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Elric: Swords and Roses (Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melnibone Series #6)

Elric: Swords and Roses (Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melnibone Series #6)

3.9 49
by Michael Moorcock, John Picacio (Illustrator), Tad Williams (Foreword by)

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Foreword by Tad Williams

Feared by enemies and friends alike, Elric of Melniboné walks a lonely path among the worlds of the Multiverse. The destroyer of his cruel and ancient race, as well as its final ruler, Elric is the bearer of a destiny as dark and cursed as the vampiric sword he carries—the sentient black blade known as Stormbringer.

Del Rey


Foreword by Tad Williams

Feared by enemies and friends alike, Elric of Melniboné walks a lonely path among the worlds of the Multiverse. The destroyer of his cruel and ancient race, as well as its final ruler, Elric is the bearer of a destiny as dark and cursed as the vampiric sword he carries—the sentient black blade known as Stormbringer.

Del Rey is proud to present the sixth and concluding installment of its definitive omnibus editions featuring fantasy Grand Master Michael Moorcock’s most famous—or infamous—creation. Here is the full text of the novel The Revenge of the Rose, a screenplay for the novel Stormbringer, the novella Black Petals, the conclusion to Moorcock’s influential “Aspects of Fantasy” essay series and other nonfiction, and an indispensable reader’s guide by John Davey.

Sumptuously illustrated by John Picacio, with a Foreword by Tad Williams, Elric: Swords and Roses is a fitting tribute to the most unique fantasy hero of all time.

Editorial Reviews

The concept of the multiverse -- a plethora of individually infinite universes of every conceivable nature, coexisting yet separated from each other in some fashion -- holds a particular horror for those who fancy that their lives derive meaning and ethical stature only from a sense of self-determined uniqueness. Ontological nausea and revulsion swiftly set in when such a person begins to contemplate billions of his doppelgangers enacting perverse, bizarre, and morally repulsive scenarios imbued with just as much existential gravitas as the one his particular consciousness in this universe experiences and privileges. Such a vision embodies self-betrayals of the most intimate possible nature.

But for those of us who relish the notion of a limitless plenum in which every possible outcome of consciousness, every possible arrangement of matter, every possible set of natural laws, is given concrete expression somewhere -- even though these other universes lie forever beyond our reach -- the concept of the multiverse offers a triumph of the imagination and spirit. No flight of fancy, however wild, is denied existence. Every potential aspect of one's character, suppressed in this universe, finds manifestation elsewhere. Bad fates in this universe are avoided in an infinity of others. And the multiverse settles all perplexing questions of "Why this?" with a simple "Because we see only one thread of an infinite tapestry."

And you cannot really avoid forming a reaction to the notion of a multiverse either -- assuming you respect science -- since almost all contemporary physics accepts and even demands the reality of parallel worlds. Love it or hate it, the multiverse is here to stay.

It's not hard to guess -- in advance of reading Brian Greene's latest survey of the actual physics behind the multiverse, The Hidden Reality -- which side of the emotional fence he comes down on. Having gone to the effort of producing a hypnotically fascinating book-length explication of the concept, Greene is plainly invested deeply in the awesomeness of multiple realities. His enthusiasm and passion for parallel worlds infuses every iota of this ideationally dense yet essentially comprehensible opus.

Greene informs us at the outset that he will explicate nine types of multiverses. (Yes, we are about to encounter a multiverse of multiverses!) The first seven are direct outgrowths of discoveries or theories in modern physics: cosmology, string theory, etc. The final two are more purely conceptual or speculative exercises. So, because the first set requires grounding in several branches of science, Greene devotes plenty of space to topics that are foundational: how gravity works, the Inflationary Big Bang, and so forth. Admirably, he skips the boring and redundant primer level, which so many popular science books continue timidly to include at this late date, but assumes that his readership of interested twenty-first-century laypeople has a solid acquaintance already with the science of the past hundred years. This tactic is much appreciated, and never abused, as any sticky or abstruse points are still treated with appropriate depth in Greene's trademark crystalline prose studded with handy and often amusing metaphors. ("Imagine you work for the notorious film producer Harvey W. Einstein, who has asked you to put out a casting call for the lead in his new indie, Pulp Friction.")

