The Further Chronicles of Conan

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Further Chronicles of Conan by Robert Jordan.

Jordan The Further Chronicles of Conan

This omnibus edition includes Conan the Magnificent (my earlier review here), Conan the Triumphant, and Conan the Victorious (my earlier review here). There is no editorial framing to relate the three novels to each other or to any larger Conan continuity. Strangely, the sequence in which they appear in the book is neither their order of first publication (in which Conan the Triumphant led), nor that of their likely narrative chronology (in which Triumphant would be the last of the three). Perhaps this volume reflects the order in which Jordan actually wrote them? They were all originally issued in paperback by Tor Books in a period of little more than a single year.

By sheer chance, I ended up reading the three stories in their chronological sequence. Of the three, Triumphant is the most conservative, in terms of its closeness to the REH character and setting. The other two novels take place in the east of Conan’s world (the far east in the case of Victorious), and demand a little more creativity on Jordan’s part. There is certainly some inventiveness in Triumphant, centering mostly on the nature of the supernatural threat involved: a dormant demon-god held over from the Acheronian-age past who thrives on BDSM. It is somewhat puzzling that this entity has an apparently Arabic name. 

Another notable feature of Triumphant is the reappearance of Karela, a bandit leader nursing a love-hate relationship for Conan that she had developed in previous stories by Jordan; she is only one of the several female characters used ceaselessly –and somewhat preposterously–throughout this novel to emphasize the barbarian’s irresistability for the sexual appetites of all women. 

I retract the hypothesis advanced in my earlier review that Jordan had “never really developed a rhythm for a short stand-alone novel.” In fact, he had written multiple Conan novels before the ones collected here (thus “Further Chronicles”), and these three show scrupulous adherence to a somewhat mechanical formula. The feature that had put me off–a hasty climax and plot resolution–is evidently just the way he writes. Each book dependably features a prologue which provides a first exposition from a “villain’s-eye view.” Then the focus shifts to Conan, and follows his progress into deeper and deeper trouble, with him unaware of the sorcerous elements involved until nearly midway through the book. The entire climax of the book, including the abrupt defeat of the supernatural menace, is packed into a final chapter. And an epilogue details the fates of the principal characters.