Book Report: The Hour of the Dragon by Robert E. Howard (2008)

Book coverI was going to say that I just read this, but it turns out that “just” in this case means ten years ago as this title, the only Conan novel that Howard wrote, was included in The Bloody Crown of Conan.

In it, Conan has become king of Aquilonia, but the Zemedians hope to conquer Aquilonia and place a puppet on the throne, so a shadowy group resurrects a sorceror who has been dead several thousand years. When Conan arrays his forces against the invaders, a magic spell paralyzes him in his tent, so he sends out a friend in his armor to lead the battle. But the friend is killed by magic along with much of the cream of the Aquilonian forces, and Conan is captured. He escapes from his dungeon and has to go looking for a jewel that can thwart the sorceror so he can reclaim his kingdom. Along the way, he rejoins some of his colleagues from his corsairing days and has to outwit a vampire in an ancient temple while being stalked by assassins from the east.

So it’s a good yarn, but the whole get-the-sorceror’s-gem plot is very close to Conan the Invincible. So I’ll probably lay off the Conan and sword-and-sorcery titles for the nonce.

The book also contains “The Hyborean Age”, which is Howard’s accounting of the history of Conan’s world and ties it in as unknown history of our world in a forgotten age. But I bogged down in it. It was a lot like reading from The Story of Civilization but without the benefit of making progress in that set. And I just read it. Ten years ago.

Still, it’s nice to revisit these stories and re-read them.

I’ve also determined how much this particular pulp style has influenced my own writing style. I’ve found myself chaining prepositional phrases a bunch, and Howard does that, too. It adds a bit of rhythm to the in-your-head reading that the staccato of choppier sentences lacks. I’ve sometimes tried to iron that tendency out of my writing, but perhaps now I will embrace it a bit more. When I get around to writing any fiction or anything aside from this blog and the occasional LinkedIn post, that is.

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