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Kull: Exile of Atlantis Howard s writing seems so highly charged with energy that it nearly gives off sparks Stephen King Robert E Howard had a gritty, vibrant style broadsword writing that cut its way to the heart, with heroes who are truly larger than life David GemmellIn a meteoric career that spanned a mere twelve years, Robert E Howard single handedly invented the genre that came to be called sword and sorcery From his fertile imagination sprang some of fiction s most enduring heroes Yet while Conan is indisputably Howard s greatest creation, it was in his earlier sequence of tales featuring Kull, a fearless warrior with the brooding intellect of a philosopher, that Howard began to develop the distinctive themes, and the richly evocative blend of history and mythology, that would distinguish his later tales of the Hyborian AgeMuch than simply the prototype for Conan, Kull is a fascinating character in his own right an exile from fabled Atlantis who wins the crown of Valusia, only to find it as much a burden as a prizeThis groundbreaking collection, lavishly illustrated by award winning artist Justin Sweet, gathers together all Howard s stories featuring Kull, from Kull s first published appearance, in The Shadow Kingdom, to Kings of the Night, Howard s last tale featuring the cerebral swordsman The stories are presented just as Howard wrote them, with all subsequent editorial emendations removed Also included are previously unpublished stories, drafts, and fragments, plus extensive notes on the texts, an introduction by Howard authority Steve Tompkins, and an essay by noted editor Patrice Louinet Howard was a true storyteller one of the first, and certainly among the best, you ll find in heroic fantasy If you ve never read him before, you re in for a real treat Charles de Lint For stark, living fear what other writer is even in the running with Robert E Howard H P Lovecraft

  • Paperback
  • 352 pages
  • Kull: Exile of Atlantis
  • Robert E. Howard
  • English
  • 19 February 2019
  • 0345490177

About the Author: Robert E. Howard

Robert Ervin Howard was an American pulp writer of fantasy, horror, historical adventure, boxing, western, and detective fiction Howard wrote over three hundred stories and seven hundred poems of raw power and unbridled emotion and is especially noted for his memorable depictions of a sombre universe of swashbuckling adventure and darkling horror He is well known for having created in the pages of the legendary Depression era pulp magazine Weird Tales the character Conan the Cimmerian, a.k.a Conan the Barbarian, a literary icon whose pop culture imprint can only be compared to such icons as Tarzan of the Apes, Count Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and James Bond Wikipedia Librarian Note There isthan one author in the Goodreads database with this name.



10 thoughts on “Kull: Exile of Atlantis

  1. Dan Schwent Dan Schwent says:

    Here we are again another installment of Dangerous Dan s Book Reviews, because after all, you can only hide from the law in a brothel for so long before the girls start demanding payment for services rendered.Today I ll be reviewing a short story entitled Kings of the Night by the one and only Robert E Howard Kings of the Night can be found in both Kull Exile of Atlantis and Bran Mak Morn The Last King That s because it stars both of the title characters How can that be you ask Kull li Here we are again another installment of Dangerous Dan s Book Reviews, because after all, you can only hide from the law in a brothel for so long before the girls start demanding payment for services rendered.Today I ll be reviewing a short story entitled Kings of the Night by the one and only Robert E Howard Kings of the Night can be found in both Kull Exile of Atlantis and Bran Mak Morn The Last King That s because it stars both of the title characters How can that be you ask Kull lived in an age before the ocean drank Atlantis and Bran Mak Morn lives in England around the time the Romans came The answer is simple Magic Kings of the Night is also a rarity among Howard s stories because there isn t a single monster in it.Kull was a swords and sorcery character Howard created a few years before Conan and it shows, both in terms of concept and writing Not to say the writing is bad It isn t It s just not as polished as Howard s later work That being said, Howard s prose compared to other fantasy is like drinking your first bottle of Guinness after a lifetime of light beer Where was I Oh yeah, Kull Kull is a barbarian who became a king and struggles between his savage ways and the statecraft involved in managing a kingdom.Bran Mak Morn is the last king of the Picts, a savage people who were great allies of Kull s kingdom of Valusia thousands of years before Bran s time When we catch up to Bran Mak Morn, the Picts have declined almost to the point of extinction Bran s not all that different from Kull except that he knows that his fight against the Roman occupation is a losing battle.A nigh immortal Pictish sorcerer brings Kull to the future, convincing him he s dreaming in the process Kull plays along with the sorcerer and soon ends up in command of a band of Norsemen against the Romans.Before this story was published, Howard told his contemporary, H.P Lovecraft, that it contained the best battle scene he d written up to that point Howard was right and it might be the best mass battle in fantasy ever written This thing is Braveheart violent once things get rolling The tactics are written with a flair that keeps them from becoming boring but then how could you get bored with limbs being hacked off and a band of Picts and Vikings going up against colossal odds Until next time, keep your powder dry and your guns loaded

