I’ve oft written about my love of fantasy, sci-fi and sword and sorcery as a genre, one of my favourite authors being Robert E Howard who was behind the creation of such lasting characters as Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane. I was aware of, but had never actually read many of his other works, so I decided to dip my toe in and try Kull The Exile of Atlantis. Before his tragic suicide in 1936 Howard wrote 13 Kull storeis (10 of which were published posthumously), and you can start to see that the character was really a sort of drawing board that when fleshed out sort of morphs into Conan. Many reviewers and critics of Howard’s work have all drawn comparisons between the characters , most agreeing that Kull served as a precursor to the more successful Conan.
Moving back to the story at hand, The Shadow Kingdom, serves as an introduction to Kull and his world. We soon discover his origins, his ambitions and his motivations and learn that uneasy is the head that wears the crown. There is a pertinent lesson that could apply to many leaders today, and that’s that it may be easy to get into power, but once you’re there, chances are that you wont have a clue what your doing, and asking would be akin to ripping of your fingernails whilst in a shark tank.
In the story our hero Kull has to form uneasy alliances and navigate the worlds of statecraft and palace intrigue, all while trying to save his own neck, cement his rule over the newly acquired kingdom of Valusia and combat the steep learning curve that comes with crowns. Oh did I also mention snake priests, yes that’s right, half man, half snake, all priest.
It was a good read, and because of its age I was actually able to find it free on wikisource, and its short length made it an excellent choice in bedtime reading. I’m probably going to read the rest of Kull’s adventures over the coming weeks so look out for more reviews coming your way.