Jared Millet's Reviews > The Bloody Crown of Conan

The Bloody Crown of Conan by Robert E. Howard
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May 12, 2016

it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, short-stories, sword-and-sorcery, pulp-fiction, wizards
Read from November 18, 2011 to February 25, 2012

The second of the Conan anthologies presents Howard at the peak of his craft, featuring some of his long-form work in a novella, a single short story, and Howard's only completed novel. While Howard didn't write the Conan stories in anything like chronological order, the barbarian of these adventures is clearly older, cannier, and more wise to the world than the young, thieving slayer of his earlier tales. The opening and closing stories of this edition feature Conan as a war-chief of various mid/far east nations (blatant analogues of Persia, Afghanistan, and India) where the hero is honing is skills not just as a mercenary but as a leader of men.

The showpiece, though, is The Hour of the Dragon, the perfect King Conan movie that we're never going to see - in which Conan is deposed from the throne of Aquilonia by a resurrected wizard from Acheron and must travel far and wide to gather the allies and magical defenses he will need to reclaim his kingdom. Not only is it evident that Howard was more comfortable with his writing and his character, but also with the breadth of mythology he'd created. Few, if any, of the Conan short stories make reference to any of the others, yet in Hour of the Dragon you can feel Howard dipping into the rich history he'd already established for the character as Conan, now in middle-age, returns to many of the places he'd adventured as a young man to call in old debts make use of his decades of experience. He's even tempted to turn his back on politics and monarchy and return to the simple life of a roaming warrior, but Conan the King is not the same man as Conan the Barbarian, and his growth over the series as a whole, if anything, makes Conan unique in the realm of pulp sword-and-sorcery.
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