Book review - The Sowers of the Thunder - Review by Jim Tate
With the mass-market multi-media franchise that is the Conan industry laying its profitable shadow across the name of Robert Howard, it is well-worth our occasionally reminding ourselves of the excellence of the actual work of the author, one of whose characters has spawned this mercantile giant. As a memo-to-self of the quality of entertainment provided by Howard's bold imagination I would like to chose for review a book of four short stories that goes under the title of The Sowers of the Thunder.
A note from Will. I love all things Robert E. Howard and my thanks go out to Jim Tate for submitting this excellent review of some of Howard's stellar yet atypical work. Jim is a writer of Fantasy and if you want to read some of his work be sure to check out his book: The Fables of Ealdraed
The Sowers of the Thunder by Robert E. Howard
Including: The Lion of Tiberias / The Sowers of the Thunder / Lord of Samarcand / The Shadow of the Vulture
This is quite simply Robert Howard at his best - working in the field of historical fantasy rather than sword and sorcery. This is a very far cry from the youth-oriented fantasy that is so much the fashion today. Written in 1932 and 1933 these compelling yarns were intended as pulp fiction for a decidedly adult audience. Expect no winged dragons or pixie-magic here. In the first story one character has an eye ripped out when he is repeatedly whipped across the face and another is kept alive through his enduring capacity for sheer unrelenting hatred. This is the fantasy of grim tragedy and frustrated ambition; of violent justice and the casting aside of forgiveness; of honour and dishonour and the sword-blade's breadth that lies between them.
These four tales are set very loosely in the historical context of the Christian/Muslim wars of the mediaeval period wherein the infidel Franks do battle with the Turkoman scourge, where powerful Emirs measure their glory in the quantity of the enemy dead, where dispossessed and disaffected Europeans match steel with merciless imperialist Seljuks, Tartars and Janizaries ride in a thunder of pony hooves, siege towers rise, drunkards snore, beards bristle, throats are cut, the Suleyman plots and the Gael roars.
To enter the world that Howard creates so quickly in these few pages is like stepping outside to breathe fresh clean country air after having been shut up in a stuffy and crowded room. Your blood flows more freely in your veins and the balance of nature is restored. If you find yourself at odds with the values of the society you are living in, values which extol the virtue of vulnerability and sanctify the status of victimhood, then the attitudes and values of Howard characters like Gottfried von Kalmbach, Mikhal Oglu, Donald MacDeesa, and Red Sonya (yes, The Shadow of the Vulture is the story in which Red Sonya originally appears - and not a string scale-mail bikini in sight!) will be that long-awaited breath of fresh air. Go ahead, inhale. This collection of tales is a masterclass in historical fantasy. Strongly recommended.
You can get various versions of this story and novel on amazon.com