plot of the film explains the phrase.

My usage of it derives from this central theme. Over the last 2 years I've read a large number of Conan stories. They tend to fall into a certain number of types. One of the least interesting and most pernicious is The Bandit Run. Pioneered, I feel by the Posthumous collaboration, 'The Hall of the Dead', where Conan begins and ends the story in Shadizar, but the story itself takes place in a city some distance from Shadizar, and part of the story involves him traveling to this place and back. Hence, Bandit Run.

This theme is repeated frequently, beginning with all three of Andrew J. Offutt's books.. which despite all taking place south of the cities of Arenjun and Shadizar, all begin in one of those places. Two of them end in those places. Offutt's books completed the concept of the Bandit Run by adding the essential time limit to the trip. Conan has a long way to go and short time to get there. This new form, is used by Robert Jordan in 4 of the 6 of his novels that I've read so far. The only book I've read from Sean A. Moore also makes use of this, beginning and ending his story in the same town in Brythunia, despite a large portion of it taking place elsewhere.

It mainly operates in the obverse of the point a-b progression stories. for which I'm still looking for a good nickname for. If you can suggest one, drop me a line and let me know.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

26. Ace Conan #2.1 "The Curse of the Monolith" by Lin Cart and L. Sprague DeCamp

Having attained the rank of Captain in the Turanian army, Conan has been tasked with delivering a diplomatic letter from King Yildiz. He is taking it to the eastern kingdom of Kusan, to deliver it to their monarch. For the first time in month's he is traveling alone. Juma, his friend of many adventures has acquired a coveted post in the royal palace. All Conan got was another dangerous mission.

After hundreds of leagues, crossing deserts, skirting the foothills of the Talakma Mountains. Conan and his men had finally arrived in the land of Kusan, a kingdom to the west of Khitai. They had been receive warmly by the king, and also been given a positive reply to Yildiz's offer for a treaty of trade and friendship.

However this doesn't really sit well with Duke Feng, one of the kings Khitan advisers. The Duke wishes to dispatch the Barbarian emissary, keeping Kusan tightly bound to Khitai. The Duke feigns friendship with Conan, taking him to see the sites. He takes him to view a mound, making sure to drop plenty of hints about vast stores of treasure inside it. Seeing the interest in the barbarians eyes, he knows he has him hooked.

That night Conan returns and as he ascends the mound he feels himself being inextricably pulled towards the monolith that crowns it. soon he is stuck fast to the black stone. Soon the Duke arrives, and explains the monolith is a giant lodestone, and will hold any metal. He then pulls a small flute from his pocket and plays a note. Before long a giant gelatinous monstrosity appears, dripping acid, heading towards the monolith.

It doesn’t take Conan long to cut through the leather straps of his outfit. Leaving him free of any metal and freedom of movement also. He grabs duke feng and hurls him into the gelatinous goo. Then he strikes a fire at the base of the monolith and burns both the master and the pet. Thus ending the curse of the monolith.

Review ~

Not a great tale by any stretch of the imagination, but not horrible either. It's about on par with DeCamp, and easily better than the previous story, "People of the Summit". It's nice to have a bit of closure about what happened to Juma however, he was a character that despite only showing up in one short story and one novel, I quite liked. It's really a shame that DeCamp didn't just put his effort towards writing stories about Juma, we could use a few more black Sword and Sorcery heroes. We are told that it's been about a year since Conan first entered the service of Turan, that makes him about 22.

Monday, July 11, 2011

25. Bantam Conan #1.2, "The People of the Summit" by Bjorn Nyberg and L. Sprague Decamp

As this story Opens we find Conan a newly appointed Sargent in the Turanian Army. He has been tasked with leading a troop of Turanians in raids against a group of rebellious tribesmen in the Khozghari Hills. For several weeks this goes well, the troop makes good progress. One day however, the routine is broken when the troop is ambushed by hill-men. Conan avoids death or capture and sets out to get back to Samara where he is stationed. He comes across a girl, and on talking to her finds out she is the daughter of one of the hill tribes. Conan decides to take her hostage, a daughter of a hill chief will be a great bargaining chip against the tribes.

Soon they are on their way to Samara. Conan figures the quickest way will be to head through the Bhamar pass in the Misty Mountains, but the girl warns they are full of demons. Not afraid of such superstition, Conan presses on. No doubt he will soon regret his headstrong cavalier approach. Before they get very far through the pass they are beset by some of the people the girl referred to as Demons.

They are taken captive, and the girl it is revealed is destined to be sacrificed to these peoples god. Conan however has other ideas in mind and soon escapes, intent on rescuing the girl he got into this mess. After hacking his way through many of the mountain people, he succeeds in finding the girl and the two make their way out of the mountains as fast as possible.

In return for his rescue of her, she promises him safe passage through the hills, it's a longer route, but now safer. He figures he will be back at his post in Samara in a few days.

