Andrew J. Offutt wrote three Conan stories that are often praised as the best Conan stories not written by Robert E. Howard. Having read Robert Jordan's adequate but not memorable entries into the saga of Conan, I have been reluctant to pick up any of the stories from other authors. However, when I realised that Offutt had written the original story for one of my favourite non-REH Savage Sword of Conan comics - Sword of Skelos - I simply had to take a closer look.
Sword of Skelos is the third story written by Offutt and it appears to pick up from where the previous two books finished. As such it does not really work as a stand-alone story. Fortunately for me, I had read the earlier adventures as comics adaptations and could remember enough of them to keep up with the story here.
Sword of Skelos tells the tale of Conan and Isparana travelling to deliver an amulet (the focal point of earlier stories) to one of the people who desires it. Unfortunately, the recipient turns out to be a ruthless tyrant. And, even worse, he has an ambitious court mage who has put a dangerous spell on two swords.
Overall, the story is ruthless enough to serve as a Conan story, but Conan himself is perhaps a little bit too cunning and knowing of the world to pass as the 17 year old youth that he is supposed to be in this story. Also, the story is solely an adventure story with little to no attempt to insert any of the Robert E. Howard's philosophical ideas into the mix (except for the good old barbarism vs. civilization juxtaposition).
Still, worth a read if you desire to read a passable Conan adventure.
The image on the right is from the comics adaptation which is - for the most part - very close to the original. The few changes include the ages of some of the characters (mainly a girl-bride in the original who was depicted as an adult woman in the adaptation) and one expanded scene of Conan's capture.