Hawks of Outremer by Robert E. Howard
Genre: Historical Fiction — Medieval Crusades
Series: Stand Alone Novel
Publisher: Donald M. Grant Publishers (1979)
Length: 165 pages
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Robert E. Howard was one of those prolific writers that could churn out stories, characters, and ideas seemingly at will. In just 10 years, he penned approximately 300 short stories, two novels and countless poems featuring numerous characters in a wide variety of genres, including heroic fantasy, western, horror, historical and humor. Without a doubt, Conan the Barbarian is the most famous of his creations, but his stable of protagonists span the gamut from Sailor Steve Costigan, 1930s tough guy sailor, to Dark Agnes de Chestillon, red-haired 16th century French swordswoman, and include such notable heroes as Soloman Kane, El Borak, De Montour, Kull the Conqueror, and Bran Mak Morn, last king of the Picts. One character who is usually not listed among Howard’s famous characters is the half-Norman, half-Gael knight named Cormac Fitzgeoffrey, but just like his more famous siblings, Cormac is yet another sword wielding man who is hard as nails.
In the Hawks of Outremer, Howard gives a reader a series of stories set in the Holy Land at the time of the Third Crusade. Cormac Fitzgeoffrey of Ireland has accompanied the armies of Richard I, King of England, nicknamed “Coeur de Lion” or “Richard the Lionheart” to Palestine to vanquish the hated infidels of Saladin and recover Jerusalem for Catholic Europe. But while Cormac nominally rides under the banner of King Richard, he is a man who recognizes no one as his king, owes allegiance to no man and follows his own personal sense of honor – especially toward his friends. And – like most Howard characters – he is a man of strength – both physically and mentally – and one who has a deep belief in personal justice, or vengeance for any slight. Plus, Cormac feels like an outsider to the civilized world, seeing in himself a superior breed of natural man; one whose inherent superiority is shown by his ability to kill/maim those weaker in spirit and physical strength than himself.
The story itself begins in earnest when one of Cormac’s friends is killed at the border of Muslim controlled territory in the Holy Land. Naturally, our hero decides that such a heinous crime cannot go unpunished and decides to avenge his friend. So as not to incite any renewed hostility between the Christians and Muslim states, Cormac goes alone to exact vengeance. Typical Howard swashbuckling ensues thereafter.
The book also contains two other short stories involving Cormac, albeit in different yet similar adventures. No need to describe the actual action: it is more of the same. In fact, one of these tales was changed a bit to make it into a Conan adventure by writer, Roy Thomas, back in the day.
Overall, this book is a typical Howard testosterone feast. Nothing deeply philosophical here that I caught, but it is worth a read if you are a Howard completionist or just want something to pass the time away. Since I found this book online for free and tend to enjoy anything Howard writes, I probably enjoyed it more than I would have otherwise.
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