Review ~

At the beginning of this tale we are informed that, Following the events of the "City of Skulls", Conan has been made a Sergeant. That is all well and good, but for sake of Chronology, Geography, Coherency and flow, I feel "The People of the Summit" Takes place before "The City of Skulls". My Reasoning is this. Conan's rank is mentioned in "People of the Summit" as that of a Sargent. But in Conan the Hero, he goes from being a Sargent to Captain. In the next story 'Curse of the monolith' he is still a Captain. It worked fine in the old Pre-Tor format. Where it didn't have to make allowances for Conan the Hero and Conan the Valiant. But it does now, and I feel that since it's only an L. Sprague Decamp edited tale, it can be moved to any place I really choose it fits best. Since no mention is made of Juma at all, I feel it happens before Conan meets Him, and therefore happens before "City of Skulls".

Saturday, July 9, 2011

24. Tor Conan #17, Conan the Hero by Leonard Carpenter, Part 5

Crossing the mountains north of Venjipoor and then walking westwards. They then take a boat up the Ilbars river to Agraphur. After many days they finally arrive and are quickly whisked off to be cleaned up. It's only a matter of hours before they are supposed to meet King Yildiz. After being cleaned up and dressed in new uniforms they are set on horses and paraded through town towards the palace. On the steps outside they meet with Yildiz and Conan receives his medal, in appreciation for his service to the empire, he is now officially a Hero of Turan.

The following evening Conan is present at a feast hosted by Yildiz. The Monarch fawns over his new Hero, much to the displeasure of the nobles and hereditary officers. While the days of revelry follow, Conan sets out to uncover the people who have been plotting against him. After some detective work he feels he has a good idea of whats going on, and plans to reveal the plot during his medal ceremony. Feeling it his obligation to warn the King. During the the ceremony the king himself, along with many senior nobles and generals are attacked. It's a rapidly growing carnivorous vine, secreted in on one of the mercenaries cloaks. It's courtesy of Mojorna.

Conan and Juma fight and defeat the vine, This time directly saving King Yildiz's life. But not sparing any effort to save the lives of the men behind the plot. Afterwords he explains to Yildiz why he didn't save them, how they were causing scores of Turanian soldiers to be killed in Venjipoor due to their poor planning. Following this, the King offers to rectify this situation however Conan feels it should be done, and imparts the Captain to return to Venjipoor and take charge.

Weeks later, once Conan is back in Venjipoor. He comes to learn that Mojurna died when the plant beast was slain. And that the girl who he rescued is now the new high shaman. The two come to an understanding, but also realize they can never be friends anymore. Conan begins to shutdown the military machine in Venjipoor, Turan is big enough already not to be greedy. And with that the story ends.

Locations, Turan, Hyrkania, Venjipoor
Towns, Agraphur, Venjipoor
Characters: Conan, Juma, Yildiz, Mojurina the shaman. Sarimya
Languages Spoken: Cimmerian, Aesir, Hyperborean, Brythunian, Zamorian, Kothic, Turanian, Shemitish, Corinthian, Hyrkanian, Nemedian, Vhendyan, Kushite.

Review ~

Not a bad book at all, Out of the three Carpenter's I've read so far this is the best. It's a tad bit anachronistic at first since it really does feel like a Vietnam story. The other story it reminded me of a lot, is Sharpe's Regiment by Bernard Cornwell. In so far as Conan has performed a miraculous battlefield feat (Being the only survivor of Yaralet, but still managing to win out for Turan) and has become a semi-obsession with the totally out of touch monarch for whom he's fighting, and the story ends with Conan uncovering a military conspiracy and the Monarch giving him what he wants. Conan and Juma even have a relationship very similar to Sharpe and Harper. The Sharpe's book has exactly the same story, except Sharpe and Harper captured an Eagle at Talavara after having most of their men killed, and then Sharpe is doted over by Prince George III, Solves a military conspiracy and the Monarch gives him what he wants.

Conan's rank is the real factor that helps determine where this book should be placed, He starts the book out as a Sgt. and ends it as Captain. This causes some problems chronologically speaking, and means that though The people of the Summit is the next one in the list, it can't actually be the next story chronologically. But thats a discussion for next time.

It's also got a bit of tricky geography involved. In order for Conan to get back to Agraphur, he travels north through Venjipoor, westwards over the Colchian Mountains north of Iranistan and then takes a boat up the Ilbars river to Agraphur. That means Venjipoor has to be one of the "Golden Kingdoms".. An unfortunate name if there ever was one, considering Vietnam's place in the "Golden Triangle" of the Heroin Trade. Though they also mention Lotus farmers, and people besotted by Lotus. So even though Venjipoor doesn’t show up on many maps.. I think thats the best place for it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

24. Tor Conan #17, Conan the Hero by Leonard Carpenter, Part 4

Having escaped his would be assassins, Conan makes his way back to base. he feels he can trust Juma, and with him some measure of strength in numbers. While he is settling back into his routine he is summoned by a superior officer. Apparently the man has been given orders to bring Conan to Agraphur, so that the King may bestow upon the Barbarian a great honor. Conan though suspicious of this, agrees to go.

