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The Hour of the Dragon Written in the s as a serial for Weird Tales, the famous pulp magazine, Hour of the Dragon is the only novel by Howard featuring his greatest creation, Conan the barbarian This powerful novel of violent adventure has spawned many imitations in the genre over the years, including a series of bestselling paperbacks which, in imitation of Howard, continued the adventures of ConanConan is at the pinnacle of his career in this story, having roamed the imaginary prehistoric world of Hyborea and, with native cunning and sheer force, fought his way to the throne of Aquilonia He is the archetype of the invincible warrior: tough, fearless and incredibly strongAs the novel opens, King Conan is captured by the magic of the evil sorcerer Xaltotun, whom Conan's enemies have raised from the dead, after three thousand years, for the express purpose of removing Conan from the throne Conan's armies are so unprepared to battle Xaltotun's sorcery that they are routed on the battlefield and Aquilonia is conquered Conan is secretly released from prison by a slave girl who loves him, and he fights his way out of the dungeon catacombs to freedom, defeating a giant murderous ape who blocks his way In the course of his escape, he overhears a secret meeting and learns that the source of Xaltotun's power is a mysterious jewel, the Heart of Ahriman, which Xaltotun's allies have stolen from him to insure their control over himConan resolves to track the jewel across the barbaric landscape of Hyboria, destroy Xaltotun and regain his kingdom

About the Author: Robert E. Howard

Robert Ervin Howard was an American pulp writer of fantasy, horror, historical adventure, boxing, western, and detective fiction Howard wrote over three hundred stories and seven hundred poems of raw power and unbridled emotion and is especially noted for his memorable depictions of a sombre universe of swashbuckling adventure and darkling horror.He is well known for having created — in the p

10 thoughts on “The Hour of the Dragon

  1. Jason Koivu Jason Koivu says:

    When you think of Conan you think of this...


    Then you think of the screaming barbarian...


    Whoops, sorry, I meant this...


    Fittingly, in reading Robert Howard's original Conan the Barbarian stories, what you soon realize is that Conan is a man of many faces: barbarian, lone wolf, war chief, king, pirate, thief. Ironically, that paradigm shifts somewhat in The Hour of the Dragon, which is a mishmash of, not so much the various Conans, but rather settings and, to steal a D&D term, encounters.

    I think the reason for this is that, I believe, this was the only Conan story of novel-length Howard ever wrote. Though later serialized, it was originally sold to a book publisher, rather than Howard's usual sales of short stories to the magazine Weird Tales, which were often no longer than 10-20k words. These shorts were commonly centered around a single conflict and portrayed Conan in just one phase of his colorful career. However, here we have what feels like a collection of stories pressed together in order to fulfill a publisher's minimum word count for a novel. Conan is a king leading human hordes to battle in Medieval fashion and a few pages later Conan is trapped in a dungeon and has to fight his way through ghastly monsters to regain his freedom.

    Howard wrote just about as fast as he could. This was during the Great Depression and coming by cash was not always easy. So some of the writing comes off as rushed. For instance, in Conan's world of Hyboria, if you are tall, 9 times out of 10, you will also be gaunt. Tall and gaunt, ad nauseam. By his own admission, he would occasionally turn in first drafts that then went to print. Sometimes it shows.

    On the whole, there are some nice details about mythology, ancient tribes, past strategical war practices, and other aspects that purposefully relate to our real world (Hyboria is supposed to be Earth anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 years ago). And if you're a fantasy fan, who enjoys hack'n'slash adventuring, there's something here for you as well.

  2. Tosh Tosh says:

    ...the hour of the Dragon has come…

    After reading one of Howard's shortstory collections I discovered he'd also written a full length Conan novel. The one and only - originally written in five parts for the magazine Weird Tales under the title The Hour of the Dragon, then eventually published as a book under a new title. Apparently a publishing company looking to fit this novel in with a themed series of Conan stories decided that Conan the Conqueror was more appropriate. Personally, I like the original title better.

    In this lengthened tale Conan must escape an ancient sorcerer, track down and steal an artifact of great power and take back the throne of Aquilonia from the rightful heir, and his accomplices, who have usurped him and thrown his kingdom and people into ruin.

