The Bloody Crown of Conan by Robert E. Howard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Conan is continuing to make its rounds around my grey matter and settling in as one of the core, foundational fantasies of the last hundred years. The fact that the barbarian remains the most recognizable alpha male in fantastic fiction should say everything I need to say.
But it also deserves mention that these stories are not lightweight fluff pieces of fantasy. Conan himself is the ultimate rugged self-made man, preferring to take what he wants by his own efforts despite multiple offers being dropped in his lap.
This is a man who knows that the journey is always more important than the destination. And he has major scruples, too. Anyone who pricks his pride will be hoisted by their own. Magicians and crafty women never get what they expect out of him, and he, himself, is always driven by what he believes is right. Even if, at any particular moment, the massive subtle changes on the wind make him turn his back on what once might have been best, then.
He is complex and subtly shaded despite being an outward brute. The fact that he can win over many men (and women) purely by his uncompromising understanding of himself and his strength is NOT the same thing as wielding a sword to cut down all his enemies and thereby securing a kingdom. Or two.
The fact is, he loves being the underdog. He may be one brute of a man that may give any woman a look and they lose their clothes as if by magic, and he wins over converts by an overpowering charisma, but none of that would mean anything if he wasn't a man of action.
Add to this the extremely deep worldbuilding that throws so many lines of real history into a huge pot, giving us all an amazingly rich setting both familiar and not, but always big, and it's enough to spark my imagination in the same way as those from nearly a century ago must have enjoyed.
We are kinda sick of being peaceful among enemies, after all. The Conan stories are so damn close to what we already live in and the pain and the disgust are just as vital here and now as they would have been in these so-called primitive societies. To me, the stories are very much a raging against the dying of the light.
View all my reviews