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Book Title: Three Bladed Doom|
The author of the book: Robert E. Howard
ISBN 13: 9780890832776
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 33.90 MB
Date of issue: July 1977
Read full description of the books Three Bladed Doom:I needed some Robert E. Howard lately, and I decided to read an “El Borak” adventure. They aren’t always what the reader expects, and I love the idea of an American soldier-of-fortune fighting in Asia during the 1920s and 30s. Humorously, I picked “Three-Bladed Doom”, expecting a short and fun story. I was totally unaware that it is the longest El Borak tale Howard ever wrote.
Francis X. Gordon, aka “El Borak”, is an American adventurer living in Afghanistan. The story begins as he tries to make peace between the Amir and a friend, a tribal warlord known as Baber Khan. Shortly after he sets out on his task, an assassin tries to murder the Amir, and Gordon decides to investigate, hoping to find a way to mend the breach between his two friends in the process.
He soon discovers a hidden city, where a brotherhood of assassins are carrying on the ancient traditions of the Nizari Ismailis (the Assassins), and are being guided by a foreign power to destabilize much of the Middle East. Gordon and his friends, Yar Ali Khan, Lal Singh, and Ahmed Shah, must survive all the murderers, traps, and superstitious dreads of the city if they are going to preserve the Amir’s life as well as global security.
OVERALL: 3.2 out of 5
“Three-Bladed Doom” is a solid Howard adventure story that has all the great elements that a fan of the author (or of historical adventure in general) should expect. Like a cake that’s been made with the right ingredients, that doesn’t mean it was cooked perfectly.
The star of the story is the main character. Gordon’s attitude in the face of adversity, particularly when his own plans have gone completely wrong, is wonderful to read. This isn’t a perfect character, but he’s still the kind of self-motivated individual that people like Nietzsche could only talk about in abstract terms.
The downfall of the story is that it all feels like old ground to a Howard fan. The fights have already been won, the lost city explored, and the villain overthrown.
For those worried about the racism of the time, readers should note that Howard’s “typical racism” is on display, but as usual, Howard isn’t so much the bigot in his writing. The virtues, bravery, and capability of the white men aren’t focused on as much as the individual of Gordon (he being the only white man), while Howard describes or mentions both faults and credits of other peoples, including various Afghani tribes, Kurds, Arabs, Indians, and a Russian (in particular, a Cossack). However, many of these are still broad generalizations that some readers may find objectionable. Gordon could not survive without the assistance of loyal (and generally capable) friends, none of whom are white.
Of all the Howard stories, I think the El Borak ones would probably be the best to be translated to a TV show or movie. The character’s close-knit circle of friends, which includes Arabians, Afghans, and Indians, as well as the great 1920s vibe of the stories, would be a wonderful addition to the wasteland of modern television programming. In the Del Rey edition I have, there are great illustrations by Tim Bradstreet that put the actor Thomas Jane in the role of El Borak. It’s a bit of inspired casting.
RATINGS BY CATEGORY
CHARACTERS: 4 out of 5
I really like Gordon. Though he might seem a little empty to some readers, he is a kind of “ultimate man”; completely in control of himself, motivated by something deep within that others can’t understand, and absolutely loyal to friends and those he has given his word to. He is a man of action who needs no external stimulus to do things. He is driven.
The other characters all shine, though they mostly exist to frame the American and define him by being different. Yar Ali Khan is a big, powerful warrior, but also the comedy relief who is constantly grumbling or mourning; he is a passionate man, and a kind of poet among the company. Lal Singh is described as a cunning warrior and close friend of Gordon’s, though in the story he never has a true moment to shine (except in terms of his bravery). I liked to think of a bearded Shah Rukh Khan in this role.
The primary villain is an interesting creation in that he is not far removed from Howard’s other heroes. He is a free spirit, a skilled warrior, and a man who has dreams of empire. With only a few tweaks, his role might have been very different.
PACE: 2 out of 5
This story is long, and a lot of it is bogged down by detailed descriptions of terrain that I was as lost in as the protagonists. This action is frantic, and the scenes of exposition and dialogue are fitting, but there is just too much explanation of where canyons and mountains are, or how the city is laid out. It’s never bad, but it could have been better.
STORY: 4 out of 5
This is a story that I can really sink my teeth into. It has brave adventurers, great villains, exotic locations, sword and gun battles, bravery, death, sacrifice, camaraderie, conspiracies, a monster, and the rescuing of beautiful damsels in distress.
In the appendix of my Del Rey edition, there is a section called “Gunfighters of the Wild East”, where David A. Hardy remarks on the relevance the story has in an early 21st century context. Though it’s definitely a creation of its era, it’s true that the assassins outlined in “Three-Bladed Doom” seem to be near-kin to modern terrorist groups. In Howard’s tale, salvation comes from wild, untamed Afghani swordsmen and a lone American adventurer rather than the US Army.
DIALOGUE: 3 out of 5
The dialogue is mostly well-written. El Borak is difficult to write for, since he’s frequently speaking in Arabic or some other local dialect, and he has adapted some of the mannerisms of the people he is surrounded by. Readers hoping for a red-blooded American who beats up foreigners may be disappointed; Gordon is a man with his feet in two different worlds. Yar Ali’s dialogue is mostly fun stuff, and I liked the villain’s dialogue (even if a threatening speech he gives near the ending was a bit overblown and long-winded).
STYLE/TECHNICAL: 3 out of 5
Howard’s writing is clear, except for when he tries to describe the terrain more than it needs to be. Also, I think he wasn’t quite as sharp in his fight scenes as in other stories. It’s not that they aren’t well done, there’s just something special that was absent here. I am thinking of Conan’s battle with Thak in “Rogues in the House” or the mass combat of “Twilight of the Grey Gods” where the reader feels like they’re in the middle of things. Most of the fights here Howard had already fought before in other tales.
Read information about the authorRobert Ervin Howard was an American pulp writer of fantasy, horror, historical adventure, boxing, western, and detective fiction. Howard wrote "over three-hundred stories and seven-hundred poems of raw power and unbridled emotion" and is especially noted for his memorable depictions of "a sombre universe of swashbuckling adventure and darkling horror."
He is well known for having created — in the pages of the legendary Depression-era pulp magazine Weird Tales — the character Conan the Cimmerian, a.k.a. Conan the Barbarian, a literary icon whose pop-culture imprint can only be compared to such icons as Tarzan of the Apes, Count Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and James Bond.
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.
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