The Isle of Pirate's Doom (Howard, Robert E.)

Helen Tavrel, the female protagonist of The Isle of Pirate's Doom was clearly meant to have more than only one adventure written of her. While the story ends with the male narrator confessing his love and desire to marry Helen, thus taking her out from the pirate's life, she declines and tells him that she can not, as she's still a young girl, who has many adventures ahead of her. As stated though, The Isle of Pirate's Doom is the only story she appeared in, so whatever plans Howard might have for her are left to anyone's imagination.

As a side note, the story in question, like many other less known stories by Howard, was cannibalized by Roy Thomas for a Valeria/Conan story for Marvel comics.

The story takes place on a deserted island somewhere in the Caribbeans. The narrator of the tale, a shipwrecked sailor Stephen Harmer, witnesses how a boat comes ashore from a pirate vessel, carrying 8 pirates. The slimmest one of them, clad in dandy clothes and a cocked hat, slashes one of them and escapes to the woods.

After a while, Stephen finds a skewered corpse of one of the pirates and while he's looting him for his guns, the dandy pirate steps forward, revealing that he's actually she, Helen Tavrel, a notorious female pirate. But as luck has it, she's on the run as well, as her current crewmates wanted more than piracy comradeship of her, so she took her leave of them.  Stephen doesn't warm up at the female pirate, but as time passes, he notices himself falling for the young woman, whom he finds to be of softer heart than he originally expected.

The reason why the pirates landed is a hidden treasure. Or more precisely, an ancient temple is hidden on the marshes of the island, where there's rumoured to be a treasure. Helen, like a pirate she is, wants to head on there, before her former mates.

While The Isle of Pirate's Doom is a reasonably fun tale, what makes it somewhat stand out more from the works of Howard is what happens in the temple. Not only are the antagonists killed by the traps of the temple, Stephen himself is wounded so badly, that he actually ends up blacking out and Helen has to drag him back to the beach. Stephen suffers from a broken arm and a severe blow to the head, both wounds that leave him dazed.

And then at the end, the proposal and refusal happen.

The Isle of Pirate's Doom is a fun tale on its own. It has a good sense of adventure about it and while Howard can't help himself of throwing in descriptions of blood, gore and splattered brain matter, it is relatively tame by his standards. In many ways, it is somewhat an atypical story for him, as neither of the protagonists is a superhuman, albeit Stephen almost goes there before he's clubbed senseless. Helen, on the other hand, is just well trained with a sword, which gives her an edge over other a tad more inexpert pirates.

And that's pretty much it. As a character, Helen Tavrel might have grown beyond how she was portrayed here, but that growth never happened, as Howard had the knack of fleshing his characters out more with multiple stories. Neither Conan or Solomon Kane was a complete character in their first stories, they both grew to be what they are during the multiple tales, at times jumping back and worth time.  With her only tale, Helen is left a bit uneven or underbaked.

Like I said, though, it's not a bad story as such. It definitely isn't among the worst things Howard has written and because he rarely used female protagonists, it even might be one that stands out more because of it. But in the end, it is just an adventure story in the vein of many others like it.

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