  2. Bookwraiths Bookwraiths says:

    My rating is 3.5 stars Full review to come My main feeling about this one is that I really like Kull and his close companions, but the incomplete stories were difficult to read at times.

  3. Jim Jim says:

    Read by Todd McLaren downloaded from my public library You rock, Library The introduction by Steve Tompkins is long, over 30 minutes Almost immediately, he puts down ERB s John Carter He said something about Carter s ego being so big that Helium, the city he rules, is well named Seriously He crapped on ERB s character I ll bet most Kull Conan fans like John Carter, too I do, although not as much, but that s just unnecessarily rude It s not a contest about whose sword is bigger, y Read by Todd McLaren downloaded from my public library You rock, Library The introduction by Steve Tompkins is long, over 30 minutes Almost immediately, he puts down ERB s John Carter He said something about Carter s ego being so big that Helium, the city he rules, is well named Seriously He crapped on ERB s character I ll bet most Kull Conan fans like John Carter, too I do, although not as much, but that s just unnecessarily rude It s not a contest about whose sword is bigger, you know.While Tompkins had some good material about REH, he went on forever Talk about a large ego I found myself with less less patience for his opinions, so after enduring him for 20 minutes, I came back in to the house figured out where he quit so I could start in on the actual stories Tantor Media if you are reading this, please be advised that putting the introduction each story into a separate track would be very much appreciated Just ripping these stories off the CD s dumping them into files makes you look cheap uncaring It s a PITA to FF through the track not knowing how long to hold down the button while trying to do other things like drive or weed the garden.The stories are in their original format, so many are just fragments I find that frustrating I know a lot of Howard buffs dislike the Lancer editions because deCamp Carter finished heavily edited REH s original words, but they re what I started with I minterested in a full, rousing story After all, Howard is one of the premier escapist authors If I wanted accuracy realism, I ll read a nonfiction book or a historical fantasy.McLaren is a pretty good reader, but this just didn t work as an audio book for me Where Kull s philosophizing used to be entertaining, I was just impatient with his loose grip on reality gullibility Also, if I heard By Valkha onetime, I was going to sic Crom on him, so I quit I remembered the stories a bit too well, anyway

  4. Terence Terence says:

    I first read Howard s Kull stories on a trip home from college one Christmas My brother had picked up a used copy a very used copy of a paperback collection, which was falling apart in my hands as I read.My initial reaction was one of disappointment Perhaps, at that time, I was looking for aConan like story Whatever the case, when I was building my GR library, I gave these stories but 2 stars I m glad that I took advantage of a SF Book Club sale to pick up this reissue of the series I first read Howard s Kull stories on a trip home from college one Christmas My brother had picked up a used copy a very used copy of a paperback collection, which was falling apart in my hands as I read.My initial reaction was one of disappointment Perhaps, at that time, I was looking for aConan like story Whatever the case, when I was building my GR library, I gave these stories but 2 stars I m glad that I took advantage of a SF Book Club sale to pick up this reissue of the series because on rereading them, I found Kull muchinteresting.Is Kull a failed Conan Well, if you re looking at it from a popularity point of view, then the answer would be yes But if you re looking at it from a literary point of view, then the answer is definitely no True they re both barbarians from a lost, prehistoric world and both carve a bloody path to the thrones of civilized kingdoms but even a cursory reading of a Kull story shows that Howard was experimenting with a very different type of story and character Kull thinks Kull broods boy, does he brood Kull has no time for women Kull is an elemental force but he keeps asking why Howard is also experimenting with ways to tell a story I d describe most of these tales as Dunsanian in flavor the settings are sketchily laid out and the writing style is very dreamlike often Kull thinks he s just moving through a dream, in fact and the characters are passive.This edition has some really nice interior illustrations I m particularly taken with the picture of Delcardes and her cat on page 88 and an interesting essay about Howard and the writing of the Kull stories.Definitely recommended for Howard fans, though they shouldn t expect a proto Conan

