The Phoenix on the Sword
(The Conan the Barbarian series)
Robert E. Howard
Public Domain Books
DESCRIPTION: Once a barbarian from savage Cimmeria, the warrior Conan now rules over Aquilonia, a civilized but turbulent nation. Now, the people who welcomed him
when he threw down their former, corrupt king stir restlessly, as dark rumors are whispered in the shadows. Behind these, lurking like a spider in a web, skulks Ascalante, who has assembled a network of traitors to assassinate Conan and install his own puppet on the throne. But forces greater than mere politics are afoot, and an evil greater than Ascalante can imagine is about to be unleashed within Aquilonia.
REVIEW: Available as a public domain freebie, this was the first short story in the vaunted Conan the Barbarian series, one of the seminal franchises behind the
fantasy genre. The foreword claims that Tolkien was not influenced by this, but both he and Howard drew off the same epic narrative roots, replete with elder-day verbosity and poetic turns of phrase. Conan is a larger-than-life hero, a battle-thirsty barbarian who nevertheless ultimately has the good of the people at heart. His enemies, naturally, want nothing but evil things, acting for entirely selfish reasons. There's intrigue and ancient magic and, of course, some good, old-fashioned skull-bashing. I don't expect I'll follow Conan much further, myself, but I can definitely see the appeal of the story, especially to younger boys.
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