Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review: RED NAILS by Robert E. Howard

book cover Original Publication Date: 1936
Genre: fantasy
Topics: adventure, revenge

Review by heidenkind:

Valeria is a female pirate who is on the run after killing a man who tried to rape her. In the remote jungles of, I'm guessing here, the Yucatan, she meets Conan. After killing a dragon, Conan and Valeria find themselves in a strange and ominous walled city home to two warring clans: the Tecuhltli and Xotalanc. Valeria and Conan are welcomed by the rulers of the Tecuhltli and agree to help them defeat of the evil Xotalanc--in exchange for a reward of course--but only after they complete their task do they realize they might have made a deal with the devil.

This is another really good Conan the Barbarian book. I've read several since The People of the Black Circle, and while all of them have been enjoyable, most are pretty short and I don't have a lot to say about them. Red Nails stood out because of the female characters, the twisty turns, and its sheer awesomeness.

There are not one, but TWO central female characters in Red Nails. The first is Valeria, who is like a proto-Xena (total Xena Warrior Princess fan right here). She's tough and she doesn't take any shit from anyone, including Conan, who basically spends the entire book trying to get into her pants.

The second female character is Tascela, the queen of the Tecuhltli who immediately becomes enraptured with Valeria. I don't want to say what her deal is because that would spoil the story, but she's also a really interesting character with her own agenda, and she's a lot more than she appears.

Second of all, Red Nails is so twisty! I never could have predicted where the story was going at the beginning. Toward the end I was like, "Huh-wha?" but in a good way. It's only about 150 pages, but it has a full three acts, the glory and decimation of an entire civilization, AND Conan gets the girl (actually Conan isn't in the story that much, it's mainly Valeria's book, and she's the one who saves the day).

Third of all, this is an awesome adventure. I'd put it on par with Captain Blood or a movie like Romancing the Stone. But Robert E. Howard also isn't afraid to ask questions, like what is the nature of a society driven by war and turmoil? I loved the scene where Techotl, the person who brings Conan and Valeria into Tecuhltli, is like, "But wait, what are we going to do with ourselves once we kill all the Xotalanc?" GOOD QUESTION, Techotl.

So basically Red Nails is the literary equivalent of bacon. IT'S IRRESISTIBLE GOODNESS. Everyone likes bacon, even if it's not healthy for them. And the Conan books are pulpy awesomeness. I love Robert E. Howard so hard, you guys.*

Download Red Nails by Robert E. Howard at Project Gutenberg|Librivox

*Side note: Have you read Howard's Wikipedia page? They make him sound like Norman Bates if he'd written novels instead of killed people.