Due to recent events, Conan goes into it assuming it is another trap. He proceeds with caution and tells Juma of his concerns. Orders are orders however and the two set off. They will return to Agraphur in the most expedient manner, so that King Yildiz himself may pin the bauble to Conan's Turban. However when Conan approaches the Shariff to secure passage to Agraphur, he is informed that these new orders have not fully filtered through the system and therefore Conan cannot leave. Instead he is to lead a patrol out into an exceptionally dangerous part of the jungle hunting for rebels.

As ordered Conan marches his men out on this quixotic crusade. They are soon ambushed by a numerically superior force, easily outnumbering them by more than 10 to 1. After a very tough fight, Conan once more turns the battle in Turan's favour. Though in order to do so he once more misses the chance to kill Mojira.

The Shariff is unmistakeably displeased that yet again the Barbarian has survived. He still harbours a grudge against him for escaping punishment weeks back. Regardless though, he now has no choice but to allow Conan and Juma to go west to Agraphur. So the two men set off on the multi-week journey.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

24. Tor Conan #17, Conan the Hero by Leonard Carpenter, Part 3

This feeling of goodwill which Yildiz exhibits for the Barbarian, rankles his high ranking military men. They feel this, Conan, is an interloper and beneath the gaze of the monarch. He is paid to fight and die for Yildiz, not to be noticed or held as an example by him. But how to get rid of him? He's a doughty fighter no doubt. A canny man all around, very difficult to kill. Perhaps the best course of action to get their people in Venjipoor deal with it.

After some time of recuperation, Conan is finally beginning to feel himself again. The Poison had finally worked its way out of his system, thanks in part to the medications of the Khitan seers that Yildiz kept in Venjipoor. With his strength returned, though still limping on his wounded leg, Conan and Juma decide to take their Leave and go out on the town.

It is with this goal in mind that the wounded Conan finds himself in the presence of Pheng Loon. Drugged and Dragged to the royal palace in Venjipoor City, which sits on the gulf of Tharqueba. He awakes after some time, groggy from the drug, and tied up. He notices a slight man in front of him. He soon introduces himself as Pheng Loon, the leader of Venjipoor and erstwhile ally to Yildiz. He explains his family was from Khitai, until they built a colony in Venjipoor to grow lotus flowers. But their strength waned and the rebels grew more bold. That is when Pheng Loon sought help from the west.

Wounded, drugged and tied up or not. Conan is not a man to be taken lightly. As soon as he begins to feel the vapors of the lotus loosening their hold on him he is ready to fight. He manages to free himself, and is soon on his feet, though stumbling slightly. Against this cushion sitting Khitans, it takes very little time for Conan to escape.

News of Conan's recovery reaches King Yildiz, who is ecstatic to hear it. First though he intends to have him brought to Agraphur and bestow on him a national honor. Officially making the Barbarian a Hero of Turan. All the sooner he can get back to inspiring men and fighting the enemies of Turan. The King is cautioned against this course of action, and that it would likely complicate matters far more than the King realizes.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

24. Tor Conan #17, Conan the Hero by Leonard Carpenter, Part 2

Back in country, Conan is getting chewed out by a superior. It seems one of the Turanian hereditary officers took a liking to Sariya and tried to make a move on her. Conan split his skull for him in return, and now a Turanian Sharif is calling for his head. However his Captain intercedes and decides to send him on a patrol to keep him out of the way for a while. He's only doing this because Conan is the Hero of Yaralet, and it would be unseemly to have such a man court-marshaled.

Its not an easy patrol though, its pretty deep into enemy territory, but they aren't supposed to run into anything. This doesn’t work out though as on their second day out they get ambushed by a force considerably larger than their own. Conan, being the ranking officer of the patrol sends a runner to Sikkander requesting more men, but upon the runners arrival is met by the same Sharif who was to be in charge of his court martial. The idea of more men is promptly over ruled and Conan and his troops are left to fend for themselves.

Though most of the other mercenary officers want to go and relieve the embattled patrol, the nobles balk. But after the fullness of Dark, Juma struggles into the camp carrying a wounded Conan. Stabbed by a poisoned spear. The leaches at the base say its impossible to know if he will survive, and only the gods know for sure.

In Turan, Yildiz listens to his court wizard read this patrol report to him, the information coming nearly instantaneously via a two way mirror. Juma's report to the captain says that were it not for Conan the whole force would have been routed. Yildiz slams his hand down on the arm of the chair, If only he had an entire army of Conans! Truly then he would be master of the world.

Friday, July 1, 2011

24. Tor Conan #17, Conan the Hero by Leonard Carpenter, Part 1

After their escape from Meru, and their successful mission to deliver the princess to her betrothed. Conan and Juma have been put in charge of groups of soldiers in the jungle choked battlefields of far off Venjipoor. They are fighting the Hwong, a rebellious tribe who are aiming to dethrone the Khitai descended royal house of Venjipoor. The Hwong are lead by their Shaman Mojara, who at the moment Conan catches up to him, is just about to sacrifice a girl for some nefarious purpose. The Shaman escapes, but Conan rescues the girl, who is named Sariya.

