Conan the Warlord

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Conan the Warlord
Conan the Warlord.jpg
Author Leonard Carpenter
Cover artist Ken Kelly
Country United States
Language English
Series Conan the Barbarian
Genre Sword and sorcery
Publisher Tor Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 273 pp
ISBN 0-8125-4268-1

Conan the Warlord is a fantasy novel by American writer Leonard Carpenter, featuring Robert E. Howard's sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. It was first published in paperback by Tor Books in March 1988, and was reprinted in April 1997.[1]


In a prologue set in northern Nemedia's Varikiel marshes, a farm boy named Lar is bitten by something. The scene then switches to Conan, attempting to escape a Nemedian prison. While the breakout is thwarted, it does bring the Cimmerian to the attention of someone powerful, and he soon finds himself recruited to serve as a body double for Favian, son of Baron Durwald of Dinadar. Favian and Conan resemble each other because Favian's mother was also a Cimmerian. As the young noble is a spoiled rich brat, the two do not hit it off well.

Conan receives a crash course in upper class Nemedian society, etiquet and swordplay, though he finds civilized fencing rather silly in comparison to the broadsword. He remains suspicious of his new employer, at one point shadowing Durwald as he makes his way into a tomb, seemingly for purposes of ancestor worship. His dislike of Favian is cemented when he catches the lord whipping Ludya, a serving girl he has befriended, and intervenes to protect her. The matter is patched over, and Ludya removed from Favian's attentions by being sent back to her home in the Varikiel marshes. Later, while learning the use of a chariot, the party Conan is in gets ambushed. He and Favian route the attackers, and later get involved in putting down a local "rebellion" — which proves nothing more than the villagers' attempt to avoid the tolls at a royal bridge by establishing their own ferry. This and Favian's use of the right of droit du seigneur after a wedding bring the barbarian's opinion of Nemedian nobility to an all-time low.

Everything changes when Favian is murdered by the woman on whom he attempts to exercise his "right;" it turns out she was merely using his lust to lure him to his death. Conan recognizes the woman as one of their earlier attackers, and also a person he had saved from rape during the raid on the village, but has little time to ponder this development, as he quickly finds himself accused of having killed both Favian and his employer, Baron Durwald. Then the castle is attacked by a spectral band of cavalry, which is defeated only by the intervention of a host of actual rebels under the command of Durwald's outlawed cousin. Conan, to escape being hanged for murder, sides with the newcomers. With the legitimate ruler and his heir dead, the two sides come to an agreement; they will form a new council to rule the barony, with Conan, impersonating Favian, as their puppet baron. Conan is less than pleased at the arrangement.

This state of affairs is interrupted by ominous tidings from the Varikiel Marshes and a plea for aid by Baron Ulf, ruler of that area. Conan, concerned about Ludya, joins the force his keepers send to relieve Ulf. The army finds a devastated landscape, burned, pillaged and denuded of inhabitants. The devastation appears the work of a cult worshipping the dark god Set. A day later the soldiers encounter a party of locals, all driven mad by Set's serpent plague, among them is Baron Ulf, who regains enough sanity to warn of an ambush, and of the priest of Set behind it all. In the ensuing fighting several soldiers die, as well as the woman who had killed Durwald and Favian.

Guided by Ulf's directions, Conan goes in search of the priest of Set. The center of the serpent plague turns out to be Ludya's native village, and the "priest" Lar, the boy from the prologue, the plague's first victim. He is evidently acting as the agent of some outside supernatural entity. Conan finds Ludya and frees her from the cult's control; she fills in the missing pieces of the puzzle. To get near the boy, both feign they are under the influence of the plague. Their wariness proves wise when Lar sheds his skin and reveals himself as a reptilian monstrosity which Conan, in revulsion, impulsively batters to death. With Lar's demise his ensorceled army goes to pieces; some of his followers, now revealed as animated corpses, rapidly decomposing, while the madmen composing the remainder reawaken to sanity.

Conan returns to Dinadar with Ludya, abandons the guise of Favian, and strikes out for the south, eager to see the last of Nemedia.


Comparing the book to Conan the Outcast, another of Carpenter's Conan novels, reviewer Lagomorph Rex rates it "not nearly as bad," noting that it "had a plot, though pretty far fetched even for the Conan pastiches ... [seeming] to stretch the credibility of what the Barbarian would put up with." He also takes issue with its chronological placement in the schemes of Robert Jordan (before Conan the Champion) and William Galen Gray (before "Rogues in the House"), concurring with them that it would take place after "The God in the Bowl," but advancing Conan the Hunter as a more natural sequel.[2]

Reviewer Don D'Ammassa calls "Carpenter's third Conan novel ... much better than the first two" (Conan the Renegade and Conan the Raider), and "surprisingly enjoyable," noting "[t]he story is quite methodically developed and well paced and the characters are much more complex than in the previous books."[3]



Preceded by
Conan the Marauder
Tor Conan series
(publication order)
Succeeded by
Conan the Valiant
Preceded by
"The God in the Bowl"
Complete Conan Saga
(William Galen Gray chronology)
Succeeded by
"Rogues in the House"