  5. Mike (the Paladin) Mike (the Paladin) says:

    Good reliable sword and sorcery Kull the barbarian king of Atlantis kicking butt and having his scribe take names.In the introduction of the book our organizer of stories goes to great length to tell us that Kull isn t really Howard s warm up for Conan Look I know I don t have a degree and I m not an authority but at least to a certain extent I have to disagree Kull is where Conan goes There is acomplete feeling for me at least in the Conan stories.Still this is a good read and like Good reliable sword and sorcery Kull the barbarian king of Atlantis kicking butt and having his scribe take names.In the introduction of the book our organizer of stories goes to great length to tell us that Kull isn t really Howard s warm up for Conan Look I know I don t have a degree and I m not an authority but at least to a certain extent I have to disagree Kull is where Conan goes There is acomplete feeling for me at least in the Conan stories.Still this is a good read and like the Conan stories and other of Howard s works can be read over and over with continued enjoyment If you haven t tried these I can recommend them.Enjoy

  6. Eric Eric says:

    You have power, Kull, said he, choosing his words withcare than he did in the council rooms of the nation, to make yourself mightiest of all kings, and restore some of the lost glories of Valusia So I care little for Valusia though the women and wine be excellent save for the fact that the stronger Valusia is, the stronger is the Pict nation More, with an Atlantean on the throne, eventually Atlantis will become united Kull laughed in harsh mockery Ka nu had touched an old wound You have power, Kull, said he, choosing his words withcare than he did in the council rooms of the nation, to make yourself mightiest of all kings, and restore some of the lost glories of Valusia So I care little for Valusia though the women and wine be excellent save for the fact that the stronger Valusia is, the stronger is the Pict nation More, with an Atlantean on the throne, eventually Atlantis will become united Kull laughed in harsh mockery Ka nu had touched an old wound Atlantis made my name accursed when I went to seek fame and fortune among the cities of the world We they are age old foes of the Seven Empires, greater foes of the allies of the Empires, as you should know Ka nu tugged his beard and smiled enigmatically Nay, nay Let it pass But I know whereof I speak And then warfare will cease, wherein there is no gain I see a world of peace and prosperity man loving his fellow man the good supreme All this can you accomplish if you live Ha Kull s lean hand closed on his hilt and he half rose, with a sudden movement of such dynamic speed that Ka nu, who fancied men as some men fancy blooded horses, felt his old blood leap with a sudden thrill Valka, what a warrior Nerves and sinews of steel and fire, bound together with the perfect co ordination, the fighting instinct, that makes the terrible warrior.But none of Ka nu s enthusiasm showed in his mildly sarcastic tone Tush Be seated Look about you The gardens are deserted, the seats empty, save for ourselves You fear not me Kull sank back, gazing about him warily There speaks the savage, mused Ka nu Think you if I planned treachery I would enact it here where suspicion would be sure to fall upon me Tut You young tribesmen have much to learn There were my chiefs who were not at ease because you were born among the hills of Atlantis, and you despise me in your secret mind because I am a Pict Tush I see you as Kull, king of Valusia, not as Kull, the reckless Atlantean, leader of the raiders who harried the western isles So you should see in me, not a Pict but an international man, a figure of the world Now to that figure, hark If you were slain tomorrow who would be king Kaanuub, baron of Blaal Even so I object to Kaanuub for many reasons, yet most of all for the fact that he is but a figure head How so He was my greatest opponent, but I did not know that he championed any cause but his own The night can hear, answered Ka nu obliquely There are worlds within worlds But you may trust me and you may trust Brule, the Spear slayer Look He drew from his robes a bracelet of gold representing a winged dragon coiled thrice, with three horns of ruby on the head Examine it closely Brule will wear it on his arm when he comes to you tomorrow night so that you may know him Trust Brule as you trust yourself, and do what he tells you to And in proof of trust, look ye And with the speed of a striking hawk, the ancient snatched something from his robes, something that flung a weird green light over them, and which he replaced in an instant The stolen gem exclaimed Kull recoiling The green jewel from the Temple of the Serpent Valka You And why do you show it to me To save your life To prove my trust If I betray your trust, deal with me likewise You hold my life in your hand Now I could not be false to you if I would, for a word from you would be my doom Yet for all his words the old scoundrel beamed merrily and seemed vastly pleased with himself But why do you give me this hold over you asked Kull, becomingbewildered each second As I told you Now, you see that I do not intend to deal you false, and tomorrow night when Brule comes to you, you will follow his advice without fear of treachery Enough An escort waits outside to ride to the palace with you, lord Kull rose But you have told me nothing Tush How impatient are youths Ka nu lookedlike a mischievous elf than ever Go you and dream of thrones and power and kingdoms, while I dream of wine and soft women and roses And fortune ride with you, King Kull As he left the garden, Kull glanced back to see Ka nu still reclining lazily in his seat, a merry ancient, beaming on all the world with jovial fellowship.A mounted warrior waited for the king just without the garden and Kull was slightly surprised to see that it was the same that had brought Ka nu s invitation No word was spoken as Kull swung into the saddle nor as they clattered along the empty streets.The color and the gayety of the day had given way to the eerie stillness of night The city s antiquity wasthan ever apparent beneath the bent, silver moon The huge pillars of the mansions and palaces towered up into the stars The broad stairways, silent