The King in Yellow is a group of thinly connected short stories all dealing with the effect of a two act play titled "The King in Yellow". The play will show up in the lives and libraries of the victums as if it has a dark soul and will of its own. The King in Yellow is currently the best known work by RWC and rightly so. Chambers was never able to return to the true maddness of this his second work. The haunting wonder of this work has only been seen before or since in Poe and Lovecraft.
One of the best opening ever written. Historical love store set against the backdrop of the Civil War. The hero finds that his birth is in question on the day that his fortune is lost. He falls in love but can not marry without disgracing his mother's memory. He laughs at the fools going off to the war between the states until his fortune turns and then goes off to the war only to find himself under the command of the man who ruined his mother and may or may not be his father. Love, courage and war.
The Crimson Tide:
Strong beginning as always, girl companion to Russian Royal Family wants to become a nun, when the Romanoffs are offed she renounces God, the Church and of course marriage. After the Russian stuff the work falls apart. Never rewritten from magazine. Plot line is muddled. They make up in one line and the next don't see each other for months. One of his worst since Barbarians, very preachy with old themes over worked by Chambers, sad to see how far he has fallen since TKIY.
A piece of jingoistic crap, well written crap but crap still, his all time worst, World War I anti-German propaganda. He paints all Germans, even German Americans, as Huns and monsters. Written for the bucks.
Farm girl becomes star. She is a throw back to her grandmother, a swan in the land of ducks. A writer is in love with her but social differences stand in the way. Unconsummated marriage theme as in other works.
The Drums of Aulone:
Huguenots in France are being killed out by the church and state. The daughter of the noble head of an army must run for her life into the new world. She is forced to marry to protect her true love. She plans to kill herself to keep the marriage unconsummated. Set against the Indian Wars in Canada, a fine historical work.
The Common Law:
Artist and model in love. He is from the upper class and can not marry her because of his family, she just wants to climb in bed with him without ritual of the church but he won't. Old reworked plot aimed at the shop girl market but still good prose.
A shocker in it's day. A weak willed rich man marries the wrong women to please his mother. He can not live with his wife because she wants nothing but his name and will not divorce. He lives in sin with Athalie, his clairvoyant lover, who dies in childbirth. They are reunited in the afterlife.
The Fighting Chance:
Story of a society drunk fighting alcoholism with the love of a good but flawed woman. His first best seller, I found it hard to read.
The Flaming Jewel:
Adventure in the north woods, plots and counter plots over royal jewels. Very well written. Nice use of irony, setting, and pacing.
The Little Red Foot:
Revolutionary War adventure set after the death of Sir William Johnson in Chambers' beloved Broadalbin forests. One of his best. The hero is an English Lord done out of his title by a cousin and in love with a Scotch girl with second sight. Well researched. Still driven by love theme.
The Slayer of Souls:
The Slayer of Souls, concerns a young American girl raised by the Yezidee-Mongols, a murderous cult of killers with psychic power, who want to rule the world. Because of her training in the East and her own powers, she is all that stands in the way of their evil plans. With the help of a standard issue dashing viral hero, the state department, and a female friend from her temple days they face danger and she falls in love with the hero. Chambers before 1900 was a force to be reckened with in weird literature. By the time of this book his sugery romance style had corroded his formibable dark prose but there is still power here. This is his standard romance with all kinds of weird things thrown in. Every time you turn around some Mongol is stealing the bed sheets for his death shroud and going off to die. This is not The King in Yellow but it is still a fun book and well worth the time if for no other reason then Robert W. Chambers wrote it. H. P. Lovecraft loved this book, maybe because he saw Chambers returning to his roots. Great ideas, good prose, written too fast most likely for a magazine sale. Could have used with a re-write.
The Tree of Heaven:
Just finished reading the 1907 first edition of this book. There are some very good ideas here and the prose to back them up but the sugery romance themes that dominated Chambers' later career are starting to show a little too much here for my taste. The Carpet of Belshazzar, the piece that binds together all of the other stories, is dark and brilliant. The Golden Pool is great and touching, a good piece of prose. The Tree of Dreams and The Swastika are light and funny, if anything dealing with a swastika can be said to be funny after 1938. Try to remember that this was written in 1907. The Sign of Venus is just plane fun, Most of the rest are okay to better than okay.
Civil War female spy for the South
The Younger Set:
The Streets of Ascalon:
Revolutionary War in Broadalbin
Maids of Paradise:
Revolutionary War in Broadalbin
The Man They Hanged:
The Maker of Moons
1902 (reprint on order)
The Firing Line: