Sunday, August 08, 2010


By Robert E. Howard

This anthology is part one of a three-part collection of all Robert E Howard’s Conan stories. The editors have arranged the tales in the order they were written (a major departure from the de Camp series that arranged the stories to relate to phases in Conan’s life).

Let me just say I consider Robert E Howard’s Conan series as one of about three perfect sword and sorcery series (the other two being Fafhrd and the Grey Mouserand Elric of Melnibone) so this stuff is straight up gold to me.

Which is not to say it is all that to all readers. REH was still getting his feet with the character in these early stories. "The God in the Bowl", a curious mix of sword & sorcery with the detective story, is probably the weakest of the lot. What is amazing is how many of them are so powerful. "The Frost Giant’s Daughter" manages to bring modern fantasy into myth (of the dark and ferocious kind). "Queen of the Black Coast" is perhaps the best of them all, it has adventure, wild love, battle, and the epic saga of the rise and fall, not of a civilization, but of an entire undreamed–of pre-human race.

For a fan who knows these stories well, the real bonus is to see them in the order that they came off REH’s typewriter. We see how one tale would inspire the next, from king to thief, to pirate to mercenary, not as a random agglomeration, but as a that-reminds-me-of-the-time cycle.

Extras include fragments, synopses and a very good critical essay by REH scholar Patrice Louinet. The art by Mark Schultz (Cadillacs and Dinosaurs) is excellent. The Coming of Conan is part of a growing library of REH classics released by Wandering Star in conjunction with Del Rey. Wandering Star editions are hardbound with full color illustration (publisher Marcello Anciano will occasionally pulp a run if the color balance is less that perfect). The Del Rey trade paperbacks have black and white versions of the color plates along with a plethora of line drawings. Mark Schultz’ masterpiece here is “The Dance of Belit”, barbaric and sexy.

The Coming of Conan is a must have for any fan of sword & sorcery.
-Dave Hardy

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