Conan shouldn’t run from enemies or use supernatural booby traps as he does in this curious fantasy adventure.
BOOK REVIEW ROBERT E HOWARD CONAN THE BLACK STRANGER 1953
An unusual Conan story in which the great Barbarian often behaves reprehensibly and quite out of character.
It begins with great excitement with Conan running away from a fight for once. He is being chased by hordes of angry Picts, possibly in revenge for their defeat at his hands in the preceding Conan Chronicle, Beyond The Black River.
Their pursuit of the Cimmerian warrior has run for over a hundred miles and he is tiring out, wounded and virtually spent. He finds a hill from which he plans to accept death, taking as many Picts with him, but the Picts cower from the cursed hill and retreat in terror.
Puzzled, Conan explores the hill and finds a hall chamber containing a great treasure trove and several dead adventurers. A mysterious force attacks Conan but the action shifts o a separate set of events leaving this drama as a rather over-stretched cliffhanger.
The action shifts to a beachfront fortress, which is home to a Duke in self-imposed exile and his wife & young daughter. The Duke has unwittingly raised and offended a demon (The Black Stranger of the title) that pursues him relentlessly round the World. The daughter sees the demon on the coast and within the fort. Her father beats her savagely in an effort to make lies of her sincere claims. Her thrashing is a genuinely shocking event.
His exile is further disturbed by the arrival of two rival factions of pirates seeking a hidden treasure. The Duke enters into an uneasy alliance with them in the quest, and all parties plan t kill the others the first chance they get.
Conan now re-appears, claiming to have already found the treasure. He joins the treacherous band and tries to lead them to their deaths in the same booby trap killer gas that almost claimed his life.
Conan’s methods seem cowardly and cruel her and his attempt fails, leading to a brutal battle between the armies of the other three factions. Conan finally behaves honourably by saving the two women involved. The Black Stranger arrives to complete his mission, totally independently of other events in the story.
Tense, and exciting but this does not feel like a true Conan story.