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The Bloody Crown of Conan (Conan of Cimmeria, Book 2) Paperback – November 23, 2004
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“Stories such as “The People of the Black Circle” glow with the fierce and eldritch light of his frenzied intensity.”
“I adore these books. Howard had a gritty, vibrant style–broadsword writing that cut its way to the heart, with heroes who are truly larger than life. I heartily recommend them to anyone who loves fantasy.”
–DAVID GEMMELL, author of Legend and White Wolf
From the Inside Flap
In his hugely influential and tempestuous career, Robert E. Howard created the genre that came to be known as sword and sorcery-and brought to life one of fantasy's boldest and most enduring figures: Conan the Cimmerian-reaver, slayer, barbarian, king.
This lavishly illustrated volume gathers together three of Howard's longest and most famous Conan stories-two of them printed for the first time directly from Howard's typescript-along with a collection of the author's previously unpublished and rarely seen outlines, notes, and drafts. Longtime fans and new readers alike will agree that "The Bloody Crown of Conan merits a place of honor on every fantasy lover's bookshelf.
THE PEOPLE OF THE BLACK CIRCLE
Amid the towering crags of Vendhya, in the shadowy citadel of the Black Circle, Yasmina of the golden throne seeks vengeance against the Black Seers. Her only ally is also her most formidable enemy-Conan, the outlaw chief.
THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON
Toppled from the throne of Aquilonia by the evil machinations of an undead wizard, Conan must find the fabled jewel known as the Heart of Ahriman to reclaim his crown . . . and save his life.
A WITCH SHALL BE BORN
A malevolent witch of evil beauty. An enslaved queen. A kingdom in the iron grip of ruthless mercenaries. And Conan, who plots deadly vengeance against the human wolf who left him in the desert to die.
Top customer reviews
For those new to Conan, consider this a full-throated recommendation.
For those who know and love Conan, all I have to say is that this is the one with "Hour Of The Dragon" in it. So if you don't have it already, don't wait!
"The Hour Of The Dragon," written in the last full year of Howard's life, was the only Conan novel, and a great one. Probably the last of the Conan stories in terms of the character's own chronology, it presents him as King of Aquilonia, the French-like nation of Conan's pre-historical Hyborian Age. A ravaging invader overtakes the land, led by a 3,000-year-old undead wizard. To save his people, Conan must first escape imprisonment, then find the mystical jewel that is the only thing in the world the wizard fears.
The only thing wrong with Howard's Conan novel is he didn't write more of them. Yes, "Hour Of The Dragon" employs devices seen to good effect in earlier stories, but Howard here keeps you reading breathlessly through "Hour's" unique twists and turns. High on suspense and surprise, "Dragon" delivers in other ways, too. The world of the Hyborian Age comes alive here in splendid detail, zeroing in on various minor characters that fill Conan's world for a moment or two and then part company with the Cimmerian, peacefully or otherwise. There's a wonderful quality of variety to this work; even the villains are set up in various factions that chafe against each other as the story develops. Conan himself comes across as likeably, recognizably savage - he didn't inherit his throne the usual way, after all - but with a newfound sense of humane proportion.
"I have no desire to rule an empire welded together by blood and fire," he says at one point. "It's one thing to seize a throne with the aid of its subjects and rule them with their consent. It's another to subjugate a foreign realm and rule it by fear."
Many of those who don't consider "Hour Of The Dragon" Conan's best point to another work which is also here. "The People Of The Black Circle" is set in the time before Conan became king, when he was a chief of a tribe of hill people at war with Vendhya, the Hyborian equivalent of India. Conan did get around. This time the background is less politics than magic; both Conan and the beautiful Vendhyan princess Yasmina must put aside their differences when a fiendish wizard sets his sights on their ruination.
Magic is something few fantasy authors get right in my mind; too often it is presented either too scientifically or as hokey, ill-explained nonsense that leaves both reader and non-magical protagonist far from the center of things. Howard here delivers a story that's both believable and terrifyingly macabre, where the magic for once doesn't interrupt the more earthly action but rather enhances it, especially with one of Howard's finest bad guys, the seer Khemsa.
The third story, "A Witch Shall Be Born," is less beloved by Conan fans, but to my mind, unfairly so. This is mostly because Conan sits on the sidelines for too long, but the story moves quickly and maximizes the impact of his alternate-chapter appearances. It's my favorite Conan story, for many reasons that include the briskness of the narrative, the twisted set up (a good ruler is replaced by her foul sister), and the way Howard deftly shifts perspectives from chapter to chapter.
That, and it's much shorter than the other two. If you are new to Conan and daunted by the length of the other works, "Witch" makes for a nice starting point.
I have enjoyed the art in the other Del Ray reprints of Howard's work, but Gary Gianni here is on some kind of roll, especially with the terrifically broody illustrations that augment "Hour Of The Dragon." Conan completists will be the only ones interested in an unfinished story draft that was apparently dropped by Howard from lack of inspiration.
