The Honorable Barbarian

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The Honorable Barbarian
The Honorable Barbarian.jpg
First edition
Author L. Sprague de Camp
Cover artist Darrell K. Sweet
Country United States
Language English
Series Novarian series
Genre Fantasy
Publisher Del Rey Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 240
ISBN 0-345-36091-5
OCLC 19457644
813/.52 19
LC Class PS3507.E2344 H6 1989
Preceded by The Unbeheaded King

The Honorable Barbarian is a fantasy novel by American writer L. Sprague de Camp, the fifth and final book of his Novarian series. It is a sequel both to the "Reluctant King" trilogy and to the Novarian sequence's only short story, "The Emperor's Fan". It was first published in hardcover by Del Rey Books in July 1989, with a limited edition hardcover following from The Easton Press in its "Signed First Editions of Science Fiction" series in August of the same year. Another hardcover edition issued by Del Rey in conjunction with the Science Fiction Book Club appeared in January 1990. The first paperback edition was issued by Del Rey in May 1990. The novel has also been translated into French.[1] An E-book edition was published as The Honourable Barbarian by Gollancz's SF Gateway imprint on September 29, 2011 as part of a general release of de Camp's works in electronic form.[2][3]

Plot summary[edit]

Jorian, ex-king of Xylar, has had enough adventures to last a lifetime. But when his brother Kerin, youngest son of Evor the Clockmaker, commits an indiscretion with Adeliza, a neighbor's daughter, he is packed off on a hasty quest to uncover the secret of an advanced clock escapement for the family firm. A pragmatic, cautious sort, he preps for his journey with a crash course from his experienced brother in useful skills — swordsmanship and foreign tongues, of course, but also lying and burglary. He is hampered and sometimes aided by the sprite Belinka, commissioned by the calculating Adeliza to ensure Kerin's faithfulness.

Kerin's goal takes him east across the Inner Sea, the Sea of Sikhon and the Eastern Ocean to the empire of Kuromon, where he is promised the secret in return for a magical fan lost centuries before. It has the property of making whatever it is waved at disappear without a trace. Along the way he must contend with a treacherous sea captain and his suspicious navigator, the duplicitous sorcerer Pwana, and the pirate crew of Malgo, who has a grudge against Kerin's family.

A more pleasant complication is Nogiri, a princess of the island empire of Salimor, whom Kerin has liberated (much to the displeasure of Belinka) from the pirates. Kerin returns her to Salimor only to lose her to the nefarious designs of Pwana, and a dire fate from which she can only be preserved by a daring rescue on roller skates.

Finally Kuromon is reached and negotiations are concluded satisfactorily, but only at the cost of an unexpected regime change.

The book's cover photo (see illustration), depicting part of Kerin's rescue of Nogiri, is a clear allusion to the famous balcony scene in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet — with magic elements added.


As with the rest of the parallel world in which Novaria is located, de Camp bases the countries visited on Medieval realms of our own world. Thus Kuromon combines elements of ancient Japan and China, while the eastern islands are reminiscent of both Japan and Southeast Asia.


Preceded by
The Unbeheaded King
Novarian series
The Honorable Barbarian
Succeeded by
The Sedulous Sprite