Meanwhile in Agraphur, The Self important wizard Azhar is hurrying on his way to bring news from Venjipoor, recently scryed by the court seer, using a magic mirror (not kidding) to King Yildiz. It's important enough to interrupt the king's merrymaking. Progress has been made in the southern campaign and it's new standout soldier, a northern barbarian by the name of Conan.

Back in Venjipoor, Conan and Juma have returned to their encampment. As with most soldiers, they are bored and tired of waiting for the promised easy advancement. The hawknosed nobles who make up the bulk of the Turanian officers are so cowardly, they never get killed.. so how are there supposed to be any vacancies? Both men are somewhat depressed by their chances of promotion.

In Agraphur The King is informed of the latest happenings. This time they are not so positive. Certain inconsistencies have arisen with Turan's allies on who's behalf this war is being fought. It seems they are in league with members of Yildiz's court who wish to weaken his power both at home and abroad.

Monday, June 27, 2011

23. Ace Conan #1.7 "The City of Skulls" by L. Sprague DeCamp and Lin Carter

Conan, back with the army, and is now marching in escort of King Yildiz's Daughter. Princess Zosara. They are taking her to wed her to the Khan of the Kuigar tribesmen in Eastern Hyrkania. He's not alone as he's got his good friend Juma of Kush to keep him company on the long walk. After many days of walking the group is attacked by a group of hillmen out of the Talakama Mountains.

All of the Turanians are killed except Juma, Zosara and Conan. Instead they are taken captive to the mysterious land of Meru, a lush valley surrounded by high mountains. They are taken to Shamballah the capital of Meru. The priests of Meru intend to sacrifice Zosara in an effort to bring back their god, Yama. Juma and Conan attempt to escape but fail. In response they are sentences to a life of slavery chained to an oar in a galley.

Both Conan and Juma have tasted the lash and the bitterness of slavery before, and they vow to escape and rescue Zosara. After some adventures shipboard they make good their design and set off into the city to find the girl. They cut a red swath through the preists and guards of the city and palace, eventually finding their way to the girl. They rescue her and make their way out of the city as fast as they can.

Nearly a month passes before they finally make their way into the Khan's camp and deliver the girl to her betrothed. Little is he aware though that his heir is already on its way courtesy of the Cimmerian. The two adventurers then turn their horses westward and set off back to Turan, loaded with gold and gifts.

Review ~ this is probably one of my preferred Lin Sprague DeCarter stories. I've always liked the character of Juma and was sorry that more wasn't done with him. It dosen't measure up to the fun of the previous, Lin Carter completed, REH story. And certainly dosen't measure up to Rogues in the House.. but it's a decent enough way to end the first volume of the Ace Series.

Up Next, Conan the Hero by Leonard Carpenter.

Friday, June 24, 2011

*Spoiler Warning* The Chronology of Conan the Barbarian.

This is based solely on evidence as presented in the novelization by Michael Stackpole. Spoilers will undoubtedly be included, you have been warned.

0y - Corin's village is raided by Vanir Raiders, his pregnant wife is killed protecting their unborn son, her last act is to name the newborn Conan. Conan the Barbarian, Chapters 1 - 11

About 5y - Conan is jealous of the other village boys who have been given swords, and resents doing menial chores. His father gives him an old Aquilonian short sword. Conan the Barbarian, Chapters 1 - 11

About 12y - Corin teaches his sown how to forge steel, and the two together make the boy's first sword. Conan the Barbarian, Chapters 1 - 11

About 13y - Conan's village is attacked by an army of diverse nationalities lead by a man named Khalar Zhym. Conan is the only survivor. He goes to live with his grandfather Connaught in the hills. Conan the Barbarian, Chapters 1 - 11

About 16y - Connaught and Conan are summoned by the Cimmerean elders to take part in the attack on an Aquilonian fortres, Venarium. The battle over, and after years of Connaughts stories, Conan heads south to discover what the world is like. Conan the Barbarian, Chapters 1 - 11

About 17y - He goes to The City of Thieves and raids the fabled elephant tower, slaying its owner, Yara, in the process. He meets Artus for the first time. "The Tower of the Elephant"

"Rogues in the House" Is possibly placed here.

About 25y - Conan is on the run from the authorities in Argos, buys passage on a ship south. The ship is raided by the so called Queen of the Black Coast, Belit, and Conan becomes her lover. Belit and her crew venture up a river in search of treasure, but find only death. Conan burns the Tigress as Belit's pyre. and then wanders some time in the southern black kingdoms. "Queen of the Black Coast"

About 28y - Conan has found his way back to the Hyborean Kingdoms and has met up with Artus again. They are plying their trade as Pirates now, following the same rough path that the Tigress formerly did. He is approached by one of the men who had raided his village and retrieves information about Khalar Zyms whereabouts, He then heads south down the coast seeking the Shaipur Pass. Conan rescues a girl named Tamara, is informed it's his destiny to defeat Khalar Zym and save the world and to escort her to Hyrkania. The two go to Hyrkania, they take part in an epic battle and Khalar Zym is slain. Afterwords, Conan departs for other adventures. Conan the Barbarian, Chapters 12 - 33

