Conan: The Scarlet Citadel

I am not getting to read as much Conan as I would like. The Complete Chronicles of Conan are, well, complete, hardcover, quite bulky and very heavy. Not a book to drag around with you. My main reading time, meanwhile, is in trains. And I have a tendency to go to bed later than I ought, which means I am usually too tired to read a lot. Besides, it’s been Christmas, and I didn’t want to drag the book with me home for Christmas. But. I have now read another Conan short story: “The Scarlet Citadel,” a story that follows “The Phoenix on the Sword”.

THE PLOT: King Conan falls victim to a betrayal, and while his army is crushed, he himself is taken prisoner by the evil sorcerer, Tsotha-lanti. While trying to break out of the wizard’s dungeons, he encounters another prisoner who helps him.

INTERESTING POINTS: This story contains a dungeon. When reading that section of the story, I can easily imagine that this was what Gygax and his contemporeries were thinking of when they created the early, dungeon-crawling rpgs. There is also two sorcerers, one half-devil power hungry evil guy and one arrogant, mysterious, but probably decent, non-evil one. This is a portrayal of wizards that I like: mysterious, preoccupied with other-worldly matters, and powerful enough that they get everything they desire of a worldly persuasion. Finally, I intrigued by the envisioning of a battle in the story as it puts me in mind of the podcast, The History of Rome, which deals with many ancient Roman battles – and this could have been one of them. In other words, the battles seem very realistic, at least top me as a layman.

MY VERDICT: A very good story. I am still quite impressed with the quality of Conan stories. I would say, though, that something about it doesn’t quite ring true. I think it might be the feeling that no matter what, Conan is never going to come to any true harm.

All in all, I would recommend it. The language is fine, the plot is pretty good, and there are some interesting portrayals of certain common genre traits.

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