This collection of early Robert E. Howard tales shows the development of REH as a sword & sorcery writer. In the introduction, Fritz Leiber describes them as a cross-section of REH’s interests, a sampler of the obsessions that were the foundation of his most successful work.
Although only one of the stories was published in REH’s life, this is not a set of cast-offs. “The Grey God Passes” is a fantasy tale set at the battle of Clontarf, the decisive confrontation between Brian Boru and the Vikings in Ireland. For a short tale, “Grey God” packs a wallop, Norse myth, an escaped slave, a Cassandra-like prophet, and Medieval Ireland’s greatest hero collide in battle.
“The Marchers of Valhalla” comes from the James Allison series. Allison is a crippled young man in Texas, caused to remember his past lives by none other than Ishtar, he recounts an epic adventure in Pre-historic Texas filled with barbarian hordes, lost cities, and that magnificent, beautiful, death-loving sense of wonder REH had.
“The Thunder Rider” is another past-life memory tale. John Garfield is a successful professional, a Princeton man, and cultured sophisticate. He also loathes the stultifying and decadent world he lives in. To integrate himself he must relive his past life as Iron-Heart, the Comanche brave in a swashbuckling tale of ancient races, lost cities, and a beautiful warrior maiden.
Those are just my favorites. According to Barbara Baum, “For the Love of Barbara Allen” is the most romantic REH tale. Really this set is pure gold. It’s not just for REH fans, but for anyone who loves fantasy adventure tales.