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Conan The Victorious

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#1 Ring-Haunter


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Posted 28 January 2004 - 09:39 PM

By Robert Jordan
Tor 1984

This is an earlier critique I wrote for myself about a year ago, so I apologize if it isn?t as detailed as some of my previous Conan pastiche reviews.

Plot Capsule

In Saltanapur Conan works for Hordo the smuggler. After Conan kills three Turanian officers in a tavern brawl, he becomes a hunted man in the city?but not for the killing of the officers. On the evening of a peace treaty between Turan and Vendhya, someone poisoned the Turanian High Admiral, and rumors of a blue-eyed foreign assassin make Conan take refuge in Hordo?s warehouse, only to be accidentally poisoned when he tries to open some booby-trapped chests in cargo. Ghurran, an herbalist, temporarily halts the poison but tells Conan he must travel to Vendhya to find the antidote. Conan sets out with Hordo and his crew to deliver the chests as arranged, hoping to trace a way to the antidote and the men behind the scheme. Ghurran comes along to help keep Conan alive. The Cimmerian quickly becomes involved in the intrigues of Vendhya, where Karim Singh, advisor to the King of Vendhya, plans to seize the throne. Helping him in his plan are the wizard Naipal and an imprisoned demon named Masrok. But Naipal has his own scheme to resurrect an army of the dead from a lost Vendhyan city. But there are more secret forces, both political and supernatural, working behind the scenes as the dealings in the Kingdom of Vendhya become more byzantine. And there?s a kidnapped princess to be rescued in the bargain.


Robert Jordan has written some of the better of the Conans published by Tor, starting with one of my favorites, Conan the Invincible, which had the feel of a new author bursting with enthusiasm over a favorite character. But Conan the Victorious, Jordan?s seventh Conan novel (counting the novelization of Conan the Destroyer) falls far below his standards. Jordan ceased writing Conan after this novel. Perhaps he had become bored with the series, and if so, the malaise definitely overwhelms him here.

Whatever the reason, Jordan?s last date with Robert E. Howard?s literary child subtly disappoints. It is overstuffed with political intrigue and double-crosses and not enough adventure, magic, or the exotic. This is especially disappointing since it takes place mostly in Vendhya, Howard?s fantasy version of India seen in ?The People of the Black Circle?; if any locale should feel exotic, it should be this one. It?s true that political maneuvering has an important place in many of Robert E. Howard?s Conan works as well as his historical adventure stories for Oriental Stories/Magic Carpet, but Jordan lets an avalanche of scheming slow down the pace of the story. (A good comparison would be with Howard?s "Hawks over Egypt"?which staggers under too much intrigue in too little space, but that was a work Howard didn?t sell in his lifetime.) The short synopsis can?t begin to explain the extra characters and subplots that clog up Conan the Victorious: the poisoner Patil, Prince Kandar, Princess Vyndra, the traitorous Nemedian Prytanis, and a Khitan merchant named Kang Chou, whose niece Chin Hou gets tied up in Karim Singh?s kidnapping plot. Your head dizzy yet? With so many characters and plots and counterplots, Conan the Victorious relies heavily on information exchange between characters instead of action and movement. Many of the subplots get a short shrift, such as a spy named Jelal, and the details fade over the long stretches while the other storylines compete for space. When the pay-offs for the Jelal and Ghurran subplots come due, they have marginal effect and seem as if the author merely forgot about them until he suddenly needed them for the finale.

These problems would become symptomatic of many of the pastiches to come: too much plot, too little development, and a limp finale. In this case, the ending is particularly weak. Masrok the demon and the army of the dead are too rapidly disposed of in the quick rush to the last chapter, and the coda fails to patch up the numerous plot holes and story points that Jordan dashed over earlier. Jordan?s Conan career started so promisingly in the fast and imaginative Conan the Invincible, but by this last novel, his party with the Cimmerian had definitely come to a bleary end.

Fortunately, the next novel, Conan the Valorous, introduced author John Maddox Roberts, who would pen some of the better pastiche novels. Conan the Valorous remains a favorite of mine among the Tors, and I promise I?ll write about it someday.

Rating: Two out of Five <_<
Ryan: The Haunter of the Ring, Reviewer at Large, The Swing Dancin? Stygian

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Posted 18 March 2012 - 03:02 PM

I have to disagree with the opinions in this review. I just finished this book and found it to be very well written and fairly unique among Conan pastiche. I suppose Jordan knew this would be his last Conan and he decided to stray from his tried and true efforts of the past and inject less Howard and more Jordan into the book. Surprisingly, this one is in many ways much closer to Howard in
terms of interesting plot and solid characters.

I like this novel a lot. There is less action than pretty much any Howard pastiche out there but I enjoyed the extra effort on the character development and Jordan offers up a great many interesting Hyborians for your pleasure. Also, women play a lesser role in The Victorious. The ones that are presented are pretty well flushed out with the possible exception of the Khitian assassin. She had great possiblities.

I liked the rather complex, yet easy to follow plot. There is plenty of mystery for Conan to solve and it takes him a good while to figure
out just who the enemies are. I suppose that my greatest regret after having read this is the fact that so many cool folks are introduced and unfortunately we shall never meet them again. I even liked the huge demon that Conan freed from his magical prison (though by accident).
I also like the idea of the magical dagger and the zombie warrior that conan dispatched. Lots of
good stuff here. The ending was a bit abrupt but it was exciting just the same.

Conan the Victorious is a bit different from Jordan's other Conans, and I enjoyed them all. Still, this one lets Jordan use his own voice a little more and surprisingly, his real voice turned out to perhaps been closer to Howard than his pseudo Howard voice was! Check this one out if you want something a little heavy plot wise with tons of great characters. Not quite as much action but I enjoyed it just the same.

Edited by TheMIrrorThief, 18 March 2012 - 03:05 PM.