It's impossible for this review to summarize every step of Greene's balletic footwork, by which, like some multi-limbed Asian deity, he dances into being each different theoretical framework that could support multiple universes. Suffice it to say, switching analogies, that his arguments are constructed like classical cathedrals, with intricate arches and buttresses that all uphold the central spire. Sometimes you think he's lost in the details of some sculpted gargoyle, only to realize how essential to the whole structure this particular feature is.

He starts with the simplest of multiverses, the "Quilted" one. In this case, a purely spatial infinity is all that is needed to produce an infinity of timelines, separated merely by lightyears and not other dimensions. He concludes with the "Ultimate" multiverse, a philosophical construct owing much to the speculations of Robert Nozick. In between, we get bubble universes and "branes" and five other mind-boggling ways in which the cosmos we know can be viewed as merely one member of an endless family of possibilities.

Chapter Seven, coming right at the midpoint of the book, is a very useful diversion from propounding new theories, a breather in which Greene examines the controversies surrounding the very notion of a multiverse, and whether these speculations that cannot be tested, observed, or falsified truly adhere to the spirit of science. Coming down staunchly on the side of unfettered yet rigorous hypothesizing (and leaving open the possibility that our descendants will be able someday to verify our flights of scientific fancy), Greene emerges prepped to ascend even greater heights in the second half of the book.

The tension between the two camps -- lovers and haters of the multiverse -- that I described in my opening paragraphs is a constant motif throughout the book, as Greene continually seeks to justify the rewards inherent in accepting "the hidden reality" of the multiverse. His concluding sentences sum up his stance bravely and concisely: "But it's only through fearless engagement that we can learn our own limits. It's only through the rational pursuit of theories, even those that whisk us into strange and unfamiliar domains, that we stand a chance of revealing the expanse of reality."

* * *

Greene namechecks several fictional treatments of multiversal concepts in his opening chapter -- Star Trek's "The City on the Edge of Forever," Borges's "The Garden of Forking Paths," Run Lola Run -- and indeed this concept has received extensive treatment in science fiction and other types of literature, rendering its outlines familiar to even the most casual reader and viewer. The well-developed scientific treatment of parallel worlds in literature goes back at least as far as H. G. Wells, and has received extensive elaboration from writers as diverse as Edmond Hamilton and Fritz Leiber, Robert Silverberg and Keith Laumer.

Curiously enough, one of the most seminal and impactful introductions of the concept occurred in a comic book, the now-classic September 1961 issue of The Flash, with its feature story "Flash of Two Worlds." Scripter Gardner Fox, long-steeped in pulp writing, imported the notion of multiple timelines to the home turf of Superman and Batman (Marvel Comics belatedly followed suit), and an explosion of multiversal narratives ensued, to the point where parent company DC Comics felt obliged to stage Crisis on Infinite Earths some twenty years later, to pare down the proliferation of alternate worlds.

But if one had to pick a single author who has done the most to portray the quirks and potentials of a functioning multiverse, that figure would undeniably be Michael Moorcock. First employing the concept almost five decades ago, Moorcock has since woven nearly all his copious output -- tightly or loosely, as circumstances allow -- into one vast braided multiverse of story. So identified is Moorcock with the multiverse, in fact, that upon his ascent to SFWA Grandmaster, I was able to easily evoke a humorous scenario involving the author and his doppelgangers that any of his readers would instantly recognize. 

Moorcock's latest, Elric: Swords and Roses, is the sixth and concluding installment in his chronicle of the doomed, Byronic, albino swordsman who functions as a kind of template or seed character for so many other antiheroes in the Moorcock multiverse.

We open the omnibus (which also contains a previously unpublished screenplay, a novella, and several essays, as well as pages of artwork) with its core component, a complete novel from 1991, The Revenge of the Rose. Whereas many of Elric's early adventures dealt with the multiverse only implicitly, this late-period outing foregrounds the nature of creation in Moorcock's fiction. The multiverse nearly assumes the role of an actor in the adventure. For beneath the expected inventive sword-and-sorcery decadence (Elric, a woman warrior named Rose, and a poet named Wheldrake are all plucked from their separate timestreams for exploits in a strange world foreign to them all, as Elric hunts for the plot-coupon soul-in-a-box of his dead father), Elric must continually confront the senses-disturbing and mind-shattering -- yet also uplifting -- nature of parallel worlds.

