The Coming of the Horseclans is a book by Robert Adams. It was first published in 1975, and was the first of a series of eight novels about the Horseclans. The version I read was the "Newly Expanded" 1982 paperback edition ISBN 0-451-11652-6, which was purchased at a thrift store for 20 cents.
This novel is set in a post apocalyptic America, in the year 2593. We never really get the details of what happened, but apparently there was a short war, several plagues, and a falling apart of the goverment. Six hundred years later mankind has a technology level somewhere near that of the early middle ages. Swords and bows are the weapons of choice now, and there seems to be no leftover technology of any kind.
The protagonist of the novel is a man named Milo who is the war chief of the barbarian clans. But, apparently Milo is over 600 years old, and almost effectively immortal, being immune to both aging and most forms of bodily harm. Add in 600 years of practice with the sword, and you have got a hero who is even cooler than Inigo Montoya.
Milo apparently started the horseclans himself soon after society fell apart. He stayed with them for a long time, but eventually he left them to wander around in search of some mystic island where the other "immortals" lived. He eventually rejoined the clans with a new identity, not that anyone was still alive from when he was there before, but apparently the stories about him had worked their way into the horseclan's religion, so he didn't want to let them know his true identity right away.
Milo and the clans roam around for a while and get into a lot of battles, and he ends up meeting three other "immortals", along with some sort of psychic vampire that can change bodies and take over people's minds. Eventually the clans migrate to the place by the sea that they were destined to move to, and the story ends until the next book.
What I liked about this book
Giant psychic hunting cats! One of the 42 clans were not humans, instead they were tigers or pumas or something (the book doesn't actually say what kind of cats they were). They can "speak" using telepathy, and were some of the best characters in the book. Actually, most of the barbarians (and their horses), were telepaths as well, but the cats were apparently the strongest ones.
The clan structure and society made for some very interesting reading, much of it kind of reminded me of a cross between Conan the Barbarian and the Old Testament.
What I didn't like about this book
The whole book was an obvious setup for the series to come. We are introduced to a lot of obviously important characters who proceed to do very little in terms of plot. The two female "immortals" do very little after their introductions, especially Mara the romantic interest, she simply doesn't do much of anything.
There are a lot of characters with strange names and similar motivations who are engaged in a lot of political intrigue and backstabbing. It is often difficult to tell them apart, and I found myself flipping back to try and see if I was reading about the good guys or the bad guys.
My overall impression
Not too bad. This is more of the "two-fisted action hero" type of book, and you have to enjoy that sort of thing to like this novel. It was definitely worth my 20 cents, but now I am pretty much stuck reading Swords of the Horseclans (the next book in the series), simply to find out what happens to the women, as they certainly didn't do much in this book.