This is the second of the Robert E. Howard “Conan the Barbarian” stories I’ve covered, having reviewed The People of the Black Circle some time ago. I should be reviewing more in the future, as I plan to do at least 5 in total by the end of the year.
The story begins with a group of ruffians sitting in a candle-lit room. A Cimmerian comes in and discusses with a thief the Tower of the Elephant, a grand tower where a sorcerer named Yara keeps a treasure. They say Yara once turned a man into a small spider and stomped on him.
A fight ensues, and the candle is knocked over. As the fire is relit, the crowd finds the Cimmerian gone and the thief dead.
Thus we’re introduced to Conan the Barbarian. He makes up his mind to enter the tower and retrieve the treasure within, called the Heart of the Elephant. This story is spectacular. I was glued to it after Conan made his way to the tower. From there, the different traps and perils were fascinating, and the treasure inside is interesting and different.
The one downside to this story is the lack of secondary characters. It’s short, so it could be that Howard didn’t have enough space to add many other characters, but much of the story is Conan coming across other people, monsters, or mysteries. I felt that People of the Black Circle benefited from Yasmina as a character.
If I had to choose which story I preferred, “The Tower of the Elephant” or “The People of the Black Circle”, I would have to choose the latter. This story is fantastic, but People of the Black Circle had many twists, characters, and interesting story progressions that this one was missing.
Still, I would recommend any fan of fantasy read this story. It’s short and easily worth your time.
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You might want to read the previous Robert E. Howard review of The People of the Black Circle.
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