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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantasy novel of epic proportions
On far off Mercury, there lie many nations. Paramount among these is the kingdom of Witchland, which is ruled by the terrible King Gorice. Standing proud against Witchland is Demonland, wherein lives a race of heroes. Among their leaders are the lords Juss, Spitfire, Goldry Bluszco, and Brandoch Daha. With great valor, these Demons wage a war of heroic proportions against...
Published on 5 Feb. 2003 by Kurt A. Johnson

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Strange Gem
I primarily wish to provide some balance to the gushing prose that is heaped upon this work. It *is* a good book, but it is certainly not what you expect it to be. It is a dream sequence, non-linear, and fragmented. Yet for all that, it was well worth the effort it took to read it.

But it does take effort. Eddison (like Tolkein) was writing to the audience of a...
Published on 3 May 2009 by kumoyuki


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantasy novel of epic proportions, 5 Feb. 2003
By 
Kurt A. Johnson (Marseilles, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Worm Ouroboros (Hardcover)
On far off Mercury, there lie many nations. Paramount among these is the kingdom of Witchland, which is ruled by the terrible King Gorice. Standing proud against Witchland is Demonland, wherein lives a race of heroes. Among their leaders are the lords Juss, Spitfire, Goldry Bluszco, and Brandoch Daha. With great valor, these Demons wage a war of heroic proportions against Gorice, a war equal to that which the Greeks fought at Troy. This is a story of dark magic and great valor.
This was a rather flowery summation for me, but this book rather brought it out in me. The book is written using archaic words and phrases, which means that it is not for the faint of heart, but the gist of the meaning is always easy to determine. The use of the man Lessingham in the first few chapters is poorly done, but is quickly forgotten in the reading of the book.
Overall, let me say that this book does not read like any other fantasy book I have ever read, not even Lord of the Rings. The author's use of the language, combined with style of telling, gives the story the feel of an epic, such as the Iliad. This book is quite rightly considered one of the classics of fantasy literature, and it is something that every fantasy-lover should read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book. A terrible book. A challenging book, 20 Aug. 2010
By 
L. E. Cantrell (Vancouver, British Columbia Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
"The Worm Ouroboros" is one of the main, if generally unread, underpinnings of the modern fantasy genre. It was written early in the Twentieth Century by a man profoundly out of sympathy with that century and with ours.

By profession, he was a bureaucrat. By inclination, he was a mighty-thewed hero. He was an outstanding success at neither.

This is a book of soaring ambition and grievous faults. Its language is spiky, ornate Jacobean, with its every word intentionally high-flown. Its structure is shockingly inept. The clumsiness and, indeed, pointlessness of the opening chapter--the "induction"--is almost guranteed to turn away most potential readers. Eddison's use of such names as Imps and Demons and Witches to designate his warring states is simply childish.

And yet ... there is true power here, even majesty. Was ever there so admirable, brave and noble a blackhearted villain as King Gorice XII? Was ever a band of virtuous heroes so obnoxious a gang of self-centered, overdressed, stuffed shirts as the Lords Juss, Goldry Blusco, Spitfire and Brandoch Daha? Is there a grander image in all the literature of fantasy than that of three armies perpetually doomed to pursue each other across the forbidding desert? And the ending of the book, utterly preposterous and yet wonderful at the same time: "Lord, it is an Ambassador from Witchland and his train. He craveth present audience"!

This is a book for a reader who seeks a challenge. I speak words of high praise for it when I assure you that "The Worm Ouroboros" is neither easy nor a fast read. For those who accept its challenges, though, it will serve as a base mark against which to measure all that is fantastical.

Five stars as bright as those "escarbuncles, great as pumpkins, hung down the length of [Lord Juss' presence chamber], and nine fair moonstones standing in order on silver pedestals between the pillars and the dais."
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Strange Gem, 3 May 2009
I primarily wish to provide some balance to the gushing prose that is heaped upon this work. It *is* a good book, but it is certainly not what you expect it to be. It is a dream sequence, non-linear, and fragmented. Yet for all that, it was well worth the effort it took to read it.