and deserted, seemed to climb endlessly until they vanished in the shadowy darkness of the upper realms Stairs to the stars, thought Kull, his imaginative mind inspired by the weird grandeur of the scene.Clang clang clang sounded the silver hoofs on the broad, moon flooded streets, but otherwise there was no sound The age of the city, its incredible antiquity, was almost oppressive to the king it was as if the great silent buildings laughed at him, noiselessly, with unguessable mockery And what secrets did they hold You are young, said the palaces and the temples and the shrines, but we are old The world was wild with youth when we were reared You and your tribe shall pass, but we are invincible, indestructible We towered above a strange world, ere Atlantis and Lemuria rose from the sea we still shall reign when the green waters sigh for many a restless fathom above the spires of Lemuria and the hills of Atlantis and when the isles of the Western Men are the mountains of a strange land How many kings have we watched ride down these streets before Kull of Atlantis was even a dream in the mind of Ka, bird of Creation Ride on, Kull of Atlantis greater shall follow you greater came before you They are dust they are forgotten we stand we know we are Ride, ride on, Kull of Atlantis Kull the king, Kull the fool And it seemed to Kull that the clashing hoofs took up the silent refrain to beat it into the night with hollow re echoing mockery Kull the king Kull the fool Glow, moon you light a king s way Gleam, stars you are torches in the train of an emperor And clang, silver shod hoofs you herald that Kull rides through Valusia.Ho Awake, Valusia It is Kull that rides, Kull the king We have known many kings, said the silent halls of Valusia.Although his adventures arethrilling and the tales of his exploits arepolished, well structured, and varied in content and locales I find the personality of Conan the Cimmerian to be not even as remotely as fascinating as that of his predecessor, Kull of Atlantis, and thus I have the uncommon opinion of finding Kull to be themagnetic hero than his iconic successor I felt this way from having only previously read The Shadow Kingdom, The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune, Kings of the Night, and By This Axe I Rulein contrast to the 21 completed Conan stories, and now that I ve read every word completed, unpublished, and unfinished related to the first hero of the genre Robert E Howard created and popularized which, to this day, there still isn t a main consensus among fantasy readers and writers on what to call it exactly my opinion is all thefirm and stronger Conan is a deeper andwell realized character than pop culture s depiction of him would have you think, but nonetheless there s an element of masculine, adolescent wish fulfillment that can t be separated from the character, and that element keeps me from being a fan of the character Batman s another character I ve only ever liked, not loved Kull is just as mighty and tough as Conan, but there s a sense of vulnerability and fallibility to Kull s yarns that I never sensed from Conan s, even when the Cimmerian was in the most dire of circumstances.Kull bleeds buckets and survives wounds that would kill lesser men, but Howard never had him survive something as extreme as a crucifixion like he did with Conan Where Conan can attract and seduce any nubile woman he wants even unintentionally , Kull has never laid with a woman, and is far from comfortable around them His strongest relationship throughout his tales is his fire forged friendship with Brule the Spear Slayer, and although Howard clearly intended the King of Valusia to be asexual by invoking death of the author in this day and age it s hard not see Kull being ignorant that he s homosexual, although either sexuality is welcome for such a macho archetype as the barbarian hero The weight of the crown of Valusia weighsheavily upon Kull s brow and the Atlantean chafesunder the chains of command than the crown and chains of Aquilonia did on Conan There were only 3 stories that took place during King Conan s reign, and one of those The Phoenix on the Sword is the first Conan story, which is, to many REH fans including myself , an inferior rewrite of By This Axe I RuleIt s the only one where Conan has to deal with an assassination plot The other two have Conan deal with foreign invasions, and while their terrible for his kingdom and his subjects they at least give him an opportunity to stretch his legs, leave his palace, and be proactive Meanwhile, with the exception of one very short story, all of Kull s adventures take place during his time as King Kull, an outsider to his people and his subjects When he isn t keeping his guard up for conspiracies and assassination attempts, Kull is fully assailed by the boredom and frustration of kingly duties and Valusian politics and the ennui of achieving the wildest dreams he imagined when he was just an orphan of the mountains and jungles of Atlantis When he isn t reacting to attempts on his life, Kull is looking for something to get his blood pumping or his vivid mind whirling with possibilities, whether it is a sealed abominationeldritch than anything Conan, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn or any other REH character has ever faced pursuing a man who only insulted him beyond the borders of his empire visiting a magic mirror daily to gaze at his own reflection or meeting an ancient, talking cat Most of all, Conan s mind, though intelligent and cunning, is generally settled on the present and broods over current struggles, with his only ambitions being pleasure from women or battle , riches, and adventure Kull s mind, unlike not just Conan s but so many of Howard s protagonists, is unusually introspective and imaginative The barbarian king broods over questions that would never occur to Conan or most of us to ask, let alone ponder over Questions regarding life, the universe, and everything I can t shake the notion that Kull s moody, philosophical, vivid imagination is the best glimpse we ll ever get of one of the fathers of modern fantasy own incredibly powerful imaginationThat is, when the king of the most glorious of the Seven Empires of the Thurian Age isn t spilling the blood and splitting the skulls of his enemies.4 1 4 stars

