Title: The Citadel of Forgotten Myths
Author: Michael Moorcock
Genre: Angsty Dark Fantasy (Eternal Champion “Series”)
Rating: 2.5 of 5
Thank you to the author and publisher for a free eARC via NetGalley. This in no way influences the content of my review.
Elric of Melniboné, that
whiniest most tortured iteration of the Eternal Champion, returns in an all-new (sort of) prequel (sort of). If you are a big Elric fan, run out and buy this. It’s pretty much of a piece with all the previous entries in the continuously reworked, reshuffled, and re-released Elric canon.
If you aren’t already acquainted with the character, this is not a very good place to start. Important events and characters are recapped (some ad nauseum), so you wouldn’t be completely lost, but you’re a lot better off getting to know this classic doomed antihero by reading in chronological order (more below on where this fits in chronologically).
The stories woven together to create this book previously appeared in slightly different form in two or three magazines, but I think that this is their first time in book form. Their biggest value is that they add quite a bit of new lore to Elric’s world. This includes interesting insights into the origin of the Melnibonéan civilization and exploring a completely new setting on the other side of Elric’s ovoid world. Unfortunately, the book also showcases some of the worst of Michael Moorcock’s tendencies when writing Elric: so much self-pitying whining, highly repetitive phrases and situations, pontificating social commentary, and new pieces of information seemingly pulled out of thin air to make the plot work.
As far as where this fits in the Elric saga chronology, the publicity blurbs claim it is a prequel that fits between the first and second volumes of the saga. I have two different versions of the saga, and this is true in neither of them. It actually fits in about 2/3 of the way through the second volume in both cases. It belongs after the section called Kings in Darkness and before the section called either The Flame Bringer (Stormbringer: The Elric Saga Part 2 – Kindle edition 2022 – p. 519) or The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams (Elric: The Stealer of Souls, Paperback by White Wolf 1998 – p.400). Maybe there’s a version of the saga where this fits between volumes 1 and 2, but it’s certainly not the case for the edition currently available on Amazon.
Overall, this is worth reading if you are an Elric completionist, but it is far from the best entry in the series.
Title: The Chronicles of Castle Brass (Eternal Champion Volume 15)
(Count Brass; The Champion of Garathorm; The Quest for Tanelorn)
Author: Michael Moorcock
Genre: Trippy Dark Fantasy
Rating: 3 of 5
This volume concludes the story of the Eternal Champion (so apparently he isn’t quite as eternal as his title suggests?). The three stories contained in the volume focus primarily on Dorian Hawkmoon, but three other aspects/incarnations/versions/whatevers of the Champion play major roles: Erekosë, Corum, and everyone’s favorite emo albino, Elric (complete with evil soul-sucking black sword).
These stories would make little sense without reading previous volumes in the series that deal with these four aspects of the Champion. In the Orion/White Wolf volume numbering that would be volumes 1, 3, 5, 7, 11, & 12 (and possibly 13 which I haven’t read). Other volumes seem to have little or no bearing on the overall story arc (and many of the stories in them seem to have been clumsily reimagined/rewritten as Eternal Champion stories simply to lengthen the series).
The stories in this volume a pretty much par for the course. There’s plenty of trippy jumping between planes of the multiverse, some repetition of previous stories from a slightly different point of view, some escapist swords and sorcery style action, a lot of moping and whining from the Champion about being the pawn of fate, and quite a bit of preachiness from the author.
The series ends appropriately for the direction it has been taking since the beginning. It wasn’t actually as unremittingly dark as I was expecting, which was a nice surprise. However, it did turn into a paean to atheism (and disparagement of theism) that echoed somewhere between William Ernest Henley’s Invictus and John Lennon’s Imagine. While not entirely surprising, this is diametrically opposed to my own worldview of a sovereign, loving God, so this somewhat curtailed my enjoyment of the book.
Overall, if you’ve read all about Erekosë, Corum, Elric, and Hawkmoon this is worth your time to round out the storyline.
Title: Corum – The Coming of Chaos
(The Eternal Champion Sequence: Volume 7)
Author: Michael Moorcock
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Rating: 4 of 5
Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion books can serve as decent escapist SF&F when they don’t get too bogged down in preachiness and/or moping. Don’t ever expect a cheery read since themes of genocide, lost love, and divine manipulation echo across the multiverse in practically every incarnation (aspect? version? whatever…) of the Champion. This was my favorite volume in the (loosely connected) series up to this point.
Corum may now be my favorite version of the Champion. He is (maybe) the last of his race, the Vadhagh (basically decadent elves), driven by the desire for vengeance against the man who destroyed his people but swept up into conflicts spanning multiple planes (alternate worlds? dimensions? whatever…). As with other incarnations, he is a reluctant pawn of the Cosmic Balance fighting for Law against Chaos with a chaos-tainted overpowered weapon. While he goes through the usual “fighting against being manipulated” angst, he isn’t as unremittingly whiney as some of the other versions (I’m looking at you, Elric!).
Apparently Moorcock drew his inspiration from Welsh folklore and history. How close the connection is I can’t say, because the Mabinogion is still languishing on my TBR list. What I can say is that the three short novels that make up this volume are solid swords & sorcery with some trippy interdimensional stuff thrown in as Corum faces off against three increasingly powerful chaos lords. There’s none of the usual preachiness about the joys of anarcho-syndicalism (or whatever form of government Moorcock is usually on about), but the end does devolve a bit into a slightly ranty version of John Lennon’s Imagine.
Overall: enjoyable escapist dark fantasy in which Moorcock keeps his obnoxious side under control for the most part. Also, this checks a ninth book off my entry in the 2019 TBR Pile Challenge!