ELRIC OF MELNIBONE by Michael Moorcock

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This book is written in the “high fantasy” style, which (so I gather) can be described as epic in scope, exploring the universal themes of light vs. darkness, order vs. chaos, and is serious and rather romantic in tone (in the melancholy, brooding, pre-Raphaelite sense of the word). For more on high fantasy, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_fantasy


I read the first three novellas (each about 100 pages long) in this well-known series about albino sorcerer Elric of Melnibone, the solitary and scholarly emperor of a dying people. Tormented and cursed to bear a Chaos-born sword called Stormbringer that drinks souls, the sensitive and intellectual Elric wanders the world in search of salvation. This is one of the fantasy classics, with anti-hero Elric in the role of Eternal Champion: cynical, brooding, alone. I read on Wikipedia that he was written to be the utter antithesis of Conan the Barbarian—-which he definitely is.


These stories are written as grouped novellas with a loose chronology. Although the poetic, mythic style tends to keep one somewhat at a distance (and makes Elric a bit unsympathetic at times, throwing his occasional cruelty and caprice into high relief), the stories and character are beautifully written, otherworldly, and Elric’s various god-cursed adventures and eternal striving for self-acceptance are highly imaginative. His romantic adventures are also rather poignant. I wonder if I am the only female reader out there who found this guy to be irresistably hot!!! B)


His sword particularly fascinated me, calling to mind the soul-drinking sword of my death aspected black-mage assassin character from my long-vanished Dragonquest role-playing days in college. The sword pulls Elric into murder and mayhem, drinks souls and flares into black fire when it kills, giving the wielder unusual strength. In fact, this sword gave me many ideas for a sword that may feature in my next dark Tudor writing project (more on that at the appropriate time…) In the end, I found I was reading this book for inspiration.


I’d recommend this one for fantasy readers who like dark heroes and epic, poetic prose. It’s a bit more intellectual that the fast-paced sword-and-sorcery romps you might be thinking about, but the bite-sized novellas make for brisk reading. And it’s considered to be very much a classic within the genre.

Comments

I love that people are still bringing Elric back :-) He's the high watermark for doomed quests and the (great term!) god-cursed struggle. My other favorite, of course, being Roland Deschain.

Apropos, you might appreciate that Suvudo pitted the two gloomy heroes against each other in a cage match: http://sf-fantasy.suvudu.com/2010/03/cage-match-2010-round-1-13-roland-d...

And to give you more reading still, I recommend Moorcock's "Dancers at the End of Time" trilogy. It combines romance and humor with opulent sci-fi. A fusion novel ("Elric at the End of Time") also brings the characters together to make a jarring revelation about Arioch, Elric's patron Duke of Hell.

Take care! Looking forward to reading more.

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