  7. Michael Michael says:

    Howard s stories about Kull of Atlantis are generallyreflective than his better known Conan tales, and have an air of melancholy that, personally, I think contrasts well with theconventional hack and slash elements.Although Kull s world is not as fleshed out as Conan s Hyborian Age, this works to the tales advantage, as it adds to the age lost mystery and atmosphere of degeneracy of a world in its last throes, about to be washed away by geological upheavals, a slate wiped clean re Howard s stories about Kull of Atlantis are generallyreflective than his better known Conan tales, and have an air of melancholy that, personally, I think contrasts well with theconventional hack and slash elements.Although Kull s world is not as fleshed out as Conan s Hyborian Age, this works to the tales advantage, as it adds to the age lost mystery and atmosphere of degeneracy of a world in its last throes, about to be washed away by geological upheavals, a slate wiped clean ready for a new age.There s a fair admixture of cosmic horror of the kind H.P Lovecraft admired in Howard s works, and also a sprinkling of the sardonic humour that fans of Howard s non fantasy works will recognise, but which may come as a surprise to those who only know him as a Sword and Sorcery writer.Whilst not as commercial successful in their day in fact, Howard only saw three, I think, published in his lifetime as the later Conan stories, I think the Kull stories are some of Howard s best

  8. Mike (the Paladin) Mike (the Paladin) says:

    Good reliable sword and sorcery Kull the barbarian king of Atlantis kicking butt and having his scribe take names.In the introduction of the book our organizer of stories goes to great length to tell us that Kull isn t really Howard s warm up for Conan Look I know I don t have a degree and I m not an authority but at least to a certain extent I have to disagree Kull is where Conan goes There is acomplete feeling for me at least in the Conan stories.Still this is a good read and like Good reliable sword and sorcery Kull the barbarian king of Atlantis kicking butt and having his scribe take names.In the introduction of the book our organizer of stories goes to great length to tell us that Kull isn t really Howard s warm up for Conan Look I know I don t have a degree and I m not an authority but at least to a certain extent I have to disagree Kull is where Conan goes There is acomplete feeling for me at least in the Conan stories.Still this is a good read and like the Conan stories and other of Howard s works can be read over and over with continued enjoyment If you haven t tried these I can recommend them.Enjoy

  9. Malum Malum says:

    For those who are familiar with Howard s work via Conan might find Kull a bit different While they are both barbarians that only barely hold their wild natures in check, Kull is muchintrospective than Conan Where a Conan story will involve split heads and savage fury, Kull stories arelikely to involve court intrigues and thoughts about man s place in the world and in history.