There are specific mentions to several things in the book. Conan's backstory is all made up of relatively known things. They don't add a lot too it, theres no wheel of pain or slavery. Conan is tough from the get go, he takes part in the sack of Venarium. He then leaves to adventure elsewhere. The story then jumps ahead a considerable amount of time. And it is made clear that in that time, The Tower of the Elephant and Queen of the black coast occurred. Later it is referenced that Conan has not been to either Vendhya or Khitai. So nothing rules out other of the early REH stories from taking place in that span either. But I'd say that at least three did occur, the third being Rogues in the House, though there is no internal evidence to support that idea except that the book seems to fit around the first three stories in the old "Probable outline of Conan's career" chronology from P. Shyuler Miller and John Clark.

If So, I wonder if that alludes to what we might see in the sequel? And it also speaks volumes that Micheal Stackpole ignores all other chronologies, and uses the only one which REH himself saw. It also makes me hope that these three stories are included in the forthcoming Del Rey volume "Conan the stories that inspired the movie"..

The only problem is, while Aqualionia, Zamora, Zingara, Shem, Kush, and others are mentioned, apparently none of the states of the Hybroean age are capable of standing against Khalar Zym's ragtag band of defeated soldiers. He's either exceptionally powerful, or the great powers lack any control over their borders. Its the same problem I felt that Thulsa Doom's forces had in the first Conan film. If it were just a few minions, I could buy them being able to furtively slip around border posts.. but not an entire army.

All in all though, this does a far better job of incorporating Robert E. Howard's Conan than either of the movies, or live action show did. Though he's not exactly REH's Conan.. he is still definitely Conan. It is a shame though that thanks to the construction of this, if we get any of Tower of the Elephant or Queen of the black coast on screen, it will likely be as a flashback, and not as a straight forward adaption. On the other hand, It's perfectly likely we can still get Black Colossus as a straight forward adaption.. which would be pretty darn cool.

*Spoiler Warning* Conan the Barbarian, By Michael Stackpole Part 5

*Spoiler Warning*

You have been warned

Chapters 24-33

Khaler lashes out at Marique, he blames her for their escape. She is weak he claims, far weaker than her mother. The two argue, and then marique turns on the surviving soldiers and levitates the mask from Khaler's hand to hover over the edge of the cliff. Instead of acting shocked or angry, he smiles and tells her how proud of her he is. Now becalmed, she gives the mask back to her father. But this family moment dosen't change that the quarry has escaped, and at this moment is sailing south down the black coast.

The plan is for Conan to head to Asgalun, and from there to Khor Khalba. Meanwhile Artus is to take Tamara to Vendhya and from there overland to Hyrkania. Conan sets off, but before long Tamara comes ashore as well. She wishes to give something to Conan. The two spend the night together, but the next day sorcery befalls them and Tamara is kidnapped. Conan sets off alone, he knows exactly who facilitated this, Marique. He also knows that the place he will find Tamara is also the place he will find Khalar Zym, Khor Kalba.

He first goes to Asgalun, he is searching for the thief Ela Shan. He finds him in a fetid watering hole in the back alleys of Asgalun. He tells the man he has come to collect the life debt he is owed. He needs to get into Khor Khalba, and there is no lock that Ela Shan cannot break. Reluctantly Ela agrees, and the two begin the trek to Khor Khalba. After picking their way through the hills the spires of Khor Khalba rear against the nights sky.

Slowly they worm their way into its deepest rooms. Dispatching any of Khaler's minions they come across, all except one supernatural horror they are incapable of defeating. The many tentacled water dwelling, Watcher (Seriously?, its called the watcher and it lives in water. Where have I read that before?) Ela shan manages to blind it with cobra venom encrusted knives, but it dosen't kill the beast. It begins to pull the fortress down in its fury, while the two men rush upstairs.

It may be too late, as Khalar has now put the girls blood on the mask, thus gaining all of its power. Conan rushes in just as Khalar puts the mask on. They hurl invective at one another, and then steel clashes with steel. The fight begins to turn against Conan, Khaler Zym's powers are far greater than he imagined. Stones pulled loose by the blinded watcher separate them, and just in time for Conan to save Tamara from the vindictive Marique.

With the daughter dead, only the father remains. But he is now filled with rage at the barbarian, and seems unstoppable. But suddenly reinforcements arrive. When Tamara failed to return to the ship, Artus and the rest of the pirates set off looking for her and Conan, after finding clues in Asgalun they set off to Khor Kalba, and just in the nick of time to save the day.

With Khalar Zym defeated, and the mask shattered, and buried under the ruined fortress, Conan parts ways with Tamara and sets off on what is sure to be further adventures.

The End.

*Spoiler Warning* Conan the Barbarian, By Michael Stackpole Part 4

*Spoiler Warning!*

You have been warned.

