We saw Conan (known as Amra, here) more or less take leadership of an association of pirates in Red Brotherhood. Now he’s running the show, constructing a castle, fortifying the stronghold port city of Djafur and basically trying to establish it as a viable nation. He prods his fellow, independent captains into following his lead, citing the prosperity that inevitably results from his actions. He turns pirating into a profitable commercial activity with permits and the like.
The story largely consists of two parts: an extended undersea excavation and a big naval battle. Everything else is pretty much filler. There’s not a whole lot to this novel, and if you don’t buy into the ‘Conan as king of a pirate city’ thing, you aren’t going to put this in the keeper pile.
Now, some of Carpenter’s description evinces a nice writing style, such as scenes where the ships are at sea. Other parts, however, do not. Note this exchange between Conan and his mistress (who would later drag him into a lesbian love triangle…)“The view of the stars is better here, too,” Conan remarked, drawing her close again and gazing skyward. “Would that my topmast could reach this high when I try to navigate on a foggy evening.”
“I’ll raise your topmast, and I’ll fill your sails for you,” she bragged eluding his grasp and standing upright on the paves. “First, let’s strike some of this extra canvas.” Reaching to the back of her gown, she loosened it and let it slip down around her bare ankles.
“Then stand ready to grapple and board,” he muttered hoarsely, lunging to his feet after her.Really? I might have thought that clever as a teenager, but I’m not sure even then. Did that exchange seem Conan-ish to you?
This one is pretty tame on the Conan sex scale, with the wenches who get angry at him always falling back into his arms.
I haven’t read The Red Brotherhood yet, so I can’t compare this one to that. Overall, I thought it was an okay book. One I didn’t mind reading but not one I expect to read again. He seems awfully forgiving to someone who betrays him, costing him a fortune and leaving Conan to escape a near certain death. The climactic battle was interesting, though I thought that the end of it was a bit weak.
If you like Conan as a reaver/corsair/pirate instead of a land-based barbarian, you should probably give this one a read, though I’d suggest The Red Brotherhood first, since it directly precedes Scourge.