    This was a pleasure to read. I enjoy Howard's poetic writing style and the exotic, yet familiar world in which Conan fights and thrives - a world somewhere betweeen myth and our own ancient histories. My only complaint is the end seemed a bit rushed. After the very last line I expected something more, but it was just...over.

    When you hear the name Conan, you may get an image (probably of Arnold in fur trimmed underpants...but that's not where I'm going with this). Conan isn't just an over-muscled sword wielding barbarian. He's intelligent, thoughtful, cunning and much more humane and sympathetic than popular images, or just plain assumptions, might have you believe. As you follow Conan through his many obstacles you discover a character who is hardened, but not without compassion. True, he's mostly hacking his way through obstacles, escaping sorcerers, powers of darkness, and terrible creatures, but in between some of those moments you'll get a glimpse or two of the heart of Conan. Behind those smoldering blue eyes lies a man of heart. I think that's why I like these stories so much. I've mentioned Howard's writing, which I love, but without a character that has something more than the ability to hack his enemies to pieces these stories wouldn't be quite so enjoyable.

    Important to mention - this does share some similaries with the short The Scarlet Citadel during the first few chapters of the book. A lot of the details and some of the names where changed or replaced, but the basic concept is still there.

    As far as this particular kindle edition...Not Recommended. There were so many spelling errors it started to become distracting. Words ending in rn were spelled with an m. Names were misspelled, so that I had to look them up for their correct spelling. A couple I wasn't sure the correct word was being used in a sentence. There's no way this saw an editor.

  3. HBalikov HBalikov says:

    It is not alone the rebellious lords of Aquilonia and the armies of Nemedia which are arrayed against you, answered Hadrathus. It is sorcery – grisly black magic from the grim youth of the world. An awful shape has risen out of the shades of the Past, and none can stand before it.

    This is one of the best of Howard’s Conan tales. Its rich description and compelling pace took me into a re-imagined Eastern Hemisphere of the past with warring empires and fantastic cities. Conan, a barbarian who has clawed his way to becoming King of Aquilonia, is about to suffer his worst defeat. Within a few pages of the start of this novel his realm is defeated and he is quietly caged and taken to a foreign land. Howard’s longest written piece is full of the language and prejudices that characterized pulp fiction of a hundred years ago. If you can set that aside, there is an adventure that few authors have matched and many of subsequent generations have tried to copy. I have set out below (hopefully, not spoiling the yarn) some selections of his style by topic:

    The Dark Ages return
    My lord, it is ill to say, and I fain would say otherwise. But the freedom of Aquilonia is at an end! Nay, the freedom of the whole world may be at an end! Age follows age in the history of the world, and now we enter an age of horror and slavery, as it was long ago.

    Life is dangerous, rumbled the king. I won't go as king of Aquilonia, or even as a knight of Poitain, but as a wandering mercenary, as I rode in Zingara in the old days. Oh, I have enemies enough south of the Alimane, in the lands and the waters of the south. Many who won't know me as king of Aquilonia will remember me as Conan of the Barachan pirates, or Amra of the black corsairs. But I have friends, too, and men who'll aid me for their own private reasons. A faint reminiscent grin touched his lips.

    Strange Religious Rituals and Practices
    But none knew certainly. They only knew that when a follower of Asura died, the corpse went southward down the great river, in a black boat rowed by a giant slave, and neither boat nor corpse nor slave was ever seen again; unless, indeed, certain dark tales were true, and it was always the same slave who rowed the boats southward.

    “He felt that reality and stability were crumbling into an abyss of illusion and sorcery. A wizard was understandable; but this was diabolism beyond sanity.”