Now Elric was caught up in a kind of intradimensional hurricane, in which a thousand reverses ocurred within his brain at once and he became a thousand other creatures for an instant, and where he lived through more than ten other lives; a fate only minimally different from the one that was familiar to him; and so vast did the multiverse become, so unthinkable, that he began to go mad as he attempted to make sense of just a fraction of what laid siege to his sanity….

But the upside is this vision, as recounted by a seer:

It is our firm belief that we shall one day learn the plan of the entire multiverse and travel at will from Sphere to Sphere, from realm to realm, from world to world, travel through the great clouds of shifting, multicoloured stars, the tumbling planets in all their millions, through galaxies that swarm like gnats in a summer garden, and rivers of light -- glory beyond glory -- pathways of moonbeams between the roaming stars.

And thus, through Moorcock's exuberant prose, is Brian Greene's carefully controlled and channeled mysticism -- the unnamed engine that powers his researches, yet which must be throttled in the name of science and hidden away -- given ultimate lyrical expression.

From the Publisher
“MICHAEL MOORCOCK IS MY RELIGION.”—from the Foreword by Tad Williams
“The most significant UK author of sword and sorcery, a form he has both borrowed from and transformed.”—The Encyclopedia of Fantasy

“The greatest writer of post-Tolkien British fantasy.”—Michael Chabon

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melnibone Series , #6
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.40(w) x 11.26(h) x 1.06(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Of Love, Death, Battle & Exile; The White Wolf Encounters a Not Entirely Unwelcome Echo of the Past.

FROM THE UNLIKELY peace of Tanelorn, out of Bas’lk and Nish-valni-Oss, from Valederia, ever eastward runs the White Wolf of Melniboné, howling his red and hideous song, to relish the sweetness of a bloodletting . . .

. . . It is over. The albino prince sits bowed upon his horse, as if beneath the weight of his own exaggerated battle-lust; as if ashamed to look upon such profoundly unholy butchery.

Of the mighty Haghan’iin Host not a single soul survived an hour beyond the certain victory they had earlier celebrated. (How could they not win, when Lord Elric’s army was a fragment of their own strength?)

Elric feels no further malice towards them, but he knows little pity, either. In their puissant arrogance, their blindness to the wealth of sorcery Elric commanded, they had been unimaginative. They had guffawed at his warnings. They had jeered at their former prisoner for a weakling freak of nature. Such violent, silly creatures deserved only the general grief reserved for all misshaped souls.

Now the White Wolf stretches his lean body, his pale arms. He pushes up his black helm. He rests, panting, in his great painted war-saddle, then takes the murmuring hellblade he carries and sheathes the sated iron into the softness of its velvet scabbard. There is a sound at his back. He turns brooding crimson eyes upon the face of the woman who reins up her horse beside him. Both woman and stallion have the same unruly pride, both seem excited by their unlooked-for victory; both are beautiful.

The albino reaches to take her ungloved hand and kiss it. “We share honours this day, Countess Guyë.”

And his smile is a thing to fear and to adore.

“Indeed, Lord Elric!” She draws on her gauntlet and takes her prancing mount in check. “But for the fecundity of thy sorcery and the courage of my soldiery, we’d both be Chaos-meat tonight —and unlucky if still alive!”

He answers with a sigh and an affirmative gesture. She speaks with deep satisfaction.

“The host shall waste no other lands, and its women in their home-trees shall bear no more brutes to bloody the world.” Throwing back her heavy cloak, she slings her slender shield behind her. Her long hair catches the evening light, deep vermilion, restless as the ocean as she laughs, while her blue eyes weep; for she had begun the day in the fullest expectation that the best she could hope for was sudden death. “We are deeply in your debt, sir. We are obligated, all of us. You shall be known throughout Anakhazhan as a hero.”

Elric’s smile is ungrateful. “We came together for mutual needs, madam. I was but settling a small debt with my captors.”

“There are other means of settling such debts, sir. We are still obliged.”

“I would not take credit,” he insists, “for altruism that is no part of my nature.” He looks away into the horizon where a purple scar washed with red disguises the falling of the sun.