That's about the only evidence to be found in this volume that Howard wasn't always operating at full throttle. For the rest of this book, you will be hard-pressed to stop reading and come up for air. Even if you don't think fantasy fiction is for you, this is the kind of book to make you think different.
Ignore all those Kindle cheapies with their typos and missing chunks. The folks that posted those assumed they were in the public domain but didn't care to do any more than download corrupt files and port them to the Kindle. As an author myself, I'm stunned that Amazon doesn't do something about that.
THIS is the series to buy if you really want to read Howard's work as he intended it.
Having tried and loved both Conan 2.0: Kull: Exile of Atlantis and the first volume of Conan 3.0: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian: The Original Adventures of the Greatest Sword and Sorcery Hero of All Time!, I was very much looking forward to the present volume, and once again Robert E. Howard (and for that matter, Del Rey) did not disappoint!
Introduction by Rusty Burke: Interesting and useful, especially to a newbie like me. Mr. Burke makes the point that the Hyborian Age is not really an imaginary world like that of a J.R.R. Tolkien for example but rather a nexus where largely recognizable elements from different historical eras could come together for the sake of the story.
"The People of the Black Circle": A nicely tangled knot of conflicting conspiracies that Howard manages to keep straight while at the same time producing in the Devi Yasmina one of his most fully developed and satisfying female characters, a worthy rival/love interest for Conan. The trouble with girls here? Sometimes they have careers that conflict with potential romance. Can the Chief of all the Afghulis and the Queen of Vendhya find happiness together? Apparently not. Also reprinted here: The Best of Robert E. Howard Volume 1: Crimson Shadows.
"The Hour of the Dragon": The only Conan novel Howard ever wrote and the last Conan story chronologically. More than a bit derivative, this is clearly "The Scarlet Citadel" writ large, with a large debt owed to "Black Colossus" as well. Nevertheless, the sum is greater than its parts, and the result is a fascinating tale of a mature Conan, determined to regain the throne a younger Conan would have walked away from because of what he genuinely perceives as his obligations to his subjects, even the cowardly ungrateful ones who embraced the usurper before his savage misrule revealed their folly in doing so. The trouble with girls here? Sometimes they need rescuing at enormous personal risk (Countess Albiona). Sometimes they need rescuing even though they would normally be able to take care of themselves then reward you with riddles they refuse to explain (Zelata, the witch). Sometimes they rescue you and leave you owing them (Zenobia). Sometimes they are vicious bloodsuckers, quite literally (Akivasha, the vampire).
"A Witch Shall Be Born": More than a bit overdone as the monstrous Salome skates along the borders of self-parody, but it contains one of the deservedly most famous scenes in all the Conan stories. The trouble with girls here? Sometimes they have Evil Twin sisters you don't know about. Sometimes they crucify you just for pissing them off, which in this case only makes you mad.
Miscellanea: Collection of synopses, drafts, notes, and serial recaps for the 3 published stories, useful to the Howard scholar. Most importantly it also contains the Untitled Synopsis and Untitled Draft of an unfinished novel that was probably a false start written before "The Hour of the Dragon". Basically what there is of it is a pale imitation of "Xuthal of the Dusk" that makes Conan a guest star in his own story. The trouble with girls here? Sometimes they are so sweet and innocent they make the most heartless rogues want to protect them.
"Hyborian Genesis Part II" by Patrice Louinet: Continuation of informative notes on the creation of the Conan stories.
"Notes on the Conan Typescripts and the Chronology" and "Notes on the Original Howard Texts": Mostly of use to the Howard scholar.
I am looking forward to reading the rest of this Del Rey series: The Conquering Sword of Conan (Conan of Cimmeria, Book 3),Bran Mak Morn: The Last King,The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane,The Best of Robert E. Howard Volume 1: Crimson Shadows,The Best of Robert E. Howard Volume 2: Grim Lands,The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard, and El Borak and Other Desert Adventures.
Note: In reading this volume and reviews of same I have been made aware of what I will call the Zenobia Problem: did Howard mean for Conan to mean it when he vowed to make her Queen of Aquilonia? I believe Howard did intend for Conan to keep his vow for reasons this Howard newbie has not seen mentioned elsewhere, making me willing to toss in my two cents: as a start towards fulfilling a kingly duty Conan had until now neglected,...
providing an heir.
Several times it is indicated by Conan's still loyal subjects that if there had only been a legitimate heir, even an infant, then he or she would have provided a rallying point for the loyal and reduced considerably the temptation for Aquilonians to crown the usurper. Conan had obviously resisted all previous attempts to get him to marry, partly out of selfish willfulness, but also probably despising the court intrigue they no doubt entailed, but the opportunity to reward a (very) attractive woman who loved him enough to risk her life repeatedly to save his AND to stick it to the nobles by raising a slave to the level of queen would likely prove irresistible to a man who was finally willing to face up to ALL the responsibilities of being king.
Most recent customer reviews
Robert E. Howard's Conan stories are brilliantly inspired, full of adventure, eloquent prose that paints a fantastically vivid...The Bloody Crown of Conan (Conan the Barbarian Book 2)Read more