    At any moment they might return, find the narrower alley and come howling down it. He felt hemmed in by those sheer, unscalable walls, desirous of escape, even if escape meant invading some unknown building. The heavy bronze door was not locked. It opened under his fingers and he peered through the crack. He was looking into a great square chamber of massive black stone. A torch smoldered in a niche in the wall. The chamber was empty. He glided through the lacquered door and closed it behind him. His sandaled feet made no sound as he crossed the black marble floor. A teak door stood partly open, and gliding through this, knife in hand, he came out into a great, dim, shadowy place whose lofty ceiling was only a hint of darkness high above him, toward which the black walls swept upward. On all sides black-arched doorways opened into the great still hall. It was lit by curious bronze lamps that gave a dim weird light. On the other side of the great hall a broad black marble stairway, without a railing, marched upward to lose itself in gloom, and above him on all sides dun galleries hung like black stone ledges. Conan shivered; he was in a temple of some Stygian god, if not Set himself, then someone only less grim.

    His one thought was to get out of the haunted chamber which had housed that beautiful, hideous, undead fiend for so many centuries. His wanderings through those black, winding tunnels, were a sweating nightmare. Behind him and about him he heard faint slitherings and glidings, and once the echo of that sweet, hellish laughter he had heard in the chamber of Akivasha. He slashed ferociously at sounds and movements he heard or imagined he heard in the darkness near him, and once his sword cut through some yielding tenuous substance that might have been cobwebs. He had a desperate feeling that he was being played with, lured deeper and deeper into ultimate night, before being set upon by demoniac talon and fang. And through his fear ran the sickening revulsion of his discovery.

    Strategic vision
    Servius shook his head. Your staunchest supporters in the eastern and central provinces are dead, fled or imprisoned. Gunderland is far to the north, Poitain far to the south. The Bossonians have retired to their marches far to the west. It would take weeks to gather and concentrate these forces, and before that could be done, each levy would be attacked separately by Amalric and destroyed.

    The Barbarian in battle
    His one chance lay in hacking through before they could gather their wits. But there were half a score of them, in full mail, hardbitten veterans of the border wars, in whom the instinct for battle could take the place of bemused wits. Three of them were down before they realized that it was only one man who was attacking them, but even so their reaction was instantaneous. The clangor of steel rose deafeningly, and sparks flew as Conan's sword crashed on basinet and hauberk. He could see better than they, and in the dim light his swiftly moving figure was an uncertain mark. Flailing swords cut empty air or glanced from his blade, and when he struck, it was with the fury and certainty of a hurricane.

    Statesmanship from a barbarian
    Let others dream imperial dreams. I but wish to hold what is mine. I have no desire to rule an empire welded together by blood and fire. It's one thing to seize a throne with the aid of its subjects and rule them with their consent. It's another to subjugate a foreign realm and rule it by fear.

    Cultural offense
    Aye, white men sell white men and white women, as it was in the feudal days. In the palaces of Shem and of Turan they will live out the lives of slaves.

  4. Ramón S. Ramón S. says:

    It is the first book of Conan that I have read. I did it thanks to Brandon.
    It is Epic and a classic of the genre. Perfectly written I enjoy very much the humanity of Conan, I mean with that: during the book I saw how he has fears, hopes, weaknesses...
    It is a mature Conan and I love how is becoming from a loner to a king full of nobility ... Highly recommended

  5. S.E. Lindberg S.E. Lindberg says:

    From death to death [ The Heart of Ahriman]  came, riding on a river of human blood. Blood feeds it, blood draws it. Its power is greatest when there is blood on the hands that grasp it, when it is wrested by slaughter from its holder. Wherever it gleams, blood is spilt and kingdoms totter, and the forc es of nature are put in turmoil. --  Thutothmes of Khemi (The Hour of The Dragon, by REH)

    The Hour of the Dragon (1934-1936), is Robert E. Howard''s only full length novel of Conan, the barbarian he popularized in short story form. The text is available on-line for free via the Gutenberg project, but there are reason's to track down a paperback. I read the Berkley Putnam 1977 edition, which has splendid additions to the story: comprehensive foreword and afterwords by Karl Wagner explain how the novel formed prior being serialized in Weird Tales; a map of the Hyborian Age (inspired by REH's own drawings) is essential for the Hyborian ambiances; interior illustrations are bonuses; and cover art by Ken Kelly is stellar. 