Chapters 19-23

Tamara is preparing to leave the monastery on her quest to find Conan. None too soon it seems as Fassir is brought word of an army approaching. He beseeches Tamara to go, and not to look back. Only finding Conan can she right the evils that are being committed. Only Conan can save the world. So reluctantly the girl departs on her long and lonely quest.

Some time later, the monasteries defenses having been breached, Khalar Zym approaches Fassir. They are acquaintances of old and have a past together. It seems in a former life, before finding religion, Fassir had slain dozens of men, women and children who were descendants of the Acheroneon kings of old. All but one. Tamara. And it is her that Khalar Zym needs to finally revive the mask. He needs but a drop of her blood to finish the task, and he aims to get it.

Conan has reached the Shaipur pass, he feels a strange lethargy come over him. Some sort of sorcerer's ward to keep him from entering the red wastes. It's not painful, so it just takes willpower to continue on. He has that in spades. But before he makes it too far into the desert a carriage comes hurtling past him. It's being pursued by a dozen or more men all bearing the sign of Acheron. Conan sets off in pursuit of them and after a running battle finally succeeds in dispatching the riders. He approaches the occupant of the carriage, a girl, who upon seeing him explains to him that it is now his destiny to escort her to Hyrkania.

Conan at scoffs at this. He explains he dosen't plan to run, but to stand and wait for Khaler to come for the girl. Then he aims to finish what he started years ago. He dosen't have to wait long before he and Tamara are beset by Zym's forces. Khaler's Daughter Marique summons a sand-lich to slay the barbarian. While Tamara engages the liches Conan dives straight at Khalar Zym. The two banter back and forth, and realization dawns on Khaler who this madman is. The same boy he let escape years ago. He calls up his archers, screaming at them to wound the girl and kill the Barbarian.

His foes however had enough time to lay a trap. They have laced the shaipur outpost with pots of oil, and left trails of the stuff spiderwebed out. Conan shouts to Tamara and they begin to run for the sheer cliff face over looking the sea. They light the oil and then as the fire is ripping through the outpost leap over the cliff into the sea. This was the plan all along, Conan had left Artus waiting on him, and the two swim to his ship the Hornet.

*Spoiler Warning* Conan the Barbarian, By Micheal Stackpole Part 3


You've been warned!

Chapters 12-19

We jump ahead many years after the sack of Venarium and journey many hundreds of leagues south to the coast of Zingara. A Coast which is fare more peaceful now that the Queen of the Black Coast, Belit as disappeared. Though her second in command Conan has now joined up with another ship, Captained by Artus. Today though, their quarry has decided to travel overland, so they will adapt to fight on land.

They fall on the caravan and swiftly win over the merchants guards. During their festivies Artus regales the crew of his first meeting with Conan. When the barbarian was nothing but a scrawny youth picking pockets in Zamora, though he was also the one who stole into the Elephant tower and slew the sorcerer Yara. During this tale telling, several men approach the pirates camp. They are Aquilonians, and their master is a man Conan has met before. A Man missing the nose that Conan took.

The men have come to hire Conan. They think he is a Vanir-man and will make an excellent addition to their master's forces. Conan knowing this to be a chance to find out more about the "Klarzin" who destroyed his village plays along. Allowing them to put him in chains as a "Show of good faith", He's put with a few other captives including one who claims to be a great thief. Ela Shaun. One who claims to have raided Yara's personal palace after the elephant tower fell. Conan dosen't think much of him.

some time later Conan is brought in front of Lucius, the man with no nose as he is torturing Ela shan. Conan attacks the nose-less man and frees the thief. He turns the tables on Lucias and extracts certain information about Klarzin, nay, Khalar Zym. He dwells in Khor Kalba, deep in the red wastes through the Shaipur pass. Conan plans to find him, and Ela Shan offers his help. Conan turns him down, however, the thief says if he changes his mind to seek him out in Asgalun.

Conan returns to the pirate band, he explains to Artus what he must do and why he must leave the group. Artus explains all he knows of Khalar Zym, and asks Conan what it is he is looking to accomplish. Revenge? To Crush the man? To Listen to the Lamentations of his Women? Conan says aye to both, but explains its not about revenge. Years ago he severed Khalar Zym's ear when he meant to cleave his skull, and he hates leaving a job unfinished.

Elsewhere, At a monastary. A girl named Tamara is in conversation with her master. He has seen a vision of a man, who undertakes the same journey that Tamara has trained for her whole life. He has seen the two quests become one, and wishes to prepare Tamara for the journey on which she will meet this man, this Barbarian, who the fate of the world rests on.

*Spoiler Warning* Conan the Barbarian, By Micheal Stackpole Part 2

Chapters 6-11

*Spoiler Warning*

The hardscrabble yet peaceful ideal of the Cimmerian village is doomed to be shattered. Today the World ends. While at first Corin thinks its just a raid by picts, which the Cimmerians repulse, it soon comes to be seen that this is a massacre. Ranked battalions of soldiers from all over the world are soon seen marching towards the Cimmerian village. Phalanxes from Aquilonia, Archers from Hyrkania, howling mad Picts, skin clad Kushites bearing wooden clubs. All bearing a badge sporting a tentacled face.

