The second written work of Conan the Barbarian takes a big step in a different direction. Instead of the problems of the story coming to a resolution at the point of Conan’s sword, the tale was more of a crime scene drama.
The tale begins with a guard on patrol outside a temple. When he finds a door unlocked he charges inside. He then sees the body of the Temple Master on the floor, our beloved barbarian is standing with a sword over the body. The guard sounds the alarm and several others rush in. Despite the appearance, Conan insists he is not responsible for the murder and nearly kills the lot for insulting his honor. So, the tale turns out to be an analysis of the crime scene from the city guard.
Howard is good with dialogue and description. Though the dialogue is a little bit dated, I am very easily swept up in each scene. This story is very dialogue driven which can be said of other Conan stories, but there was very little physical action in this story. The tension is strong as the guard decyphers whom is responsible for the murder and it builds all the way to the end.
The problem with this story, however, is that the end does not satisfy. The story grabbed me and held on, but when it was finished I was like “that’s it!?” and the beginning of the next story was before me on the page. I’m not sure if it has to do with story denouement style in the 30’s or not, but it just felt like the story halted rather abruptly.
This story by no means will keep me from reading on through all of the Conan stories because I assume it just has to do with style and a short story can be very difficult to close correctly. It was not a bad story. I was engaged the whole time. If the ending had better satisfied the build up it would have been a wonderful story. But it ends up just being okay. Check it out for free in the link below and feel free to share your thoughts as well.
About the Author: Robert Ervin Howard was an American pulp writer of fantasy, horror, historical adventure, boxing, western, and detective fiction. Howard wrote “over three-hundred stories and seven-hundred poems of raw power and unbridled emotion” and is especially noted for his memorable depictions of “a sombre universe of swashbuckling adventure and darkling horror.”
He is well known for having created — in the pages of the legendary Depression-era pulp magazine Weird Tales — the character Conan the Cimmerian, a.k.a. Conan the Barbarian, a literary icon whose pop-culture imprint can only be compared to such icons as Tarzan of the Apes, Count Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and James Bond.