- Stone, Irving — The Agony and the Ecstasy (439 of 763 pages)
- Morpurgo, Michael — The Mozart Question (68 pages)
- Unsworth, Barry — Stone Virgin (312 pages)
- Phillips, Caryl — The Nature of Blood (212 pages)
- Howard, Robert E. — The Conan Chronicles, Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (549 pages)
- Page count
I was in the mood for some good old-fashioned Sword and Sorcery. One of my goals for the year is to read two "series." I weighed all the available options and was drawn to the complete collection of the original Conan stories, which satisfies both criteria.
This and the companion volume contain all Conan material (essays, stories, unpublished drafts, and fragments) by the Cimmerian's creator, Robert E. Howard, in chronological order. Thus, the reader gets to witness Conan grow and develop from a petty thief to a leader of men, which is a fascinating progression to observe.
But more than anything, these stories are just plain old fun. Sure, they are basically variations on a theme, but that does not diminish my enjoyment of them, as they are so well crafted. I think I understand the elemental Conan's appeal, for beyond the spirit of adventure embodied in these tales, Conan represents the ur-hero, noble yet savage, free yet bound by a strong personal moral code, uncompromising and generous, and pulsing with life every step of the way.