    Hyborian Age: As Wagner details, this book was REH's attempt to break into the UK market that demanded novels (and were not agreeable to his proposals for a collection of his own stories). REH presents Conan as King of Aquilonia. Sorcery and treachery dethrone him, and Conan trots about much of Hyboria, either pursing or being challenged by those who have the magical Heart of Ahriman (which we learn in the opening chapter). This touring of the pre-drowned Euro-Afro-Asia continent begs for a map. The traveling adventure amplifies the Hyborian Age concept; REH's Conan lived in rich pseudo historical land that enabled real ancient cultures to interact with mythical ones. Each chapter has Conan (and his enemies) traversing Aquilonia, Nemeda, Argos, Stygia, and more (these roughly translates to central Europe and Northern Africa). I'm not sure if any othe rtale 

    Missing Chapter Mystery: A deal was accepted but the UK publisher went belly up, so REH worked with Weird Tales to publish the chapters in serial form. As Wagner explains, there is a possibility that one chapter went missing (#20). Wagner left the numbering of the chapters consistent with the numbering as printed in Weird Tales (#20 is skipped); the original manuscript sent to Denis Archer has 4,000 more words (Pawling & Ness imprint) has 75,000 words. That edition never made it to press, but Weird Tales published the novel in serial form...and it had only 71,000 words. Regardless, the story seems consistent, so there is no obvious loss in plot. 

    Style: REH did not change his writing style, so each chapter maintains a very pulpy feel. Chapters are over saturated with conflicts to maintain a frenetic pace. An over reliance on chance encounters detracts from the enjoyment, but it remains a fun read on the whole. Written in the 1930's, the tone has some racial and misogynistic aspects of the time.  Despite the use of the word negro, Conan appears as a champion/friend to many and even freed many slaves. Woman on the other hand were represented terribly; the few featured are concubines who are cheer leaders of Conan requiring rescue. Here are some examples:

    Example 1: Concubine saves Conan and is glad to have him put a knife to her      Walk beside me, [Conan] instructed her softly, passing his massive arm about her lithe waist. You've played me fair so far, and I'm inclined to believe in you; but I've lived this long only because I've trusted no one too far, man or woman. So! Now if you play me false you won't live to enjoy the jest.      She did not flinch at sight of the reddened poniard or the contact of his hard muscles about her supple body.
         Cut me down without mercy if I play you false, she answered. The very feel of your arm about me, even in menace, is as the fulfillment of a dream.  

    Example 2: Conan relishes in his obvious manliness     All right, [Conan] muttered. I'll trust you; though, by Crom, the habits of a lifetime are not easily put aside. Yet I wouldn't harm you now, if you brought all the swordsmen in Nemedia upon me. But for you Tarascus's cursed ape would have come upon me in chains and unarmed. Do as you wish, girl.     Kissing his hands, she sprang lithely up and ran down the corridor, to vanish through a heavy double door.
         He glanced after her, wondering if he was a fool to trust her; then he shrugged his mighty shoulders and pulled the satin hangings together, masking his refuge. It was not strange that a passionate young beauty should be risking her life to aid him; such things had happened often enough in his life. Many women had looked on him with favor, in the days of his wanderings, and in the time of his kingship. 

    Example 3: Conan thanks the concubine who saves him by taking his sexual due     A horse is hidden for you in a thicket beside the road that runs westward, a few hundred paces to the south of the fountain of Thrallos. You know where it is?
         Aye! But what of you? I had meant to take you with me.
         A flood of joy lighted her beautiful face.
         Then my cup of happiness is brimming! But I will not hamper your escape. Burdened with me you would fail. Nay, do not fear for me. They will never suspect that I aided you willingly. Go! What you have just said will glorify my life throughout the long years.
         He caught her up in his iron arms, crushed her slim, vibrant figure to him and kissed her fiercely on eyes, cheeks, throat and lips, until she lay panting in his embrace; gusty and tempestuous as a storm-wind, even his love- making was violent.

