Though it is not something I normally do, but I've left reviewing King of the Bastards for a few days. Sure, that's partly because I've been a little busy, but it's mostly because I did not know how to frame my reaction to this one. So after considerable thought, I've decided to distill my review of this Conan/John Carter/Soloman Kane pastiche into an Essential Review and then a Slightly Longer Review.
Slightly Longer Review:
For a hardcover novel that is one part of the first ever set of limited edition novels I ever purchased, courtesy of one of my favourite authors, Brian Keene, this was significantly disappointing.
Basically, along with co-author Steven Shrewsbury, Keene has created his version of old man Conan who comes across like an entitled, crotchety asshole whose only positive trait is he remains an incredible warrior despite his advancing age. Which unlike, say, Druss from the book Legend by David Gemmell, makes Rogan very hard to like.
Unfortunately, his adventures were not much more engaging. Shrewsbury and Keene quickly set up a major threat to Rogan's legacy, but then the rest of the book follows his exploits to try and get back to his kingdom where said legacy is in harm's way. In other words, this is like the prelude to a much more engaging adventure. Though the evil Rogan faces in King of the Bastards is meant to be pretty damn nasty. It ought to be since it's Meeble, one of The Thirteen, which are beings that seek to destroy everything God created in the entire multiverse and around whom Keene has been weaving his elaborate mythos since he began getting works published. Only in this novel, Meeble was reduced to being a puppet master of a villain and whom Rogan takes on single-handedly. So either Meeble is the pathetic one of The Thirteen or he has been dumbed down to suit this story. Either way, I'll say it again, disappointing.
Anyway, I know this should not be reviewed as if it's aiming to be a literary masterpiece, but there's such a thing as being too pulpy. And for me, this novel crosses that line. In emphatic fashion.
I honestly thought I would eventually own or have at least read everything Keene ever publishes. But after struggling through King of the Bastards, I've realised I may need to adjust that to being a plan to read or own all his horror or thriller works, and leave the pulp fantasy to those who appreciate that sort of thing more readily.
2 Britches Not Being Big Enough for King of the Bastards.