The People of the Black Circle by Robert E Howard
Review by Mathew Bridle
Fantasy Masterworks: #8
Conan the Cimmerian: he rose from boy-thief and mercenary to become king of Aquilonia. Neither supernatural fiends nor demonic sorcery could oppose the barbarian warrior as he wielded his mighty sword and dispatched his enemies to a bloody doom on the battlefields of the legendary Hyborian Age. Collected together for the first time anywhere in the world, in chronological order, are all Robert E. Howard’s definitive stories of Conan, exactly as he wrote them, as fresh, atmospheric and vibrant today as when they were first published in the pulp magazines more than sixty years ago.
There are 18 stories in this book together with a brief history of the foundation of the empires in which they are told, spanning over 500 pages. I took a long time reading this book because it was simply too good to rush.
From the very first story to the very last you are treated to an unrivalled ability to grab hold of the ready and drag them on adventure after adventure. You quickly become acquainted with the huge bronze skinned, black haired Cimmerian who’s blue eyes blaze with the fire of life. Conan’s passion and zest for adventure are as infectious as his thews are huge. He wields a sword with ease and breaks necks like twigs. He snatches up lithe women aplenty, usually clad in gossamer robes (if that) as often as loots the dead. His blade drips with the blood of the vanquished as he wiped the heavy sweat of battle from his brow.
There is never a dull moment or wasted moment. Never so much as a modicum of tedium. The writing is fluid, exciting and simple. Robert E. Howard has a style that writes itself, a quality that stands, like his creation, a head and shoulders above the rest. There are times when you feel the bones crunch, the sword sing through the air, the flesh rend under steel. I could go on and on, this is a book like no other. If you love the swords and sandals, style of fantasy then you simply must read this. This is the birthplace of many a hero. Many have tried to write Conan stories but none can hold their own against the might of Robert E. Howard.
By Crom ‘tis worth every penny.
Riley from United States
I have read everything that I can get my hands on by Robert E. Howard. He is brilliant story teller, and he weaves tales of adventure and sorcery in a raw brutal landscape where so called civilized man are barbarians, and he who is labeled a barbarian is the most honorable of all. Many have taken on the task of trying to take up the mantle of Howard. Robert Jordan does a respectable job but none have been able to capture Howard's prose. He wields words with the same beauty, grace and brutal efficiency as Conan does his sword. Although some have said he is dated, compared to today's writers of the genre, I vehemently disagree. Most could learn a lesson by reading Howard. I also have to say that his treatment of women is progressive for a man of his time, although scantily clad they can wield a sword and can fight. Let us not forget Balit, the pirate queen of the Black Coast. "She turned toward Conan, her bosom heaving, her eyes flashing. Fierce fingers of wonder caught at his heart. She was slender, yet formed like a goddess: at once lithe and voluptuous. Her only garment was a broad silken girdle. Her white ivory limbs and the ivory globes of her breasts drove a beat of fierce passion through the Cimmerian's pulse, even in the panting fury of battle. Her rich black hair, black as a Stygian night, fell in rippling burnished clusters down her supple back. Her dark eyes burned on the Cimmerian." Who is Balit?" "The wildest she-devil unhanged. Unless I read the signs awrong, it was her butchers who destroyed that village on the bay. May I some day see her dangling from the yard-arm! She is called the queen of the black coast. She is a Shemite woman, who leads black raiders. They harry the shipping and have sent many a good tradesman to the bottom." Robert E. Howard, Queen of the Black Coast. I recommend you try Howard's Adventures of Solomon Kane.
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