Review: “Shadows in Zamboula” by Robert E. Howard



Cover of Weird Tales magazine 1935

Shadows in Zamboula is a classic Robert E. Howard tale of Conan the Barbarian. I read it to get my head in the right space for crafting a “Sword and Sorcery” short story, and I wasn’t disappointed. Howard’s Conan is the best version of the character ever, even after eighty or so years.

The tale was first published in 1935, and I accessed it as a free eBook through The Gutenberg Project (yes, the original cover of “Weird Tales” in which the story appeared is provocative by today’s standards).

Howard’s popular barbarian is lured into trouble once again by a beautiful woman, that is after being nearly captured and consumed by cannibals. His adversaries are black Africans (as we’d understand them today), and relative to the mid-1930s, the description of them might be considered racist (in the 21st century). That aside, the story is high adventure all the way. The swordplay is at its finest, and at the end, Conan outsmarts as well as outfights both his enemies and his supposed allies.

No, in this case, he doesn’t get the girl, but he does get the gold, a horse, and a mystical item which he can sell for a bundle.

“Shadows in Zamboula” is good, old fashioned pulp fiction fun, and certainly, the price is right. If you aren’t familiar with Howard’s “Conan,” I think the experience would be a treat for most pulp fiction fans.

2 thoughts on “Review: “Shadows in Zamboula” by Robert E. Howard

  1. Seems like you and I are in a similar space right now. Yesterday it was Lovecraft and today it’s Howard. I had no idea the Conan stories were so mesmerizing until a few weeks ago when I devoured about five of them. Not the pacing and character arc kind of stories we get in modern fiction, but wow he can transport the reader to a feeling of wonder.


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