The Conquering Sword of Conan is the third and final volume in Wandering Star's Robert E. Howard collection of Conan stories. I'll be reviewing them as I read them. That's the plan, anyway.The Servants of Bit-Yatkin:
The Servants of Bit-Yatkin is a story about Conan scouring a ruined temple in the jungle for the Teeth of Gwahlur, a cache of priceless jewels. Complicating matters are the priests who have come to the temple to consult the oracle, as well as the deceased Bit-Yatkin's servants.
I always forget how flowery Howard's descriptions are compared to other pulp writers. The man can paint a picture with words. Servants is a pretty good story with a good amount of action and a twist or two. On a side note, are their any Conan stories that don't involve a giant snake and/or an ape man of some sort?Beyond the Black River:
Conan leads a foray into Pictish territory in order to defend a fort. Unfortunately, his raiding party runs afoul of a Pictish shaman who's unifying the local tribes in order to overrun the fort.
BBR reads like a story of white settlers against the Indians. I liked some of the ideas regarding the Pictish shaman and his speaking with the animals. The suspense around Balthus trying to warn the people at the fort was well done. The Black Stranger:
Two pirate factions come to a secluded island for lost treasure and a self-exiled noble is caught in the middle. Unfortunately for the pirates, a certain Cimmerian has already found the treasure...
The Black Stranger was well written but didn't grab me like the previous two stories. For a Conan story, there was a noticeable lack of Conan for a long stretch of it.The Man-Eaters of Zamboula:
Conan stays at an inn where the guests regularly disappear, only to find cannibals kidnap the occupants. Conan's on the trail of said cannibals when he rescues a woman from a gang of them. It seems she has a job for the Cimmerian to undertake for her...
The Man-Eaters of Zamboula is an action-packed tale of wizards, cannibals, and a damsel in distress. While I enjoyed it, never has it been more apparent that Conan is very much a product of the time it was written. There is an undercurrent of racism and sexism that might be hard for modern readers to get past.Red Nails:
Conan and Valeria fight a dinosaur-like monster, then take refuge from it inside a nearly deserted city where the inhabitants have been butchering one another for a century in a pointless war. Little do they know that the queen of one of the factions isn't what she seems...
Red Nails was easily the best story in the book with intrigue, violence, and plot twists a plenty.
Thus concludes my reading of the Wandering Star series of Robert E. Howard Conan stories. I recommend them to all fans of pulp fantasy with two caveats. First, Howard's prose isn't as breezy as people might speculate due to it's pulp origins. Secondly, they are very much a product of the time in which they were written, sexism and racism being what they were in the 30's. Still, Howard writes stories of adventure like no other.