Friday, July 13, 2007

By Michael Moorcock

The final novel of the Elric saga makes manifest what the reader has known all along: Elric is just a pair of hands for Stormbringer the Runesword to work its will. The weapon controls events, the man is the tool.

Of course, Elric ain’t going without a fight. The wizards of the island realm of Pan Tang have launched a war of global conquest, acting as front men for the Lords of Chaos. It’s a direct affront to Elric, since his people did exactly the same thing from their island kingdom of Melniboné, but with much more class.

If it were only human foes, this would be no big deal for a hero like Elric. But book six brings Elric into headlong confrontation with his fate, which is inextricably linked with the Runesword, Stormbringer.

Of all the Elric saga books, Stormbringer is the hardest to like. It’s not a cheerful tale of treasure hunts. Moorcock has carefully nurtured his world and his characters until the reader cares about them. Watching them suffer makes a demand on a reader. But it is a necessary part of the saga, one that is foreseen from the beginning. The reward for a reader is a catharsis you usually don’t find in sword and sorcery. If you like heroic fantasy, meet Mr. Moorcock’s demands and earn the reward of Stormbringer.

-Dave Hardy

Thursday, July 12, 2007

By Michael Moorcock

There are certain places in fiction that seems to have a life of their own, that seem to exist outside of ink and paper, Rick’s Café, Yoknapatawpha County, Lankhmar, The House of the Last Lamp, or Tanelorn where weary heroes go to find peace.

Elric of Melniboné is not the average sword & sorcery hero. He springs from an ancient pre-human race, steeped in black sorcery and evil. Elric is an albino, preternaturally weak except for two things. He is allied with the foulest of all the foul deities his people once worshipped, Arioch the Lord of Chaos. Elric also wields Stormbringer the Black Runesword. It has the power to steal the very soul of its victims and pass them on to Elric. Yet Elric is a man who seeks a more balanced life, he has a conscience (unlike many action heroes). But his origins and associations always bring chaos back to his life.

This part of the saga recounts Elric’s great feud with Theleb K’aarna, the sorcerer of Pan Tang and the feud’s bearing on Kaneloon the tower at the edge of Chaos and Tanelorn, where adventurers find peace. Along the way Elric battles extra-dimensional hordes, visits Nadsokor the City of Beggars, where they will not abide any who are not broken in mind or body, and meets other incarnations of himself, the Eternal Champion.

Some of the best sword & sorcery ever written. The Vanishing Tower is a worthy installment in this saga, the action is full of surprises, yet always drives towards the ultimate goal Moorcock is aiming for. The Elric saga unites the “anything goes” freewheeling surprise of picaresque adventures (such as the Conan series or Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser) and the sense of destiny embodied in The Worm Ouroboros or Lord of the Rings (even if Moorcock wouldn’t like the latter comparison). I can honestly say that the Elric saga does not flag at any point.
-Dave Hardy

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

By Michael Moorcock

The White Wolf in question is Elric of Meniboné, the doomed and magnificent emperor of the Dragon Isle (not the White Wolf worshipped by Lt. Othman in “Son of the White Wolf” by Robert E. Howard, though Elric does have a rapport with mythic animals). Elric is the albino sorcerer who wields Stormbringer, the sword of great power and awful doom.

This is the part of the Elric sage where things begin to turn. Elric has his final, fateful confrontation with Yrkoon, in a hellishly dramatic battle that wrenches the story loose from all your comfortable assumptions.

It’s also the part where Elric is free to be a picaresque hero, albeit a doomed and tormented one, His sidekick, Moonglum, appears. Moonglum plays a knowing Sancho Panza to Elric’s Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance, perhaps deliberately, for Moorcock’s heroes are echoes of all the other heroes that have lived. Free (as in having nothing left to lose), Elric journeys on a quest for a mystic tome of great power and skirmishes with an arrogant sorcerer and a renegade deity on behalf of a lovely human princess (never forget, Elric is not human).

The third book of the Elric saga carries this fantastic epic into the middle reaches where anything is possible. What emerges is the flowering of one of the all-time greats of sword and sorcery.

-Dave Hardy

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

By Michael Moorcock

When I was a kid my high school buddies and I would swap our favorite sword and sorcery books around. I loaned my pals precious copies of Robert E. Howard’s Conan books and in return I borrowed a book called The Sailor on the Seas of Fate. The cover showed a white-faced fellow doing something desperate with a sword. The words inside blew me away.

This is book two in the saga of Elric of Melniboné. While sword and sorcery thrives on sympathetic anti-heroes, Elric pushed the envelope. He is the offspring of the Melnibonéans, a pre-human race of tremendous magical skill, superior refinement, and absolutely depraved decadence. He seeks to revitalize the kingdom he rules, and so has ventured forth to visit the human kingdoms who have freed themselves from the hated despotism of Melniboné. The books opens with Elric alone and hunted on the shore of a human kingdom whither he has gone to learn new things, but has found only hatred and violence.

A few things one must know about Elric: he is an albino with little physical strength, he is best friends with the worst demon from the pits of Chaos, and he has a sword that doesn’t just kill you, it drinks your soul. On that cheery note our hero is off, plunged head-first into the seas of fate. First he is recruited into an all-star cast of Michael Moorcock heroes sailing on a ship of the damned to save the many universes from a terrible doom. Next he’s on an island of the damned, presided over by an insane black sorcerer who might just be kin. Finally he’s a hired sword for a band of merchant adventurers on a trek that may reveal the origins of Elric’s people.

It’s not just the nostalgia talking. This stuff is fantastic. Moorcock mates slam-bang action with a brooding sense of doom and wraps it in crisp prose that leaves a reader begging for more. There is no sword and sorcery that is better, Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber are Moorcock’s peers. Elric stands beside Conan, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser at the pinnacle of sword and sorcery.

-Dave Hardy

Friday, July 06, 2007

By Michael Moorcock

This is volume one of the epic saga of Elric, the albino emperor of the Dragon Isle. Elric rules the island empire of Melniboné, the homeland of his strange semi-human race, from the Ruby Throne in dreaming Imrryr. The Melniboneans ruled the world with massive battle fleets, fighting dragons, and sorcery from the pits of hell. Now they are confined to their island, living in decayed splendor.

Into this comes the young emperor Elric, seeking to revitalize Melniboné, evan as his frail body fails him. But he has the love of a good woman, Cymoril. He also has the hate and jealousy of Cymoril’s brother, Yrkoon. He regards Elric’s abhorrence of needless sociopathic violence as a most un-Melnibonéan deviation. Thus the stage is set.

As Elric grapples with foreign invaders and Yrkoon’s hostility he finds support in the most unlikely places. He forges an alliance with Arioch, the most bloodthirsty of the Chaos gods (or are they demons?) and the ancient patron of Elric’s race. The Albino emperor also finds the black Runesword, Stormbringer. A weapon of awesome potential, it literally steals the soul of its victims and feeds them to its wielder.

This is sword & sorcery on a grand scale. There is magic, swordplay, dragons, dungeons, gods, demons, love, hate, ancient curses, and the fall of mighty kingdoms. And all this is just the opener. Moorcock ran the series to six volumes and not a bit of it is excess. If you are a sword & sorcery fan this is essential reading.
-Dave Hardy