Review: The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane

Robert E. Howard may be best known for his Conan stories, but it is in the savage tails of Solomon Kane that his skill as a writter shine the brightest.  Kane is just a fascinating character.  A puritan swordsman and gunfighter with a witch doctor for a blood brother who wanders throughout Africa on a quest to prove that he’s driven by the need to right wrongs and not to assuge an incurable blood lust.  He is the prototypical Weird Tales hero, and they just don’t make characters like that anymore.

Many comparisons can be made to Howard’s slightly better known hero.  Both are natural fighters, both adhere to a strong ethical code (albeit a slightly abnormal one), and both are critics of the civilized world.  But while Conan offers an outsider’s perspective on civilization Kane is used to explore the consequences that the so called civilized world has upon the rest of the globe.  The monsters that Kane fights throughout his travels in Africa are almost entirely ones said to have been driven out of their homes by the empires of Europe and the Mid East.  Not only does this provide a venue for Howard to explore his largest pet theme, but it also provides the stories with a real sense of history, making the world Kane inhabits truly believable.

I’m a huge fan of such stories, and this new collection from Ballantine is a gorgeous way to present them.  Ballantine has been producing a series of authoritative Howard collections, complete with story fragments and biographical essays, not to mention lavish illustrations on nearly every page (in this case by the great Gary Gianni).  This book is a must have.

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