Conan the Outcast
Cover of Conan the Outcast by Leonard Carpenter
|Cover artist||Ken Kelly|
|Series||Conan the Barbarian|
|Genre||Sword and sorcery Fantasy novel|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
Conan the Outcast is a fantasy novel written by Leonard Carpenter featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was first published in paperback by Tor Books in April 1991, and was reprinted in February 1998.
The King of Sark calls in his High Priest Khumanos to talk about the drought situation. After the ritual sacrifice of many high priests, Anaximander decides that a larger offering to the god Voltantha is needed. He directs Khumanos to sacrifice Qjara, a more prosperous city to the north.
To do this correctly, Khumanos seeks out Solon in the desert, to which he expresses doubts about the mission. Solon sees Khumanos' compassion as a weakness and shows him the Sword of Onothimanos, which is just a rusted hilt. Khumanos becomes emotionless and devoted to the mission. So much so that he kills Solon because he outlived his usefulness.
Conan is on the outskirts of Qjara awaiting a caravan to Shadizar. He is invited into the carvan sector of the city by some local children. He settles down in a bar and meets Afriandra in disguise. She proves her precognitive ability by correctly predicting the death of a nearby patron. When Zaius comes to the bar looking for her, Conan provides a distraction by taunting him. Zaius says he is not worth the effort.
Conan begins a romance with Afrianda, which offends Zaius. The two men have a quick fistfight which Conan is winning, which Afrianda implores him to stop. Conan demands a formal duel which Zaius rejects on the basis of Conan not being a citizen. After Conan defends Qjara's gates from a nomad attack, he becomes an honorary citizen and uses the opportunity to challenge Zaius to ritual combat. Zaius accepts.
Meanwhile, King Anaximander begins a diplomatic mission to Qjara. He witnesses proof of what he thinks of as Qjara's debauchery and asks the king and queen for permission to set up a temple to Voltantha in the city. Qjara's royalty goes one better, proposing a "marriage" between the goddess Saditha and Voltantha. The deal is done, and Khumanos begins his work.
Khumanos bids slaves to mine three veins of glowing green rock from a Sarkian mountain. Extended exposure to this rock causes sores and cancer and even death. Keeping the rocks of the three veins separate, the slaves refine it into three separate statues. These three statues are hoisted onto carts and sent by three different routes to Qjara, avoiding populated areas and going through the wastelands. Despite the heat and hard labor, Khumanos insists the carts be driven by human labor with limited breaks.
In Qjara, Conan prepares for his duel. Zaius preens and postures for the crowd, angering Conan. When the duel begins, Zaius' first stroke cuts off his own head. Not recognizing this as a ritual suicide, Conan begins ridiculing Zaius for backing away from the fight. This angers the royalty and forces them to cast him out of the city.
- Sark: A dying, drought-stricken city in southern Shem that has been suffering for at least seven years.
- Qjara: A vibrant city in northern Shem which stands upon the trade route to Shadizar.
- Anaximander: The ruthless king of Sark. He is detail-oriented, setting up a process even for his own grooming that he believes keeps his slaves in line.
- Khumanos: High priest of Sark.
- Solon: An old mystic in the deserts of Sark.
- Voltantha: God of Sark, who takes the form of a tree.
- Saditha: Goddess of Qjara.
- Afrianda: Princess of Qjara who can also see the future.
- Zaius: Chief Temple Guard of Qjara.
- Sword of Onothimanos: A psychic sword that can kill the soul.
Reviewer Lagomorph Rex finds the novel "boring, really boring, so boring that it took me nearly a month to read it." He feels "Conan was extremely not Conan in it," spending "an inordinate amount of time doing well.. helpful.. things," like "teach[ing] the local orphans how to fish." He compares the book unfavorably to those by Steve Perry, whose "books were silly, but at least his Conan at least shared a few identifiable features." More positively, he notes "this book adds geographical and political levels to the normally empty 'Shem' on the maps," which he considers "rather more interesting than the story itself."
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