Conan the Formidable

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Conan the Formidable
Cover of first edition
Author Steve Perry
Cover artist Kirk Reinert
Country United States
Language English
Series Conan the Barbarian
Genre Sword and sorcery
Publisher Tor Books
Publication date
Media type Print Paperback
Pages 274 p.
ISBN 0-8125-0998-6

Conan the Formidable is a fantasy novel by American writer Steve Perry, featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was first published in trade paperback by Tor Books in November 1990; a regular paperback edition followed from the same publisher in August 1991, and was reprinted in June 1998.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

The novel opens with Conan walking to Shadizar through the Karpash Mountains. He is ambushed by some bandits in mountains and rescued by the giantess Teyle. She leads Conan back to the giant village in the swamp they inhabit at the foot of the mountains. The swamp is also inhabited by Vargs, who are described as "Green dwarves" but act more like goblins or orcs. Upon arriving, he is knocked out by Teyle to be experimented upon by the request of Raseri the giant chieftain and Teyle's father.

Conan awakes in a cage made of the bones of giants and finds he is being experimented upon by Raseri to research the physical endurance for damage of humans. At the same time, Dake the freakmaster is on his way to the giant's village with his entourage of Penz the wolfman, Tro the catwoman, Sab the four-armed man, and Kreg the assistant to the freakmaster. Dake's mission is to capture a giant and a "green dwarf" for his freak show.

On the way, the freak show is attacked by vargs, but the vargs scared off by a massive, red demon that Dake summons (which is an illusion). Penz captures one of the Vargs at the behest of Dake. Dake promptly enspells the Varg into servitude. The Varg that is captured turns out to be Vilken, the son of Fosull the Varg chieftain.

Conan eventually escapes the cage in which he is being held and sets fire to the hut he was stored in sending all of Raseri's research on humans into flames. Conan escapes into the swamp, running through some Vargs and killing several of them. At the same time, Dake arrives in the night in the hopes of capturing a giant for his freak show with the help of Tro the catwoman's night vision. The flaming hut distracts many of the giants and Dake is able to capture Teyle, as well as Morja and Oren who are also Raseri's children.

As Conan escapes, the giants release their "Hellhounds", a massive beast with the appearance of a cross between a bear and a wolf. The hellhounds, Vargs, and giants are tracking Conan in that order of following. Conan slays all the hellhounds. When the Vargs and giants find these corpses they are amazed. Conan finally escapes the swamp only to be magically captured by Dake.

Figuring that more of his own kind will attract too much attention, Raseri decides to leave the swamp to look for his children by asking the local humans if they have seen a man like Conan. Fosull decides likewise but coats himself in mud (so as not to display his green skin) and follows the cart's tracks, knowing what they look like. Fosull manages to get a ride with a drunk wine seller in the wine cart. Dake forces Conan to display his strength so that it may be measured. Dake learns that Conan is stronger than all the rest of the freak show combined and sets Conan to use as his strongman for the traveling circus.

Raseri eventually finds Fosull's wagon and learns that the cart in front of him contains a Varg that is tracking their children. Fosull learns that he is being tracked by a giant, but knows not who. Dake exhibits his circus to a village. Conan learns that rage helps to weaken Dake's spell. Penz reveals that he knows a few of Dake's spells.

Fosull and Raseri form a temporary alliance to rescue their children. Dake meets up with a caravan of other merchants. They stop for the night and Dake sends Morja to the leader of the caravan as a gift. Raseri and Fosull have managed to sneak up This enrages Dake's slaves and they manage to break the spell of entrapment set upon them. The former-slaves, Raseri, and Fosull manage to rescue Morja before she arrives at the merchant's wagon, kill some guards, and escape.

The group kills the merchant and several guards in the ensuing battle. Oren throws a rock at Dake as Dake is reciting his enslavering spell. The spell gets 2/3 done and binds the ex-slaves and Raseri and Fousull (except for Conan) before the thrown rock smashes Dake's teeth preventing the final articulations of the spell. Conan promptly slays Dake.

Raseri is convinced that the group should not be able to leave knowing how to get to the swamp village of the giants. Raseri tells the group that he has a potion which will help them forget how to get to the village. The potion is actually poison. Penz sprinkles a powder (Stolen from Dake) that turns all liquid to water into the cups of the slaves while Raseri is not watching. All the group drinks the potion and Raseri reveals they are about to die. Fosull, whose drink was not sprinkled with the magical powder, kills Raseri with his poisoned spear and dies shortly afterwards. Teyle decides to let the group go and the book is concluded.


Lagomorph Rex, having read all the Steve Perry Conan novels, notes that "this much Steve perry in one lump is hazardous to your health" and that he doesn't "really even know what to say about this one; I've already said it all about the last three"—which he assessed negatively. He observes that "all of Steve Perry's books read as the first part of a trilogy, which was fine back in Defiant or even Indomitable, but the fact it continued in Free-lance and Formidable... It's a standard formula... introduce Conan to some assorted odd creatures, bed at least one of the strange creature's females, have him go on a long quest, and at the end be a few hundred miles closer to Shadizar." He concludes "[s]o now we are in Shadizar, but what sucks is, according to Robert Jordan's timeline (the editor of the Tor Pastiches), these Steve Perry books would lead into Robert E. Howard's Tower of the Elephant. But astute readers will remember that Tower of the Elephant DOESN'T TAKE PLACE IN SHADIZAR! So, Steve has just spent about 1200 pages getting Conan to the wrong city."[2]

Don D'Ammassa calls the book "the weakest of Perry's [Conan] pastiches, but still not bad."[3]



Preceded by
Conan the Free Lance
Tor Conan series
(publication order)
Succeeded by
Conan the Guardian
Preceded by
Conan the Free Lance
Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology)
Succeeded by
"The Tower of the Elephant"