The Hour of the Dragon (The Essential Conan #1) ★★★☆☆

hourofthedragon (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Hour of the Dragon
Series: The Essential Conan #1
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 296
Format: Digital Edition



4 Conspirators, using a mystic gem of unimaginable power, resurrect a long dead wizard, Xaltotun. They plan to use his power to further their own aims. What they so carelessly forget is that Xaltotun might have plans of his own, like the resurrection of his whole nation of 1000’s of years ago from the Age of Dark Wizards.

One man stands in their way. Conan, king of Aquilonia. A fierce Cimmerian who took the throne by force, Conan is no innocent when it comes to the ways of wizards. After being overthrown by magic, secretly being taken captive by Xaltotun and then escaping, Conan tries to take back his country. Problem is, Aquilonia is rift with factions and Xaltotun, through his puppet, is playing those factions against each other. And should Conan unite the country, Xaltotun will just use his magic to destroy them all again.

With the help of the priests of a cultic god and a wild witch woman from the hills, Conan learns he must find the Heart of Ahriman and use its powers to overthrow Xaltotun. Only then will sword and spear be enough to route the human element. After several adventures, including pirates, a voluptuous vampire and priests of the dark god Set, Conan recovers the jewel.

Xaltotun is unaware and blithely goes to his doom. Every Aquilonian suddenly turns patriot and Conan takes his country back and paddles the backsides of the other nations that did him wrong.


My Thoughts:

This is actually an omnibus edition put out by the Science Fiction Book Club back in the late 90’s or or early ’00’s. It contains 2 other Conan books, which all consist of a series of short stories. This one, Hour of the Dragon, is the only novel in the book. There are forwards and afterwards by some editor who appears to be a big Conan fan and while slightly interesting to a big Conan fan, didn’t mean a thing to me. I don’t care about Howard’s personal life or that he was such a coward that he took his own life at 36. That doesn’t get sympathy from me but makes me despise him as a human. And that is just the type of thing I don’t want when going into a book.

Sword and Sorcery at its height, perhaps? This was Adventure pure and simple and there was nothing complicated about that. This is not about characterization or rich world building. Conan is a force of nature that hews and kills and fights against all odds and prevails.

While I enjoyed this, I also tend to enjoy crunchy Cheetos. I only eat Cheetos in the small snack packs now, as any larger amount makes me sick. This Essential omnibus is probably going to fulfill my Conan quota for quite some time. It is just the type of writing that you can enjoy but if you overdose, you’ll stay away from for the rest of your life. I want to be able to enjoy these stories even while realizing their inherent weaknesses. I mean, really, how many times can you read “mighty thews” and keep your eyes from rolling?



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26 thoughts on “The Hour of the Dragon (The Essential Conan #1) ★★★☆☆

  1. I’d probably roll my eyes the first time I saw “mighty thews” in writing… And then I’d keep them rolling which would effectively stop me from reading 😀 The only Conan I tried to read was in Polish, and man, that was a traumatic experience 😉 One of the few DNFs if I remember correctly…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha. Well, after Piotrek’s and your explanation about polish translations, I’m a little leary now.

      I found Howard’s writing to be lush and descriptive but it was saved from “Purple prose” mainly be the action. It also helps that he wrote short stories and so even this novel was a collection of adventures that he strung together.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, I’ve read Solomon Kane (well, listened to) in 2015 and I have to say, simultaneously, that I agree with you – Howard is cool, but not in too big doses, and that I’m pretty sure Ola would feel the same way about Conan in its original language 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Back in the day every time I read a Conan book, I always saw in my mind’s eye the Governator…I know I shouldn’t. Arnie has far too much personal “dignity” for this…Did I say dignity? Nah..

    Loved the review.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I just watched that movie a year or two ago. It didn’t make me want to watch the sequel or the reboot.
      Thankfully, I’ve seen enough old Frazetta (I think) covers that that was never an issue for me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Were these stories all written by Howard and presented as published? Some of his later imitators go wild with the “thews” and the like (see Carter, Lin). Howard himself may have only used the word once in his original Conan stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are by Howard and originally published in Weird or Strange Tales.

      I saw it at least twice in this novel. Now that I’ve moved on to the short story collections, it tends to appear at least twice in each tale as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A lot of people see Conan as junk food reading, but Howard was a masterful writer, “thews” notwithstanding. =P

    The poetry of his prose rarely disappoints me, even if a lot of it is about dudes cleaving each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. hehe the way you eat cheetos/enjoyed this book in small doses is the same as how I only like mars bar minis (they’re a chocolate that’s so sickly sweet I can only ever manage a bite- I don’t get how the Scots eat them fried)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can’t stop laughing at the book cover 😀 Look how dorky he looks ahahahahaa
    Who thought this facial expression was the best choice for a Conan book?? 😀

    I’ve never read any of those and won’t. Just not for me. I watch the movies though^^

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think a LOT of peoples visual image of Conan is from the comics that started back in the 70’s.

      I think the Frazetta variant (I believe that cover is by Frank Frazetta) is a bit closer to the book. Definitely gets the mightily muscled barbarian warrior 🙂

      Did you watch both old movies and the new one? I’ve only seen the first Arnie one and never tried the others.


      1. I’ve watched both Arnie movies and the 2011 version starring Jason Momoa.

        The newer one was pretty average, but Momoa was nice to look at. I watched it in cinema while I was working in Northern Ireland. Good memories^^

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I honestly didn’t know about this author or his work and always thought of Arnold when someone mentioned the great Conan. Good to see this one pop up from your end. I’ll be curious to see how your fair with it. Is this your first time or a re-read? I couldn’t tell hahah I also can’t tell if it’ll be something worth picking up at some point in my life or not. To be determined; probably based on what you think about the whole omnibus in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I “think” it is a re-read, as it was only available from the SFBC for a limited time and I would almost immediately read whatever I ordered from them. It was probably back when I was in highschool in the mid 90’s though, so I wasn’t keeping track.
      I also don’t remember any of this, so even if it IS a re-read, it’s brand new to my mind 😀

      As for whether it is worth it or not. I guess that really depends. There is a lot better fantasy today. BUT. This really is the grand-daddy of epic fantasy as we think of it. Written back in the 1920-1930’s, it is foundational. And Howard is a wordsmith, This is no Forgotten Realms level of writing 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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