Friday, August 17, 2018

Forgotten Books: CONAN THE DEFENDER by Robert Jordan (1982)

After picking up The Further Chronicles of Conan at Goodwill recently, containing Robert Jordan's fourth, fifth and final Conan novels, I decided to go back and reread the first two. (I read all six back in the '80s, so for some this is the third time through.)

I jabbered about the first novel, Conan the Invincible, a couple of years ago (HERE), so it's now time to say a few words about the second.

Conan the Defender takes place a year or two after Invincible, and involves two Jordan creations introduced in the first book. Most important is Hordo, a one-eyed former bandit chieftan who's now involved with a smuggling ring. In this book, he ably fills the role of Conan's sidekick and drinking buddy. The other returnee is a flame-haired she-devil named Karela, formerly known as the notorious bandit leader The Red Hawk. She, too, is a good character, but that's all I'm going to tell you about her, because to say more would be a SPOILER. 

Conan, a thief in the fist book, has graduated to mercenary, and has set his sites on forming his own Free Company (which is a whole band of mercenaries). He's left Shadizar behind, and now has just arrived in Belverus, capital of Nemedia. As usual, there are several nubile maidens on hand, and the obligatory evil sorceror dabbling with forces beyond his control. Of greater interest, there's a plot to usurp the throne of Nemedia from an unpopular king.

Robert Jordan made no attempt to ape Howard's style. Instead, he created his own, which lacks the poetry and rhythm of REH, but still has its charms. His Conan is more thoughtful, a bit more scrupulous, and has a wider-ranging sense of humor. He'd be a good guy to go carousing with. Finishing one of these books makes me want to start right in on the next, which is as it should be. 

Strange to say, parts of this story seem somewhat dated, a problem I never encountered in the Howard stories published sixty years earlier. How did this happen? Well, as part of the plot to overthrow the king, the conspirators stir up unrest among the city's artists, poets and free-thinkers. This little band of radicals believes in the power of peace and love, and hopes to bring about politcal change without tarnishing their ideals with violence. How quaint. That may have reflected the climate when this book was published in 1982, but if it were written today the protestors would be wearing masks and helmets, and throwing bottles at the City Guard.


Cap'n Bob said...

All well and good, but where's your salute to Davy Crockett on his birthday, today?

Evan Lewis said...

The old coot is techy about his age. You will be too, when you're 232.

George said...

I feel like dropping everything and read CONAN THE DEFENDER! And, like Cap'n Bob, I was wearing my coonskin cap today.