  10. Sandy Sandy says:

    There s a reason why I never lend out books any, even to my closest friends namely, the fact that when I used to loan them out, I never got them back in the same good condition, or, even worse, never got them back at all Cases in point three paperbacks from one of my old favorite writers, Texas born Robert E Howard Back in the mid 60s, Lancer Books released all of Howard s Conan the Barbarian stories in a now classic series of 12 paperbacks, as well as a beautiful paperback of another There s a reason why I never lend out books any, even to my closest friends namely, the fact that when I used to loan them out, I never got them back in the same good condition, or, even worse, never got them back at all Cases in point three paperbacks from one of my old favorite writers, Texas born Robert E Howard Back in the mid 60s, Lancer Books released all of Howard s Conan the Barbarian stories in a now classic series of 12 paperbacks, as well as a beautiful paperback of another legendary Howard character, King Kull I owned all 13 of those wonderful volumes, and made the big mistake of lending the first two Conan books out both featuring gorgeous cover artwork by Frank Frazetta , as well as the Kull featuring eye popping cover artwork by Roy Krenkel I ve not seen any of those three books since then Flash forward around 50 years to last fall, when, browsing around at the annual Miami Book Fair, I happened to find a tight, pristine, and obviously unread copy of King Kull, in the Lancer paperback from 1967 that I had lost, selling for the steal of a deal price of 3 I purchased it instantaneously, and a recent rereading of this classic piece of sword sorcery indeed, the veritable origin of the sword sorcery genre has been, for me, like reacquainting myself with an old friend For all fans of fantasy and of this genre in particular, the book is an absolute must read.Kull, for those unfamiliar with the character, made his first appearance in the August 1929 issue of Weird Tales magazine, in the story The Shadow Kingdom, so no, Howard most certainly did not get his inspiration for the regal name from 1933 s King Kong Howard would go on to write 13stories dealing with the character plus one poem , but only two of those were published before his suicide death in 1936 The Lancer volume, sadly enough, is complete with the exception of two of those 14 tales Kings of the Night one of the non posthumous stories, from the Nov 30 Weird Tales and The Curse of the Golden Skull as the Lancer editors noted, those two stories were omitted because the first has been subsumed in the Bran Mak Morn series, and because the second only mentions Kull in passing Still, it would have been nice, for the sake of completeness, to have been given these anyway, as I m sure therecent collection from Ballantine Books did Still, the 12 stories and one poem that the Lancer volume offers, in addition to a helpful map of Kull s world by the book s editor and flesher outer, Lin Carter, plus a prolog and epilog by Howard detailing the 3,500 year, post Cataclysmic history between Kull s time and Conan s future era, make for a very pleasing experience nevertheless And, it should be noted, the vast majority of these Kull tales made their initial appearance in this very Lancer volume Written in Howard s finest pulp style, the stories here are unfailingly exciting, fast moving, colorful, evocative, violent, and often, surprisingly, quite touching Kull is acontemplative hero than Conan he is often to be found with his chin on his fist, gloomily pondering on his throne on a myriad of weighty matters and far less interested in the fairer sex But the two are equally well gifted as to strength and agility, and, of course, the use of the sword and the broadaxe Fans of both pulp fiction and sword sorcery are not likely to find better fare to fill their needs than the exploits of this Atlantean exile, who eventually becomes the king of Valusia, the greatest country on the continent of Thuria.As for the stories themselves, this Lancer edition kicks off with an excerpt from Howard s Hyborian Age history, before plunging into the short tale Exile of Atlantis, which reveals how the young Kull was forced to flee from his native Atlantis, after mercifully killing a woman who his tribe was about to burn at the stake This segues into a short paragraph, undoubtedly written by Carter, that explains how, following his banishment, Kull became a galley slave aboard a Lemurian vessel, and then a gladiator, soldier and commander in the country