“I have a different sense of it.” She speaks softly, for a hush is coming to the field, and a light breeze tugs at matted hair, bits of bloody fabric, torn skin. There are precious weapons and metals and jewels to be seen, especially where the Haghan’iin nobles had tried to make their escape, but not one of Countess Guyë’s sworders, mercenary or free Anakhazhani, will approach the booty. There is a general tendency amongst these weary soldiers to drop back as far as possible from the field. Their captains neither question them on this nor do they try to stop them. “I have the sense, sir, that you serve some Cause or Principle, nonetheless.”

He is quick to shake his head, his posture in the saddle one of growing impatience. “I am for no master nor moral persuasion. I am for myself. What your yearning soul, madam, might mistake for loyalty to person or Purpose is merely a firm and, aye, principled determination to accept responsibility only for myself and my own actions.”

She offers him a quick, girlish look of puzzled disbelief, then turns away with a dawning, woman’s grin. “There’ll be no rain tonight,” she observes, holding a dark, golden hand against the evening. “This mess’ll be stinking and spreading fever in hours. We’d best move on, ahead of the flies.” She hears the flapping even as he does and they both look back and watch the first gleeful ravens settling on flesh that has melted into one mile-wide mass of bloody meat, limbs and organs scattered at random, to hop upon and peck at half-destroyed faces still screaming for the mercy laughingly denied them as Elric’s patron Duke of Hell, Lord Arioch, gave aid to his favourite son.

These were in the times when Elric left his friend Moonglum in Tanelorn and ranged the whole world to find a land which seemed enough like his own that he might wish to settle there, but no such land as Melniboné could be a tenth its rival in any place the new mortals might dwell. And all these lands were mortal now.

He had begun to learn that he had earned a loss which could never be assuaged and in losing the woman he loved, the nation he had betrayed, and the only kind of honour he had known he had also lost part of his own identity, some sense of his own purpose and reason upon the Earth.

Ironically, it was these very losses, these very dilemmas, which made him so unlike his Melnibonéan folk, for his people were cruel and embraced power for its own sake, which was how they had come to give up any softer virtues they might once have possessed, in their need to control not only their physical world but the supernatural world. They would have ruled the multiverse, had they any clear understanding how this might be achieved; but even a Melnibonéan is not a god. There are some would argue they had not produced so much as a demigod. Their glory in earthly power had brought them to decadent ruin, as it brought down all empires who gloried in gold or conquest or those other ambitions which can never be satisfied but must forever be fed.

Yet even now Melniboné might, in her senility, live, had she not been betrayed by her own exiled emperor.

And no matter how often Elric reminds himself that the Bright Empire was foredoomed to her unhappy end, he knows in his bones that it was his fierce need for vengeance, his deep love for Cymoril (his captive cousin); his own needs, in other words, which had brought down the towers of Imrryr and scattered her folk as hated wanderers upon the surface of the world they had once ruled.

It is part of his burden that Melniboné did not fall to a principle but to blind passion . . .

As Elric made to bid farewell to his temporary ally, he was attracted to something in the countess’s wicked eye, and he bowed in assent as she asked him to ride with her for a while; and then she suggested he might care to take wine with her in her tent.

“I would talk more of philosophy,” she said. “I have longed so for the company of an intellectual equal.”

And go with her he did, for that night and for many to come. These would be days he remembered as the days of laughter and green hills broken by lines of gentle cypress and poplar, on the estates of Guyë, in the Western Province of Anakhazhan in the lovely years of her hard-won peace.

Yet when they had both rested and both began to look to satisfy their unsleeping intelligences, it became clear that the countess and Lord Elric had very different needs and so Elric said his goodbyes to the countess and their friends at Guyë and took a good, well-furnished riding horse and two sturdy pack animals and rode on towards Elwher and the Unmapped East where he still hoped to find the peace of an untarnished familiarity.

He longed for the towers, sweet lullabies in stone, which stretched like guarding fingers into Imrryr’s blazing skies; he missed the sharp wit and laughing ferocity of his kinfolk, the ready understanding and the casual cruelty that to him had seemed so ordinary in the time before he became a man.

