Saturday, March 25, 2023

Conan - The Blood-Stained God

Robert E. Howard created a fictional character named Kirby O' Donnell in the 1930s. O' Donnell was a treasure hunter from the U.S. that disguised himself as a Kurdish merchant. There were two published stories starring the character, “Swords of Shahrazar” (Top-Notch, October 1934) and “The Treasures of Tartary” (Thrilling Adventures, January 1935). The third story, “The Curse of the Bloodstained God”, was not published during Howard's lifetime. Instead, it was discovered in Howard's unpublished manuscripts. It was revised by L. Sprague de Camp and replaced O' Donnell with Conan. It was re-titled “The Blood-Stained God” and was first published in Tales of Conan (Gnome Press, 1955). The story was also featured in Fantastic Universe (April 1956). Additionally, it was reprinted in the paperback Conan of Cimmeria (Lancer, 1969). Howard's original O'Donnell version was published in Swords of Shahrazar (Orbit, 1976). As clarification, my review is de Camp's Conan version of the story.

After serving for approximately two years as a soldier in Turan, Conan sets off solo in search of a fabled treasure in the Kezankian Mountains. Before the rugged action begins, Conan is in the city and sees a man being tortured by a group of men. After a scuffle that knocks Conan unconscious, he awakens to meet an Iranistani named Sassan. This man reveals to Conan that he is in search of the treasure and that a former prince and his companion were the torturers (this was rather confusing). Sassan and Conan decide to team together to search for the treasure.

In the mountains, Conan and Sassan are attacked by the prince and his companion, who are then attacked by a small army of Kezankians that are protecting the treasure from invaders. This fight ends up with everyone dead except Conan, Sassan, and the prince. The three find the temple and Sassan is killed by a booby trap. In an obligatory fashion, the prince attempts to kill Conan and is shocked when the real guardian of the treasure reveals itself. 

I feel like these treasure-hunting Conan stories all end in the same fashion - the hero never gains the gold. The protective baddie always prevents wealth and prosperity, forcing Conan to live his wild and restless lifestyle. What saves “The Blood-Stained God” is the action sequences that escort Conan and Sassan through the dangerous mountain pass. The oncoming army and two key criminals (not Conan and Sassan!) let the arrows fly, increasing the need to find the treasure by destroying each other. I also enjoyed Conan's easy problem-solving to avoid a similar fate that killed Sassan. The treasure’s protector was a lot of fun, but predictable. Recommended, but there are better Conan stories out there.

No comments:

Post a Comment