of Valusia He ultimately plots against the despotic King Borna, seizing the crown after a bloody coup.Up next is that earliest Kull tale, The Shadow Kingdom, one of the most oft anthologized short stories in the Howard canon This piece not only introduced the world to Kull, but also to three other characters who would make regular appearances thereafter Brule the Spear slayer, a Pictish soldier who, over time, becomes Kull s closest friend Ka nu, the shrewd Pictish ambassador to Valusia and Tu, Kull s elderly chief councilor Here, Ka nu alerts Kull to a secret menace threatening his kingdom serpent headed monstrosities that can take on the semblance of any human being, their only telltale weakness being an inability to utter the words Ka nama kaa lajerama It is a tremendous story, justly celebrated, that really sets the mood and tone for this volume Surprisingly, these serpent demons never figured again in another Kull story A pity.This is followed by a short tale in which Kull is only mentioned in passing an offstage presence Rather, this story, The Altar and the Scorpion, tells of a young man who beseeches the Great Scorpion god, in its temple, to protect him, his lady love, and his people from the evil Thuron, high priest of The Black Shadow And when Thuron himself enters the holy place, the young lad will indeed require all the assistance he can get from that crystalline scorpion image, in this slight but ultimately pleasing tale Black Abyss finds Kull and Brule relaxing in the decadent pleasure city of ancient Kamula But the sudden disappearance of one of Brule s fellow Picts leads to a little investigating by the two barbarian allies, during which a subterranean passage is discovered, leading to the lair ofZogthuu, a 90 foot long worm god, the loathsome monstrosity whose name had been a legend of terror for thrice ten thousand years The good king surely does have a tough time dealing with this creature, the likes of which even Conan the Cimmerian might have quailed before Delcardes Cat introduces the reader to the character who would soon become Kull s archnemesis Thulsa Doom, an ancient, skull faced necromancer But first, Kull is introduced to the titular feline, a cat named Saremes who is thousands of years old, and capable of speech and offering bits of philosophical wisdom Saremes becomes a confidante of the king, soon revealing to him the dire news that Brule has gone missing in the depths of Valusia s Forbidden Lake Going there at once, Kull does battle with a human faced octopus creature, as well as a horned and four armed shark man , after which a 200 foot long serpent captures him and brings him to the so called Enchanted Land beneath the lake s surface It was as if Howard s imagination were working on overdrive, so much does he manage to cram into this exciting tale.In The Skull of Silence, Kull hears a legend told by Kuthulos, the servant of the cat Saremes, to the effect that in a lonely and shunned region of Valusia, there stands a deserted, black castle known as the Skull of Silence, in which the imprisoned essence of absolute silence is supposed to reside Curious yet disbelieving, Kull rides to the site with Brule and 100 of his elite Red Slayers, breaks open the lock of the ancient pile, and unleashesan elemental force from ultracosmic hell capable of driving men mad and engulfing the world This encounter would forever afterward be known as The Day of the King s Fearand for very good reason, as it turns out In the epic in scope tale Riders Beyond the Sunrise, Kull, accompanied by a company of Picts and Red Slayers, follows the trail of the Valusian countess Lala ah, who has unlawfully eloped with the adventurer named Felnar, who hails from the country of Farsun, to the south Their trail leads ever east, through the countries of Zarfhaana and Grondar, and into the barren wastelands beyond That Lin Carter map comes in very handy for this tale This is a beautiful story, really, gripping and well told, and capped by another appearance by that evil mage, Thulsa Doom himself Some bravura work here from Mr Howard.And it is followed by one of the greatest of all Kull tales, By This Axe I Rule, which tells of an assassination attempt planned by a quintet of Valusian nobles, one of whom is a crazed minstrel another, a sinister dwarf And as a subplot, we have the plight of Seno val Dor, a young swordsman who is hopelessly in love with a slave girl named Ala The story is highlighted by a climactic and bloody melee between Kull and the five plotters, but perhaps evenso by the