Thursday, May 28, 2015

Conan the Valorous by John Maddox Roberts (from 1985)

Conan the Barbarian is one my favorite movies, weathered copies of The Savage Sword of Conan from the 70s bring me great joy, and paperback novels centered on everyone's favorite Cimmerian are always welcome in my home.  I have been reading these books for about as long as I've been reading and I still enjoy them.  The worst of the lot are trashy and formulaic, but Robert E. Howard did such a fine job of bringing Conan to life (as well as detailing the era in which he lived and defining the geography of this daring barbarian's world) that many of the books are definitive examples of what the fantasy genre is capable of producing.  Robert Jordan's take on the character is almost as revered as Howard's in this day and age, and I feel that Leonard Carpenter also had a real knack for detailing Conan's adventures.  John Maddox Roberts is another worthy author who has contributed to the cause, and his Conan the Valorous is of some significance to me because it's the only tale I've read that required Conan to return to Cimmeria.  It's a fun story that is a bit episodic in nature, paying homage to Howard's work with his brawny creation.  The real highlight of the book may be a fearsome clash between Conan and a magnificent bull that was imposing enough to be worshiped as a god.  This tense battle came hardly halfway through the book and had little to do with the primary thrust of the tale, which quickly gave way to a robust conclusion pitting Conan against armed soldiers, fantastic creatures, and demented sorcerers--another nod to Howard's approach to the genre.  Conan's eventual victory in this climactic showdown came a bit too easily in my humble opinion, and it was a bit strange to read such a book where someone other than our rugged hero got the girl at the end.  Still, Conan the Valorous was well-written and neatly plotted, and it was cool to see our fearless barbarian return home.  My favorite aspect of this novel may have been the way Roberts used the the hero's journey back to his homeland to show how Conan's youth in Cimmeria had shaped him.  Roberts allowed the character to reflect on his past while providing us with a look at his people doing what they do best--making war.  Most importantly, even as he paid tribute to Cimmeria, he did a fantastic job of showing us why Conan's passions would never allow him to settle down and remain among his people.  Canon the Valorous wasn't a great Conan adventure, but it was a solid book that benefited from its focus on Cimmeria. 

Final Grade: B-

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