Corin sends Conan to fetch something from his shop, and the boy runs through the woods as fast as he can. He is found and knocked down by a Kushite, but he slices the mans belly and gets back up and is off running again. He gets back in time to watch his father confront the leader of the invaders. The man claims to have invaded their land, because they possess a piece of the mask that is also his armies symbol. Either hand it over and join his forces, or die. Corin chooses death, and with that Khalers men drag him to the forge.

Conan leaps from the room he was in, slicing off one of Khaler's men's noses and Khaler's ear. But shear weight of men force him down to the ground. He gets to be an audience as they torture his father. Corin says nothing, though they drip molten iron onto his flesh. Eventually Khaler's sorcerer finds the object they seek, hidden in Corin's shop. Now comes the pain. Instead of simply dispatching the Cimmerians, Khaler plans to take Conan with him, as it will cause Corin the most pain. And Khaler likes to cause pain to those who attempt to thwart him. But Corin with his last act makes it possible for Conan to escape. The boy kills another of Khalers men on his way out of the village, and then begins the journey to find his Grandfather.

Several weeks pass, Conan is now living with Connaught. Being told more about the outside world, about how some people are always nosing about where they have no business. He also tells the boy what he knows of Acheron. A place so evil, if you swing a cat your liable to hit a necromancer or three. The story goes that Acheron's rise was checked only by men from the north. Who began to fight back against the evil. Eventually more lands joined them in their fight and Acheron was broken. The mask of Acheron, was broken into pieces and given to the leaders of every contingent. That was the object that Khaler Zym was after.

More time passes, and under the watch of Connaught Conan become a mighty warrior, He also becomes a Man. Three years pass, the name of Klarzim (?) is nearly forgotten. But one day a messenger comes to their hut. It seems the Aqulonians have fortified their trading post of Venarium, turning it into a redoubt. An insult that cannot be tolerated, and the Cimmerians, all of them are to go and attack it. That night Venarium died screaming under the light of the moon.

*Spoiler Warning* Conan the Barbarian, By Michael Stackpole Part 1

*Spoiler Warning*

If you don't want to know what happens read no further

*Spoiler Warning*

Last Chance, if you don't want spoilers turn back now.

Conan the Barbarian, by Micheal Stackpole.
Chapters 1-5

We find ourselves transported to the land of Cimemria, high in the hills, ground covered with hardpacked snow. The boys are practicing swordplay while Corin makes his young son Conan fetch wood. Anger at his father is fleeting though, as he knows the man's strength should be respected. Many also respected Corin's young son, though he be only a boy, for he was Born on the Battlefield. He also had lofty ideals to hold himself up too. His grandfather Connaught was a great warrior and had wandered far afield into the world and told of many exotic locales. Conan dreamed of one day seeing them, but for now he must check traps and fetch wood. Such was the lot of a boy, even one born in such special circumstance.

After finishing his chores and finding several rabbits in his traps he sets off back to the hut he shares with his father. He knows it must soon be time for supper as he can no longer hear the clanging of Corin's blacksmith hammer. As Conan spoons food into his mouth his father expounds on the lessons a boy need learn to become a man. That the sword is as like to slay its owner as its opponent. That learning just one weapon is a sure way to die. many other such platitudes roll from the mouth of Corin, and Conan absorbs them all.

Over the next weeks Corin regales Conan with tales of the boys mother. How she died fighting the Vanirman to protect her unborn child. How she chose to name the boy Conan, and how she expected great things from him. He also begins to teach Conan the ways of the blacksmith. How to smelt and temper iron, how to make steel, how to quench a blade to keep it from being too brittle. Soon Conan knows enough to make his own sword, forged with his own hands. No armed, Corin beings to teach his son how to use the sword.

Conan The Adventurer, Episode 6

From Hyborean Apocrypha

"A Friend in Need"

When we last visited our adventurers they had just decided to team up with the mighty warrior Baiyu. The group is walking along a forested path when they stop at a pile of skulls on the roadside. Baiyu, having been this way previously explains the it bears the sign of the red snake, a tribe which possibly harbours cannibalistic tendencies. They are just preparing to move on when a blond maned barbarian rides his horse out of the forest and engages Conan in a fight.

It turns out the man is an old acquaintance of Conans. He is on his way to wage war against the blue-stone cult, which requires him to also cross the territory of the redsnake. The bluestone attacked the village he was living in at the time, and he goes to revenge himself upon them. Conan and the others decide to go with him. They have several small adventures along the path and then stop at an inn. Before they leave the Inn, Zzeben eavesdrops on the blonde man as he bargains with Blue-stone men. Zzeben feels the man is planning to betray them, but he convinces them all its a mistake.

Eventually, after several more days journey, they make their way along the road to the land of the blue-stones. Before they get there however, it turns out that Zzebens suspicions were right as the man betrays them to Hissar Zhul's men. During the skirmish Conan is cutoff on the other side of a chasm from his companions and gets goes free while they become captives. Captives destined to be handed over to Hissar Zhul.