No matter that his spirit had rebelled and made him question the Bright Empire’s every assumption of its rights to rule over the demibrutes, the human creatures, who had spread so thoroughly across the great land masses of the North and West that were called now “the Young Kingdoms” and dared, even with their puny wizardries and unskilled battlers, to challenge the power of the Sorcerer Emperors, of whom he was the last in direct line.

No matter that he had hated so much of his people’s arrogance and unseemly pride, their easy resort to every unjust tyranny to maintain their power.

No matter that he had known shame —a new emotion to one of his kind. Still his blood yearned for home and all the things he had loved or, indeed, hated, for he had this in common with the humans amongst whom he now lived and traveled: he would sometimes rather hold close to what was familiar and encumbering than give it up for something new, though it offered freedom from the chains of heritage which bound him and must eventually destroy him.

And with this longing in him growing with his fresh loneliness, Elric took himself in charge and increased his pace and left Guyë far behind, a fading memory, while he pressed on in the general direction of unknown Elwher, his friend’s homeland, which he had never seen.

He had come in sight of a range of hills the local people dignified as The Teeth of Shenkh, a provincial demon-god, and was following a caravan track down to a collection of shacks surrounded by a mud-and-timber wall that had been described to him as the great city of Toomoo-Kag-Sanapet-of-the-Invincible-Temple, Capital of Iniquity and Unguessed-At Wealth, when he heard a protesting cry at his back and saw a figure tumbling head over heels down the hill towards him while overhead a previously unseen thundercloud sent silver spears of light crashing to the earth, causing Elric’s horses to rear and snort in untypical nervousness. Then the world was washed with red-gold light, as if in a sudden dawn, which turned to bruised blue and dark brown before swirling like an angry current towards the horizon and vanishing to leave a few disturbed clouds behind them in a drizzling and depressingly ordinary sky.

Deciding this event was sufficiently strange to merit more than his usually brief attention, Elric turned towards the small, red-headed individual who was picking himself out of a ditch at the edge of the silver-green cornfield, looking nervously up at the sky and drawing a rather threadbare coat about his little body. The coat would not meet at the front, not because it was too tight for him, but because the pockets, inside and out, were crammed with small volumes. On his legs were a matching pair of trews, grey and shiny, a pair of laced black boots which, as he lifted one knee to inspect a rent, revealed stockings as bright as his hair. His face, adorned by an almost diseased-looking beard, was freckled and pale, from which glared blue eyes as sharp and busy as a bird’s, above a pointed beak which gave him the appearance of an enormous finch, enormously serious. He drew himself up at Elric’s approach and began to stroll casually down the hill. “D’ye think it will rain, sir? I thought I heard a clap of thunder a moment ago. It set me off my balance.” He paused, then cast a look backward up the track. “I thought I had a pot of ale in my hand.” He scratched his wild head. “Come to think of it, I was sitting on a bench outside The Green Man. Hold hard, sir, ye’re an unlikely cove to be abroad on Putney Common.” Whereupon he sat down suddenly on a grassy hummock. “Good lord! Am I transported yet again?” He appeared to recognize Elric. “I think we’ve met, sir, somewhere. Or were you merely a subject?”

“You have the advantage of me, sir,” said Elric, dismounting. He felt drawn to this birdlike man. “I am called Elric of Melniboné and I am a wanderer.”

“My name is Wheldrake, sir. Ernest Wheldrake. I have been traveling somewhat reluctantly since I left Albion, first to Victoria’s England, where I made something of a name, before being drawn on to Elizabeth’s. I am growing used to sudden departures. What would your business be, Master Elric, if it is not theatrical?”

Elric, finding half what the man said nonsense, shook his head. “I have practised the trade of mercenary sword for some while. And you, sir?”

“I, sir, am a poet!” Master Wheldrake bristled and felt about his pockets for a certain volume, failed to find it, made a movement of the fingers as if to say he needed no affidavits, anyway, and settled his scrawny arms across his chest. “I have been a poet of the Court and of the Gutter, it’s alleged. I should still be at Court had it not been for Doctor Dee’s attempts to show me our Graecian past. Impossible, I have since learned.”

“You do not know how you came here?”

“Only the vaguest notion, sir. Aha! But I have placed you.” A snap of the long fingers. “A subject, I recall!”

