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on 26 May 2016
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on 31 December 2001
Moorcock is a major influence on most contemporary fantasy but presumably Tolkien's publicity machine is more efficient and his characters a bit more 'common-reader'-friendly! If you were bored by the Lord or just a bit disappointed or want something a tad grittier but just as intense an epic, then Stormbringer is for you. Moorcock, like Tolkien, lasts on the superiority of his language and the vitality and originality of his plotting. This fantasy was created without any influence from Tolkien but a great deal from Peake and Dunsany, both of whom preceded publication of LOTR, as well as 1930s pulp poets like Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. What helps keep Moorcock in JRR's shade, is his temperamental disposition to use his fantasy, as Peter Ackroyd says, 'as a divining rod for the century's most urgent concerns', rather than provide comfortable escape. He never uses juvenile or animal central characters and his heroes and heroines have genuine, if rather sensational, adult relationships. What is missing in Tolkien, you'll find in Moorcock. Stormbringer, some of it written before the author's 21st birthday and the epic completed before his 23rd, is engaged with a world Tolkien could scarcely imagine, let alone tolerate and Mr Moorcock's baffled, tormented protagonist has genuine crimes and betrayals on his conscience with which we can all, to some degree, identify. This remains the best and, with Tolkien, the biggest influence on modern international fantasy. There is no ending better!
Great stuff, well worth rereading if you haven't looked at it lately. I was pleasantly impressed.
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on 7 January 2002
While Moorcock's multiverse is very, very easy to visualise, given its dimensions (or lack of them) there's another element in his work which few people seem to mention -- and that's the word-play. Often through the mouth of his invented poet Wheldrake (Swinburne's pseudonym)
he produces excellent parodies of Swinburne himself and various other (mainly) Victorian poets. Even in his earliest Elric novel he was introducing rhymed couplets into the dialogue and by the time we get to Revenge of the Rose and The Dreamthief's Daughter the level of invention is very high, with some sequences actually written in rhyme but printed as prose. His sophistication is most obvious in Gloriana, where he wrote a variety of qualities of verse in the manner of various
16th century poets or poetic styles, but his relish for full-blooded romantic poets (though there is some good Browning here, too) is usually expressed through his poet character Ernest Wheldrake, who has been appearing in Moorcock's works since The Dancers at the End of Time. This weird sleight of hand, often drawing your attention away from the author's skill, is the work of a gentleman who knows exactly what he's writing, no matter how apparently weird or seemingly simple! Have a look for yourself in
Revenge which, with Stormbringer, is his finest Elric book so far. Once you've read the saga and gasped at the finest ending in all fantasy you can go back and savour the subtleties. Moorcock says these are entertainments. If so, it's a very high level of entertainment.
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on 10 December 2002
I've just finished reading the two volumes of Elric stories from Elric of Melnibone onwards. I must say they build and build until the final, cataclysmic ending. The ending is stunning. I knew enough about the books to expect them to be different, but not THIS different. These are so much better, richer, smarter than the run of fantasy fiction that there really is no comparison. Moorcock is a genius! I can't recommend this series enthusiastically enough.
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on 7 May 2014
This edition of Michael Moorcock's everchanging Elric saga I am reviewing is the hardback version published by Millennium/Orion in 1993. It is part of a series of hardbacks (14 in all) which cover the majority (but not all) of the Eternal Champion's incarnations/rebirths across the multiverse. I am putting this down because of the habit on Amazon for the reviews to go walkies and appear on pages where they really shouldn't, which I find immensely irritating.

Anyway I bought my volume second-hand as I liked the idea of keeping a bunch of Elric tales in 1 hardback, it saves space which I'm sure any fantasy fan will appreciate. (Saying that this is a standard size hardcover so any potential buyer, plan accordingly.) The cover art by Robert Gould didn't hurt either, although I wish that like many other covers in the series of 14 hardbacks the cover had been done by Yoshitaka Amano. Indeed Amano's covers were what first drew me to this mega-series as a child in the nineties at my local library. Saying this I doubt I will get all 14 hardbacks as the prices are quite hefty (these are rare books) and the stories held within may be revised at any moment by the whims of Moorcock. Even the current 2013 collection by Gollancz has a Runesword of Damocles hanging over it. (And we all know how that tends to end...)

Anyway story wise these are all the later chronological Elric stories that were published until 1993. (Because this is the second and last volume of Elric stories published in this hardback form, which itself is Vol 12 of The Tale of the Eternal Champion.) So we have (in the order listed inside the book) "The Sleeping Sorceress" from 1971, "The Revenge of the Rose" from 1991, "The Stealer of Souls" novella from 1962, the "Kings in Darkness" novella from 1962, "The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams" novella from 1962 (previously known as "The Flame Bringers") and the "Stormbringer" fix-up novel from 1965 that finishes the whole saga.

