The Barbarians by F. van Wyck Mason
Pocket Books, 1954 (originally published 1934), 249 pp.
This review originally appeared in Scrolls of Legendry #1.
Cealwyn was once a Celtic prince but is now a slave. He was captured by the Carthaginian noble Adherbal, who ravished and slew his sister Creoda. Cealwyn attempts a daring escape. Although he fails, Adherbal’s niece Tiratha is impressed by his heroic manliness and demands the Celt be given to her. Cealwyn, not wanting to end up like all of Tiratha’s other pleasure slaves, plots a revolt with a native of Rome and a Greek mercenary. It does not quite go as planned, but he manages to break free and rescue Tiratha’s chaste handmaiden, Valeria (did Robert E. Howard read this novel?), thus bringing him one step closer to fulfilling his oath of revenge against Carthage.
It’s interesting to note that when Cealwyn is enslaved, he works in the mills pushing a large wheel like in the film Conan the Barbarian. (Did John Milius read this novel?)
I’ve found that the hardest reviews to write are the ones where I don’t have much to complain about. When it comes to historical action novels, it doesn’t get much better than this. Recommended? No, that’s not strong enough. Not for wimps!