    The over arching plot is engaging, as is Conan's adventures as he meets up with past friends/foes/allies of his pre-King days. The titular Dragon refers to the antagonist's standard (there are many other bad guys, often associated with serpents); Conan and his allies have Lion icons. Conan is dethroned in the very beginning, and it is nigh impossible not to read on to see how he can win it back. That said, the constant, intense adventure indicative of pulp fiction doesn't work well in a novel form. There is a chaotic, accumulating silliness: our wilderness-bred, panther-stalking hero trips in a curtain while attacking his major foe; he routinely stumbles across key foes in random places, encounters that push any bounds of coincidence; he is saved too often by random characters/events; there are too many evil-dude-explains-his-ways scenes; every few pages he comes across new, crazy conflicts that would work well in short story form (ghouls, vampires, etc.). The in-your-face misogyny and high-frequency-chance-encounters/saves is distracting.

    The Hour of The Dragon is good adventure and represents Conan and REH's Hyboria well.  The story is best when it focuses on the grand battles and weird descriptions of necromancy. A map and context (i.e. from Wagner's essays) make it more enjoyable.

  6. Arley Dial Arley Dial says:

    In this final (chronologically) Conan story, Howard demonstrates why he was one of the best adventure writers of all time. In the only novel he ever produced, Howard is able to maintain the blistering pace he is known for, while still weaving a complex and interesting tale. The story is set during Conan's time as King of Aquilonia, which is a period in the hero's life often overlooked (I'm looking at you, Hollywood.) In act one, King Conan is defeated and the kindom is wrested from his grasp. We follow the hero on his quest to defeat an ancient wizard and reclaim his crown. Conan's travels take us through many kingdoms of hyboria, and show the depth of Howard's world building skill and imagination. Undead wizards, priests of mad gods, exotic assasins, and (of course) giant snakes seek to thwart our hero, but the man who rose from his barbarous roots to claim the throne of the greatest kingdom in the west will not be denied. This book is a must read for every adventure fantasy fan, and if (like me) you aspire to write fantasy adventure of your own, it will give you a high mark to strive for. I'll leave you with a quote from the book which sums up why Conan is the greatest fantasy hero of all time.

    His surcoat was gone, his armor splashed with blood and battered with strokes of sword, mace and ax. He loomed gigantically against a background of blood and slaughter, like some grim pagan hero of mythology.

  7. Jim Jim says:

    I'm reading an online version on Wikisource. I think this is the original that was published as a serial in the pulps.

    This is a great Conan adventure that winds up showing us a lot of his previous life, so that makes it a lot of fun. All the convenient elements got to me, though. One or two in a short story are fine, but an entire novel was too much. (view spoiler)[ Zenobia, must have been the best setup gal in all the western kingdoms to accomplish what she did so quickly & easily. (hide spoiler)]

  8. RJ from the LBC RJ from the LBC says:

    The only full length Conan novel written by REH is much the better for the expanded scope allowed by the greater page count. Although some of the situations in the novel are very similar to early short stories, there is much to be enjoyed including numerous supporting characters with fleshed out motives and often shifting allegiances, a lengthy quest to new locations, and a deeper exploration of Conan's character.

  9. V. V. says:

    The problem with a lot of genre classics is that their ideas have been ripped off so often they end up reading like they're full of cliches even though they were the originators of those familiar tropes.

    But when it comes to the best of the pulp writers there's an electric vibe that runs through them that doesn't fade. Like the stories of Raymond Chandler or Lovecraft or even Poe, they're just very entertaining and fun.

    Conan stories vary in quality, but this one, the only full-length novel, has everything you'd want in a ridiculous over-the-top swords and sorcery epic. Undead wizards, giant snakes, vampires who live in pyramids, brave but terrified harlots, and thundering through battles, sword drenched in blood, Conan the Barabarian—risen to king and fighting to reclaim his throne. Plus a little casual racism. What more could you want?

    This won't convince anyone who finds this kind of thing juvenile and pointless that they're wrong (if anything it will probably do the opposite), but for anyone who's ever been a 14 year old boy (or still is) this is a great read and its entertainment value has not diminished over the decades.

    Spoiler: there are no actual dragons in this story.

  10. Timothy Boyd Timothy Boyd says:

    Another of the heavily edited collections of Robert E. Howards stories. I am a purist when it comes to a writers works. I know some of these stories are no longer PC but they should be read as Howard wrote them and understood that he wrote in another period. Don't read this book unless you just can't find any others of Howard's unedited books to read. Message me if you need a list of what is good from this awesome fantasy and action writer.

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