Tuesday, September 29, 2020

#StayAtHome: Michael Moorcock's "Daughter of Dreams"


This weekend, I finished the third of the later Elric novels, Daughter of Dreams (2001), published in the  U.S. as the Dreamthief's Daughter. I took turns reading the novel in the bulky-but-lovely Gollancz omnibus, The Moonbeam Roads, shown above, as well as in a U.S. paperback edition with a cover by Robert Gould. Part of that cover is shown in the leftmost of the three miniatures up above.

The primary point of view character is Ulric von Bek, and as the story opens, Hitler is consolidating power in Germany. The novel may have reflected the times in which it was published (the early years of Bush's post-9/11 power grab), but it certainly felt relevant to the swift decline our democracy is experiencing in the Trump era. We no longer have to read fiction to imagine tyranny or how to oppose it.

The von Bek family of Germany have been the custodians of the Grail since the Thirty Year's War, when Ulric's ancient namesake encountered Lucifer and the Grail. The Nazi's want the Grail, but that isn't the sole reason they appear at von Bek's castle: their initial demand is for a black sword of great mythic resonance, Ravenbrand, another heirloom of the von Bek family.

Ravenbrand is indeed a sister-sword of Elric's Stormbringer, and soon enough Oona, the daughter of Oone (the Dreamthief from The Fortress of the Pearl) and Elric arrives, and later Elric himself. Jerry Cornelius makes an appearance, as does Oswald Bastable. Quite a chunk of the novel takes place in the bizarre cave-world of Mittelmarch. Later, there are even Melnibonean dragons, and it turns out these played a role in the Battle of Britain!

It's an extraordinarily good novel, combining historical fiction and fantasy, the myth of the Eternal Champion and the madness of Nazism. The novel will be less rewarding for readers seeking adventures in the Young Kingdoms, but it isn't far from here to something like Inglourious Basterds. 

And then there's the Runestaff...

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

#StayAtHome: Michael Moorcock's The Fortress of the Pearl

"An All-New Novel of Elric" is the comic book-like subtitle for Michael Moorcock's The Fortress of the Pearl (1989). This was the first Elric novel after the original series of books that culminates (in Elric's lifeline) with Stormbringer. It is set earlier in Elric's wanderings around the Young Kingdoms, with his cousin Yyrkoon sitting on the Ruby Throne as regent while Elric learns about the world outside Melnibone.

The action is in the deserts of the northeast, in and around a city-state called Quarzhasaat, which was the capital of an empire that was an early rival of Melnibone. The Bright Empire defeated the Empire of Quarzhasaat, which was swallowed by the desert, with the exception of this wicked, insular city-state.

Which makes it a rather intriguing mirror image of Melnibone, in some ways.

This will give you a clue what happens to the city. 

Elric spends most of the novel on a quest in a layered "Dreamlands" of sorts. He discovers a new magical discipline, that of the Dreamthieves. Elric seeks to free himself of an addiction he acquired through Quarzhasaati treachery, but even more to free a boy from physical captivity in Quarzhasaat, and a girl from spiritual captivity within the titular Fortress of the Pearl.

This first of the "late" Elric novels is much more focused than the second of the "late" Elric novels, The Revenge of the Rose. I started the third of the "late" novels, Daughter of Dreams (aka The Dreamthief's Daughter) last night, and am really impressed by that one as well.