Elric had lost interest in this vein of enquiry. “I am on my way to yonder metropolis, sir, and if you’d ride one of my pack animals, I’d be honoured to take you there. If you have no money, I’ll buy you a room and a meal for the night.”

“I would be glad of that, sir. Thanks.” And the poet hopped nimbly up onto the furthest horse, settling himself amongst the packs and sacks with which Elric had equipped himself for a journey of indeterminate length. “I had feared it would rain and I am prone, these days, to chills . . .”

Elric continued down the long, winding track towards the churned mud streets and filthy log walls of Toomoo-Kag-Sanapet-of-the-Invincible-Temple while in a high-pitched yet oddly beautiful voice, reminiscent of a trilling bird, Wheldrake uttered some lines which Elric guessed were his own composition. “With purpose fierce his heart was gripped, and blade gripped tighter, still. And honour struggling within, ’gainst vengeance, cold and cruel. Old Night and a New Age warred in him; all the ancient power, and all the new.

Meet the Author

Born in London in 1939, Michael Moorcock is a prolific and award-winning writer with more than 80 works of fiction and non-fiction to his name. He is best known for his novels about the character Elric of Melniboné, a seminal influence on the fantasy genre in the 1960s and ’70s. In 2008, the London Times named Moorcock in their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945."

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Elric 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are unfamiliar with the Elric novels, do not buy! Wait for SFGateway to re-release the original novels. This version of the series is terribly disjointed with the first book in this series containing parts of the 3rd, 5th and all of the 6th original novels. The third book in this series matches up with the 4th original novel. And the fourth book in this series matches up with the 2nd original novel. If you are not already familiar with the novels, good luck putting it all together or understanding the motivations of the characters.
Valid8r More than 1 year ago
I first discovered Moorcock's Elric and The Eternal Champion saga in 7th grade. I have read every English edition and I recommend them all to the neophyte and to the subject matter expert if one has never had the pleasure. Makes me want to break out my AD&D gear and my vorpal sword! :)
harstan More than 1 year ago
"Fortress Of The Pearl". Lord Gho Fhaazi wants a position on the Council of Seven that rules over the city of Quarzhasaat, but he knows he needs help to overcome his rivals. He chooses Prince Elric of Melnibone as his tool to obtain the Pearl at the Heart of the World that will insure his spot on the council. To insure Elric cooperates, he poisons him using a slow acting agent in which he has the serum. Elric begins his escapades as the affluent class' minion the Sorcerer Adventurers try to prevent his success and eventually trap his mind inside that of a comatose teenage female, but with the Dreamthief to guide him through the Dream Realm, Elric continues his quest. The novel above is half of Elric In the Dream Realms and it is one of his greatest early tales and makes the book worth reading. The short story "A Portrait in Ivory" is terrific also as the albino hero is confronted by his worst enemy, the mirror reminding him he should be known as Elric Kinslayer filled with remorse for Cymoril more so than Imrryr. The other entries like "Elric: The Making of a Graphic Novel", the essay "Aspects of Fantasy", and the background material of "Earl Aubec of Malodor", etc. target die hard fans of Michael Moorcock only. Overall the fifth Chronicles of the last Emperor of Melnibone is an engaging look at Elric In The Dream realms. Harriet Klausner
EricABQ More than 1 year ago
Elric the Stealer of Souls starts a series of books collecting Moorcock's Eternal Champion cycle. The Eternal Champion is a character that is reincarnated in differant times and places to fight for balance between the forces of extreme Order and Chaos. The first few books are about Elric last emperor of Melnibonie who carries the soul stealing blade Stormbringer.
NYM More than 1 year ago
Elric: The Stealer of Souls is the story of Elric, the last of his noble line, and his travels. Elric has left his kingdom behind and is exploring the outlying lands with Stormbringer, his sentient sword. Being a dark fantasy, Elric's adventures are filled with horrendous creatures, evil beings and violent encounters. Moorcock does a fabulous job developing the characters and setting his scenes. The world he creates is well thought out and planned. There were occasional scenes that didn't quite ring true to me, but not so much that they seemed off. Enjoyable read and recommended to those who enjoy the genre, but those who don't should probably pass.
StokerFan More than 1 year ago