Eventually though Conan makes his way to the fortress they are being held at, and confronts his erstwhile friend. While thats going on the others make good their escape and defeat the sorceress (Played by Tangerine from the Garbage Pail Kids Movie) Hissar Zhul has left. Conan is forced to kill his friend, and then the group makes its way back to the main road. Onwards towards more adventures.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

22. Ace Conan #1.6 "The Hand of Nergal" by Robert E. Howard and Lin Carter

Conan has finally accepted the offers of the pestering recruiting sergeants and signed into the service of Turan. At the start of this story, we find that that may have been a small miscalculation on the barbarians part. He is currently camped along with the other forces of General Bakra of Akif. While setting up his bed roll in camp, he comes across a golden amulet of some sort and puts it in his pouch.

Tomorrow he will be fighting in a battle between the forces of King Yildiz and a rebel satrap, Munthassem Khan. The Battle is raging when a sudden darkness sweeps over the field. Conan looks up to see horrific bat like creatures descend upon the arrayed forces, they ignore the forces of Munthassem Khan destroying only the forces of General Bakra. As the Bats sweep down soldiers flee in every direction. Conan left alone swears and grits his teeth to steel himself against the darkness. One of the creatures sweeps down upon him, and just as the end is closing in he is overcome with the sudden urgency to bring out the amulet he found. Upon doing so the creature recoils and flees. Exhaustion overtakes him and Conan collapses.

The next day Conan awakes among the ruin of the battlefield, straggling through the bodies he comes across a girl named Hidilco, who has come looking for him. Her master, the Sorcerer Atalis has sent her, and bids Conan return with her. So the two journey to Yaralet. Upon arriving at Hidilco's master's house, he regales Conan of how Munthassem Khan found something from Stygia. The something was the hand of Nergal. With it he became a madman. Further, the key to defeating Munthassem and the Hand of Nergal is the amulet which Conan found. The heart of Tammuz.

Atalis, Hidilco and Conan set off to the Khan's palace. They make their way inside to the throne room and find the Khan. It's soon a battle of Magical talismans and brawn. Conan and the Heart of Tammuz against Munthassem Khan and the Hand of Nergal. The confrontation climaxes with the Heart overriding the hand and pure energy overwhelming flesh. After the flash, nothing remains of Munthassem Khan but ashes, and both the heart and hand have evaporated entirely.

Nothing is left for Conan but to return to the army.


Well this is another of the Posthumous collaborations, an exceptionally rare one in that it's the only completion which Lin Carter worked on exclusively. It's not a bad story, with fairly competent writing. It would of course have been far more interesting had Robert E. Howard have finished it himself.

Up next "The City of Skulls"

Monday, June 20, 2011

21. Tor Conan #3, Conan the unconquered by Robert Jordan, Part 4

The following day the Cimmerian heads inland to arrange the rescue of the kidnapped girl. He buys horses and equipment from some Hyrkanian nomads, and also takes some time to learn some skill with the bow. After spending some hours in the nomads camp he departs with the gear he needed and sets off to the fortress.

After waiting till dark Conan raids the keep, after scaling the walls he makes his way deep into the inner sanctum. Upon the way he dispatches many of the saffron robed cultists. Finally making it into the main sacrificial chamber he fights the cult leader one on one. The fight is a close one, but Conan triumphs and learns where to find the girl who he came to rescue.

Deeper into the keep he goes, into the chamber the girl was hidden in. Finding her unharmed Conan bundles her up and makes good their escape back to the ship and from there back to Agraphur.

Review ~

Yup, this is the first of the Tor's thats only gotten four entries. It barely needed four, and I probably should have just put up three. Perhaps even should have been titled Conan the Uninteresting. Absolutely nothing happened in this book of any serious consequence. Conan rescues a girl from kidnappers, she gets kidnapped again, Conan rescues her again, she gets kidnapped again, Conan rescues her again and defeats the Cultists who keep kidnapping her. It felt as if it would have been a good story for maybe 100 pages.. but when blown up to 280 it just was too drawn out.

Where as the last reminded me of the best aspects of his later Wheel of Time series, this volume reminded me of the worst aspects of it. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the entire, and much derided Perrin/Faile segment from books 8-10 is just an exceptionally blown up version of this novel. I'd felt several times that Perrin Aybara had many similarities to Conan. For just one example. He is a broad shouldered, shaggy maned apprentice Blacksmith. He speaks frankly, dosen't open his mouth until he has thought things through. Shows both great melancholies and great mirth. This isn't to say he's an exact analog, but imagine if Conan had been a Hobbit.. and you pretty much can imagine Perrin.

This is the complete opposite end of the Robert Jordan spectrum from the previous book. It more or less was just a novel that positioned Conan so that he could "Learn the bow among the Hyrkanians" as he mentioned in Queen of the Black Coast.

Up Next: "The Hand of Nergal"