But it does take effort. Eddison (like Tolkein) was writing to the audience of a different age. Unlike Tolkein, he was less successful. Where Tolkein's prose served the descriptive purposes of a grand historical epic, Eddison revels in word-play for it's own sake. Yet it does have many bright moments, not the leat of which is the tail-eating finale (one has to suspect it is also the source of the title).

It's hard to paint a picture of a middle-ground opinion. I liked the book, but it's definitely not of universal appeal.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantasy novel of epic proportions, 12 Dec. 2005
By 
Kurt A. Johnson (Marseilles, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Worm Ouroboros (Paperback)
On far off Mercury, there lie many nations. Paramount among these is the kingdom of Witchland, which is ruled by the terrible King Gorice. Standing proud against Witchland is Demonland, wherein lives a race of heroes. Among their leaders are the lords Juss, Spitfire, Goldry Bluszco, and Brandoch Daha. With great valor, these Demons wage a war of heroic proportions against Gorice, a war equal to that the Greeks fought at Troy. This is a story of dark magic and great valor.
This was a rather flowery summation for me, but this book rather brought it out in me. The book is written using archaic words and phrases, which means that it is not for the faint of heart, but the gist of the meaning is always easy to determine. The use of the man Lessingham in the first few chapters is poorly done, but is quickly forgotten in the reading of the book.
Overall, let me say that this book does not read like any other fantasy book I have ever read, not even Lord of the Rings. The author's use of the language, combined with style of telling, gives the story the feel of an epic, such as the Iliad. This book is quite rightly considered one of the classics of fantasy literature, and it is something that every fantasy-lover should read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of serious study, 4 Oct. 2009
By 
K. Metcalfe - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Eddison's classic tends to produce highly polarized opinions. People either love it (warts and all) or are turned off by it. Regardless of what camp one is in, though, as a massively influential work of early modern fantasy, it deserves very serious critical study. Both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis admitted various debts to Eddison's work (he was twice invited to participate in meetings of the famous 'Inklings' reading group that included both Lewis and Tolkien).
'The Worm' is not perfect, but upon careful study it comes close. The language is magnificent and is clearly indebted to the early modern romance tradition and to Elizabethan and Jacobean drama (and like reading any work from a by-gone era, it requires some effort). The so-called flawed 'frame story' involving the 'disappearing Lessingham' is no flaw at all, but rather a device used effectively by many writers (including Shakespeare, in Taming of the Shrew, and others) to similar effect. The opening chapter is very much in the mode of the beginnings of the Icelandic Sagas that the author so loved. The use of Mercury as a notional locale is also explained by the opening chapter's focus on that planet and the dreamer's thinking about it just before entering the Lotus Room. Finally, Eddison is most often criticized for his odd naming conventions for races, people and places. The only defense for this (and admittedly, it's an excuse, not really a defense) is that Eddision had lived and breathed this story and these characters for over thirty years before he wrote them down. In among his papers, is a notebook, containing names and drawings, compiled when he was nine years old -- most of the names of his later characters appear there. Eddison was writing about these 'old friends' from his boyhood -- he couldn't (one imagines) call them by anything but their 'real' names.
Eddison's later book "Mistress of Mistresses", written after his translation of one of the Icelandic sagas and a fictional Norse tale, is, for me, even more satisfying than 'The Worm' -- in that story, we begin to understand who Lessingham really is and why he can go on these unusual adventures.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best fantasy books ever written, 29 Nov. 2002
By 
S. Flaherty "steve3742" (Nottingham) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
The Lord of the Rings has had such an effect upon Fantasy, particularily Epic Fantasy, that a lot of people consider it to have been invented then. The existence of authors such as Eddison, Dunsany and others refutes that and yet they have never been as popular as Tolkein or even Lewis with his insipidly bland Narnia series and so are often unread. The Fantasy Masterworks series aims to change that and a good thing too.
