Long before Robert Jordan built his wildly successful Wheel of Time series (debuting with 1990's Eye of the World), the now-canonized writer cut his fantasy teeth borrowing time with Robert E. Howard's dark pulp-fiction hero, Conan of Cimmeria. Of the six novels Jordan contributed to the Conan series (well, seven, if you count the alt-history Conan the Destroyer), three have been assembled here for rerelease: 1983's Conan the Triumphant and 1984's Conan the Magnificent and Conan the Victorious. (The other three appear in Jordan's first collection, The Conan Chronicles.)
Anyone who writes Conan stories immediately draws the scrutiny of true believers--those of us who carted around tattered Carter and de Camp paperbacks in our book bags for years, drooling over the lusty Boris Vallejo covers (laughably tame compared to the Weird Tales covers from the '20s and '30s, where Conan first appeared). But Jordan gets it right, some argue better than anyone but REH himself, soundly grasping the first rule of Conan writing: the stories aren't about Conan; Conan is the story. A problematic hero, an almost elemental force, Conan exists beyond good and evil--the predictable wench-hoisting and head-cleaving of a good Conan tale are just a backdrop for the blue-eyed barbarian, which plays perfectly to Jordan's superlative descriptive skills.
This second Jordan collection is classic Conan: The Magnificent pits the Cimmerian against belligerent hill people, a golden-eyed fire beast, and bow-toting noble babe Jondra; in The Triumphant, Conan kicks butt on the evil god Al'Kiir and his sinister (and, of course, hot) servant Lady Synelle; The Victorioushas Conan wounded by a poisoned assassin's blade--and his search for an antidote leads him to Vendhya and a subterranean crypt guarded by the eight-armed beast Masrok and a host of demons. Crom and steel! --Paul Hughes [via]