Conan of Venarium by Harry Turtledove
Tor HCVR: ISBN 076530466X PubDate: 07/01/03
Review by Bruce Wallace
256 pgs. List price $24.95
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Conan of Venarium is another volume in what could easily be called a tribute to the work of Robert E. Howard the originator of the Conan saga. However it is not just another book in a long and seemingly never ending (We hope!) series of Conan books, rather it tells the important story of Conanís youth. Until now all we knew about Conan and the land that he came from (Cimmeria) was that he had a black mane of hair, volcanic blue eyes and strength and a temper to match. Home and the god that looked out for the people of Cimmeria, (Crom) was cold and intolerant of the weak. Given Conanís strength both physical and mental there was never a doubt in my mind that he would in fact be a favorite of his peopleís god and a survivor.
The story begins with Aquilonian armies marching upon Conanís icy homeland. This is not the first time Aquilonia has tried to subdue the warlike Cimmerians,
but this time they are successful. The battle occurs far from young Conanís village but news and the repercussions arrive almost as fast as Conanís defeated father and the few remaining survivors of the battle stagger back home. Shortly after the men make it back to the village, the conquerors arrive as well. The terms they offer are stern. They will place a garrison in or near the village, which the village will support. If any of the soldiers are killed or end up missing 10 Cimmerians will die as well and slowly.
Conan and his fellow countrymen do not like this but Conanís father urges caution and patience. Soon the conquered and the conquerors go to try out sleep on the uneasy bed that war and its aftermath bring about.
Life in post-war Cimmeria starts out with usual thousand yard stares between all parties but as time goes by the soldiers and the villagers begin to interact in small ways and life goes on. Conan begins to learn the language the soldiers and settlers speak and soon begins an uneasy dialogue with both. Conan in fact befriends one farmer and the interplay throughout this short tome speaks volumes about humanities ability to find common cause and even prosper under even the most adverse conditions.
If this was the whole story, it would be a quiet one for a Conan story. However it is not. Magic and evil doing follow Conan wherever he goes. He defeats not one but two evil magical apparitions and having survived that he finds that the Tarla, the girl of his dreams has been kidnapped by Count Stercus, the leader of the invaders. Word spreads like wildfire after Tarla is abducted and the uprising the Aquilonians had sought to prevent is quickly at hand.
Battle is joined with the outcome in doubt but the legend of young Conan has been launched. Conan will always live to fight again! He has too many fans for it to be any other way.