November 22, 2004


If the Good Guy in a Fantasy Novel Has a Weird
Looking Black Sword, You Don't Want to Be the Bad Guy.

Michael Moorcock is certainly a prolific author, and he's a staple on most fantasy reading lists, even though his stuff isn't even close to Tolkien or any of the other fantasy greats. I guess the screaming black sword mowing down enemies like wheat and stealing their souls has some weird appeal. Worked for me. Moorcock's most famous series is Elric.

Elric is a very weak, albino boy born into a royal line and due to ascend to the throne of a very ancient empire. He uses a combination of potions and sorcery to keep himself strong, but his many vulnerabilities lead to problems. Ultimately, he finds a black rune sword named Stormbringer that basically does his work for him, allowing him to take his revenge on his enemies, ascend to the throne, kill lots of people, etc.

The original Elric series is six short books that have since been combined into two omnibus editions. It's not bad, very pulpish swords-and-sorcery with weak characterization (outside of Elric), off-the-deep-end cruelty (i.e. Doctor Jest the professional torturer) and satisfying revenge scenes. It also fits inside a larger story of Moorcock's that goes on into other omnibus books like "The Swords Trilogy" and "The Chronicles of Corum", which is similar in style and quality. I consider it a cut above Conan-style stories.

The common theme is the "Eternal Champion", who is reincarnated in many different times on many different worlds to essentially fight the same battle with a new cast of characters. Sometimes this concept is brought out into the open, and the gods of Chaos and Order are brought into the fray. There are some parallels here with one of my all-time favorites, Steven Brust, but Brust writes a much more intelligent, funny and complex tale with real people as characters.

Posted by Observer at November 22, 2004 06:48 AM

Comments on entries can only be made in pop-up windows while those entries are still on the main index page. Sorry for the inconvenience this causes, but this blocks about 99.99% of the spam the blog receives.

I love the end of the Elric saga. I so totally love it. It constantly makes me laugh.

Posted by: Humbaba on November 22, 2004 09:41 PM