Del Rey's current release of Michael Moorcock's Elric was conceived as an authoritative edition of the Albino king, who is a a central incarnation of Moorcock's Eternal Champion. I've been picking these up as they come out to the tune of what is currently five volumes, of which DUKE ELRIC is volume 4. Leaving my starred-rating breakdown as a commentary on the quality of the work, I'll leave additional explanation here to qualify and elucidate my feeling on DUKE ELRIC, in particular. Some of these comments may be extended in general to my feeling toward the series as a whole, that being favorable. So, DUKE ELRIC. This book contains the text of a segment of ELRIC titled THE SAILOR ON THE SEAS OF FATE, which had appeared in earlier editions as a familiar episode in the ELRIC saga often represented as part 2 of the cycle. That it appears as late in the current edition as volume 4 illustrates a point: Moorcock, like Gaiman and others after him, allows reinterpretation of his ideas with ELRIC being a prime example. I've compared this text of SAILOR with that in the Science Fiction Book Club edition and found differences as significant as the addition and deletion of full paragraphs in the early pages, and British versus American usage differences in some word choices. That the current edition is to be considered authoritative may, I suppose, be accepted given the author is alive, has allowed this, and has provided essays and other material, some new. Further comparison of early pages shows this edition to match more closely the text included in the White Wolf collectible hardcover ELRIC: SONG OF THE BLACK SWORD for those who desire to know, although neither comparison is comprehensive. Further inclusions in this volume are text of an ELRIC graphic novel titled DUKE ELRIC, and part 2 of Moorcock's essay ASPECTS OF FANTASY, as well as other related material. I very much like this series as it contains a longer view of the ELRIC cycle than we've had in a uniform edition, with material as diverse as essays, graphic novels, early, rare art, and good, authoritative editions of the familiar text.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first of three volumes of "The Balance Lost" series, which unites Elric, Corum, Dorian Hawkmoon, and Eric Beck in worlds where Law and Chaos are out of balance. This volume sets the stage of an increasingly unbalanced set of universes. Each of the champions is navigating their respective world and in the end all are called to the same place as the boundary between universes start to blur.
Chris_ More than 1 year ago
This particular volume contains "The Sailor on the Seas of Fate" novel in Michael Moorcock's Elric cycle. When I first read this novel as a kid I never really rated it (I wasn't keen on the Eternal Champion team-up stories) but reading it again recently it really impressed me. The story begins with our anti-hero on a stony shore, alone and on the run. Here's a slightly edited sample of the first chapter right from the top: "It was as if the man stood in a vast cavern whose walls and roof were comprised of gloomy, unstable colours which would occasionally break and admit rays of light from the moon. That these walls were mere clouds massed above mountains and ocean was hard to believe, for all that the moonlight pierced them, stained them and revealed the black and turbulent sea washing the shore on which the man now stood. "Distant thunder rolled; distant lightning flickered. A thin rain fell. And the clouds were never still. From dusky jet to deadly white they swirled slowly... "The sea seemed weary. Great waves heaved themselves together with difficulty and collapsed as in relief, gasping as they struck sharp rocks." Those last two sentences are quite possibly the best I've read all year. The writing is crisp and assured and the pacing and structure are tight. Like many of his fantasy novels, however, it's perhaps a little too brisk at times for my tastes when the action and plot overtake atmosphere and texture. But when it is atmospheric, as per the quote above, it is suitably fantastic - in some places even disorienting, such as the distant far future in the first part of the novel which was reminiscent of those of Jack Vance and William Hope Hodgson. If you like fantasy with a lot of flavour and have never read any Elric before then I highly suggest you push this series to the top of your list. It's a surprisingly light read too for all the detail and action. Although it's often violent and sometimes gruesome, the series is never as gothic as some of its fans make it out to be - and if that's what you're after you're probably better off checking out Mervyn Peake's "Gormenghast" series. This is more along the lines of swash-buckling dark fantasy with a modern sensibility. It's worth noting that it doesn't really matter what order you read the books because Moorcock wrote the end of Elric's saga about a decade before he published its beginning. Which brings me to another small criticism I have with this novel, and perhaps my only real one: while the beginning of Sailors blew me away, the foreshadowing at the very end of the novel (the last sentence or two) felt a little heavy-handed and slightly bathetic, especially as we all know how the saga ends. But this is a small quibble in a novel and and writer well worth your time.
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