I first was directed to this book by a throwaway remark by Fritz Leiber in the introduction to his "Swords and Deviltry", the first book in his Lankhmar series (reprinted in the Fantasy Masterwork series as "The First Book of Lankhmar", and well worth getting, another 5 star book but Sword and Sorcery, not Epic Fantasy, so different in tone.) Because Leiber referred to it, I assumed it must be good and so I tracked it down and read it, c. 20 years ago. I was immediately impressed by how good a book it was.
It can be criticised. The book is written in Old (thou, thee, spake unto him, etc) the putative setting on Mercury is ridiculous given modern knowledge, the names of the Nations as Witches, Demons, Imps, Pixies, etc, names drawn from myth and legend yet having no connection at all to their legendary source - all these are faults, and there are others. Tolkein criticised Eddison's naming schemes as being ridiculous and having no structure (read LOTR to see how it's possible to go a little too far the other way) and he is right. And the ending is terrible.
So why the 5 stars? Because if ever a book was greater than the sum of its parts, was able to transcend its flaws and become literature, this is it. It is quite simply one of the most magnificent works of Epic Fantasy ever written. The archaic language is not too clumsy to stop the flow of the story, perhaps even enhances it (and I don't usually like archaic language, I'm trying to modernise "The Faerie Queeen"), we can ignore or suspend modern knowledge of Mercury, the Nations' names are a minor irritant as are the people's. And we don't get to the ending until the end (obviously) and so there is the whole story to get through first. Eddison takes us on a wild journey, a magical quest, a war between two great nations and a tale of unrequited love all in one volume. It leaves you breathless and overcome and ready even to forgive him the ending. I don't often give books five stars and the fact that I've given this one five despite all the flaws should tell you about the power of the story. Everyone should read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and in some ways terrible., 12 Feb. 2012
By 
Ian Hodge - See all my reviews
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I first read this book this book when I was sixteen and loved it as intensely as only sixteen year olds love. Forty years later my opinion has changed to the extent that it is still one of my favourite books, but I will not read it again. Firstly, the prose is lush and beautiful but at times self-indulgent; secondly the politics/morality of the novel is reprehensible; thirdly, the most attractive characters are the villains, the heroes being vain and insipid. So why am I recommending this book?
I don't believe in perfection in art and so don't demand or expect it, so the above criticisms don't - in my eyes - damn the book. What I did love was the narrative sweep and epic grandeur of the work, and the sonorous quality of the prose. My greatest compliment to the book has been to write my own in which I attempt to address the above criticisms ([...]); 157,000 words is testament (sic) to my affection for this book. Though personally I can no longer stomach its proto-fascist ideology, I would still thoroughly recommend it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the most unique book I've ever read., 30 Mar. 2001
By 
K D Farrow (Prestwick, Ayrshire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is perhaps the most unique book I have ever read. In his brief but eloquent tribute to Eddison, his friend C.S. Lewis described his work as representing 'a new literary species, a new rhetoric, a new climate of the imagination', and those approaching his magnum opus, The Worm Ouroboros (1922) for the first time, may find themselves agreeing wholeheartedly. The worm ouroborous itself, the snake which eats its own tail, has its origins in ancient Egypt and Greece, as well as many parallels in European, Chinese and Indian cultures, but for Eddison, its function is almost entirely symbolic. It represents, for him, and the characters in his wonderful novel, an endless cycle of recurrence and repetition; in short, history constantly playing itself back-and-over again. The novel begins conventionally enough, with a genial English gentleman called Lessingham spending a night apart from his lovely wife, but he is soon whisked off to the planet Mercury by a wingéd chariot, either in his dreams or in reality, to witness the events of a great war between the inhabitants of Demonland and Witchland. Lessingham however soon disappears, never to return (except as a central character in Eddison's other major work, the Zimiamvian trilogy), having fulfilled his rather obvious role as a plot-device. In Mercury, we see the Lords of Demonland, the brothers Lord Juss, Spitfire, Goldry Bluszco and their kinsman, Brandoch Daha, receiving in their court an emissary from Witchland, who, on behalf of his sovereign, Gorice XI, makes a territorial claim upon Demonland. They spurn his claims and elect to settle the dispute on the chance of a wrestling match between Goldry and Gorice, to be held in the neutral Foliot Isles. Goldry wins the match, which ends with the death of Gorice, but in order to avenge his predecessor, and with the help of a resourceful Goblin named Gro, the new King of Witchland (Gorice XII) unleashes from the Pit an awesome Satanic force, which falls upon the Demons as they return by ship to their home. Although all the Demons are shaken, only Goldry is spirited away, and the remainder of the novel deals with their quest to find him again, and to defeat Witchland... Admittedly, the novel has many grave, even risible, faults. For example, the inhabitants of Mercury are given to quoting songs and passages largely from the work of Scottish and English writers such as Dunbar, True Thomas, Carew and Donne, hardly a proposal realistic enough for any modern reader to take seriously. Moreover, the Demons, Witches, Goblins, Imps and Pixies bear little or no resemblance to the types suggested to us by their generic names. But even so, suspension of disbelief is a surprisingly easy task with the work of Eddison, and this is because he is a powerful and supremely confident storyteller. Much, perhaps overmuch, has been made of the difficulty of Eddison's mellifluous Jacobean prose, but not without reason, for his word-hoard is enormous and his command of 17th century English idiom absolute, to say nothing of the range of his medieval and classical allusions. But readers familiar with Shakespeare, Marlowe and Jonson will soon find themselves warming to the lusciousness of the style, perhaps even before the intriguing and compelling plot, with its echoes of Homer and the Norse sagas, draws them in irrevocably. There are may striking scenes: King Gorice's conjuration, the Demon soldier Arnod's off-screen account of the conduct of Barandoch Daha at the Battle of Krothering Side, Juss's fight with the mantichore (a beast like a lion but with the face of a man and a poisonous tail), the first hatching of the hippogriff or wingéd horse, the demise of Mivarsh Faz in the jaws of a crocodile in accordance with an old prophecy, the suicide of the Lady Prezmyra, Gro's encounter with the little folk, and so on. The character and placenames alone are a veritable feast: Jalcanaius Fostus, Gaslark, Corund, Corinius, Corsus, La Fireez, Carcë, Salapanta Hills, Moruna, Eshgrar Ogo, Koshtra Pivrarcha and Belorn, Ravary, Ishnain Nemartra, Krothering and Zora Rach Nam Psarrion, although one such name at least, (Fax Fay Faz), is decidedly corny. Here, fully 15 years before Tolkien's The Hobbit and more than 20 before The Lord of the Rings, we encounter Eddison taking a fully-fledged, eagle's flight into high fantasy. But apart from the odd phrase or oath which draws upon the Christian mythos, there is nothing even implicitly Christian about Eddison's vision, no definitive sense of redemption such as we find in Tolkien, and he exhibits a dark, unhallowed, almost hallucinatory power in many of his scenes, which can still shock modern readers. Indeed, it was these qualities which led Lewis to state that he found Eddison's world 'alien and even sinister'.'Once there was a man called Eddison dwelt in an old low house in Marlborough ...'
Let's hear from those Eddison fans out there!
Dr. Kenneth D. Farrow
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A 'must' for all lovers of fantasy, 6 Jan. 2000
The publisher should be congratulated on making this work available once more. E.R. Eddison was a senior British civil servant whose 'evening job' was writing fantasy novels. 'The Worm Ouroboros' is his best known book, but there are several others. Eddison's work - he was a true pioneer in this field and is sadly neglected - is much closer to modern fantasy writing than that of Tolkien. This story was written just after the First World War by a man from a bygone age, but in his mind he was clearly not so different from today's readers of fantasy novels. It can certainly be read and enjoyed today as a fantasy/adventure; to some degree it is slightly predictable, but that's because so many books and films have used a generally similar theme over the past decades. At this price, you can't go wrong!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Classic heroism with flowery language, 25 Feb. 2002
By A Customer
This is the first book of Eddisons I have read and found it to be a bit of a challenge. It was rewarding enough to finish although there was a slight sense of relief that I didn't have to follow the worm and re-read the story over again aaaaaaaaaaaarrgh ! I found the language difficult to take in in several places but overall I felt it added to the mood of the story and in certain places such as the mountain climb section I found it truly inspirational.As a pre-Tolkien novel it was interesting to read, and although more simplistic in theme than LOTR etc. it did come across as a good historical fantasy and it's easy to see where many 'modern' fantasy writers have found inspiration !
On the whole this book was a difficult but enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who would believe there was life before Tolkien ! (as there most certainly was !)
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The Worm Ouroboros
The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison (Mass Market Paperback - Nov. 1981)
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