sweet and gentle scene that transpires between Kull and Ala in a woodland gladean interlude so very touching that I recalled it from my first reading a half century ago A truly marvelous tale, this, that was inexplicably rejected by the editors, causing Howard to revise and recast it as the very first Conan tale, The Phoenix and the Sword, for the Dec 32 Weird Tales In The Striking of the Gong, Kull awakes to find himself in another worldor perhaps, another dimension An ancient man tells him that he has passed through the Door no, he is not dead, but has rather been given a chance to learn that there exist worlds beyond worldsuniverses beyond universes, multiplied in a complexity beyond the comprehension of those you are pleased to call gods Kull and the graybeard go on to discuss recondite matters touching on the nature of existence, time and space in this truly mind blowing story one that culminates with the Valusian king thankfully back in his palace, mere seconds older but infinitely wiser Swords of the Purple Kingdom gives us another unhappy couple 19 year old Nalissa, the noble daughter of one of Kull s oldest friends, and Dalgar, another Farsunian who is not permitted to take a Valusian bride and another assassination attempt on Kull s life The mastermind behind this coup wears a mask throughout the bulk of the tale, although only the most slow witted of readers will fail to guess his her identity The tale wraps up with a tremendous set piece, in which Kull does battle with several dozen warriors while standing atop an outdoor stairway in the city s Accursed Gardens, and with a closing scene of no small emotional impact.In Wizard and Warrior, Brule the Spear slayer relates the story of how he, as a young and untried warrior, first attained his spearthe symbol of Pictish manhood We learn much about the Picts and their customs during the course of this fascinating tale, in which Brule and his tribe go off to fight the tribe of the Sungara, culminating in Brule s mano a mano battle with the Sungaran wizard Aa thak And in case you re wondering who emerges victorious from this seemingly unequal contest, the tale concludes with Kull s wise words Magic fails, as it ever must, against a strong man s will and wit And let me tell you, that Brule can really tell a story Thus, his description of wading through a swamp The marsh water was cold and slimy, and as we waded we broke the film of green decay that scummed the surface, and a rotten odor rose noisome in our nostrils like some unthinkable stench from the underpits of the ultimate hell Whew The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune, the final story in this Lancer edition, was actually the second Kull story to see the light of day, in the Sept 29 issue of Weird Tales This tale finds the king despondent and fed up with his worldly lot On a whim, he takes the advice of one of his court maidens and goes to see the legendary mirrored palace of the wizard Tuzun Thune He stares for many days into the infinite depths of the many mirrors there, discussing, again, the nature of reality with Thune, all this time neglecting his kingly duties while he ponders whether he himself is real, or if his mirrored image is in actuality the reality A brooding and philosophical tale, this, capped off by still another heroic act of valor by Brule the Spear slayer.This volume is brought to a close by a short yet atmospheric poem about Kull, entitled The King and the Oak, and by an epilog consisting ofof Howard s background to the Hyborian Age In this epilog, he neatly condenses 3,500 years of post Cataclysmic history into seven pages, bringing us up to the age of Conan the Barbarian It is a pleasing coda to a wonderful collection of stories As the reader turns over the final page of this Lancer edition, one thought will likely be paramount How did so many of these terrific tales go unpublished rejected by the editors or not submitted by Howard at all for over 30 years Fortunately, they are all readily available to readers today Those readers now have the choice of either going online and doing a little searching for this currently 53 year old, original, classic Lancer volume, OR picking up the admittedlycomplete, profusely illustrated, modern day edition from Ballantine Whichever version the reader pops for, several evenings of enchanting wonders will surely be the result By the way, this review originally appeared on the FanLit website at a most ideal destination for all fans of Robert E Howard

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