Confusing? Well it doesn't hurt the book, as long as you are able to understand going in this is not one complete novel but a collection of stories written over more than 30 years - of course the tone and language is going to vary enormously. Also the Moorcock virgin must be aware that the author has a hobbyhorse he likes to ride, over a field full of bodies of the middle-class to be exact. Expect to find some subtle, and some not-so-subtle jibes and speech-making, particularly in "The Revenge of the Rose" where the Gypsy Nation is presented as a cartoon enemy with no depth for the lower class to seeth over and hate. Thankfully not all the book is like this; there are sections of "Stormbringer" which still retain their power without having to stoop to shrill polemics.

Is there someone left out there who doesn't know how the Elric saga ends? I won't say anything here, but come on, every single story with the Prince of Ruins has had a flashing neon sign saying "Don't trust the black sword!" beaming out of every page. All we need now is for Admiral Ackbar to say "It's a trap!" Ah well. The very last few pages still feel melancholic and inevitable in a way that very little fantasy ever has had the balls to be. You kind of wonder what would have happened if Moorcock had left his albino creation alone after the 1960s, or looked at other characters in the Young Kingdoms in more detail, as the 1965 novel of "Stormbringer" is literally as good as it ever got with Elric. (A good place to end this hardback volume at as well.) Perhaps pre-Elric Melnibonéan royalty would benefit from a closer look - the crazy antics of the Targaryen family in the series "A Song of Ice and Fire" suggest that people might find that intrigue interesting, plus Moorcock could wax lyrical about the evils of the British Empire and pat himself on the back. It would be win-win for author and reader.

The font in this book is well-sized, neat and readable. No spelling mistakes yet detected. There's a nice map (but Moorcock doesn't really worry about geography) and a meaty introduction of about 4 pages where Moorcock discusses the situation he was in when writing Elric, his inspirations, aspirations and his plot to "overthrow English literature as he knew it". To the barricades comrade!

Basically, if you're a Elric fan this is quite good. If you're a general fantasy fan it's recommended but take a pinch of salt for the polemical filler at the start. If you're buying blind avoid and try one of the shorter Elric paperbacks to get a taste first.

"Farewell viewer, I was a thousand times more geekish than thou...!"
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on 6 January 2002
This is amazing stuff. A richer, perhaps slightly more oriental culture than Tolkien's Middle Earth, but just as interesting, just as convincing, and frankly a lot more substantial in feel. Some of the stories here are a bit unpolished, but they were first draft work and Moorcock claims that he never rewrites or rereads, which makes these even more impressive! Revenge of the Rose is the best of the 'prequels' and is in here -- full, rounded, witty, involving supernatural adventure -- with the entire world at stake. Unlike Tolkien, however, Moorcock goes that extra mile. If you loved LOTR as a kid -- you'll love Stormbringer as an adult! This is the best ending in all fantasy and if you don't expect it, it takes your breath away.
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on 24 February 2002
I first became aware of Jim Cawthorn in the early sixties -- he must have been the first person to do pictures for Lord of the Rings and the few examples I still have show a remarkable similarity to modern versions! Cawthorn is a patchy artists -- he seems to lose confidence in his own strengths sometimes -- but at its best this version of Michael Moorcock's classic fantasy has all the wild, romantic vigour of the book. Tremendous battle scenes -- wonderful visions as Chaos engulfs the world. Hard to get this stuff, and I'd imagine much of Cawthorn's ouevre is even rarer than some of Druillet's, but it's worth tracking down. He illustrated a lot for Moorcock's New Worlds and did a lot of children's
illustration, but it's in books like Stormbringer that he excelled. And check out those Lord of the Rings pictures, if you get a chance. One or two, by no means the best, are currently on the Fantastic Metropolis site, off the SF.Site, to illustrate an early interview with The Professor Himself.
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on 4 August 1999
I don't want to say anything about the plot but if you've read the Elric saga then you need this to complete it. If you've read any of the Eternal Champion series you'll recognise many charaters and places and it ites up many of the loose ends in the other series. Its one of my favourite books which I've read several times, and I am geuninely dissapointed when I've finhsed it because there's no more after it. If you haven't read Moorcock's work this is not the book to start with - not because its not good but becaaue its the end of so much. Its said that's its complete by itself and can be read as a stand alone novel but you'd miss so much by not having read the other stories.
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on 11 February 2002
There is very little Moorcock which doesn't have a bit of irony. His work has had this same sardonic humour from the very beginning, as you can see from the earliest work in this book which otherwise contains the three best Elric novels out of four and the fourth is The Dreamthief's Daughter. Elric himself has the same sardonic self-mockery. That's what appeals to me. There aren't many modern fantasy writers who can even begin to approach that tone. It's why he remains the best antidote to sentimentality with that self-knowing wink of his.
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on 30 January 2002
Marvellous stuff, still streets ahead of anything out there -- but Philip Pullman has the same sort of mindset. Elric, exiled traitor and wife-killer, proud Prince of Ruins, adept sorcerer and swordsman, who carries the bewitched runesword Stormbringer, begins this book in a series of early adventures, clearly written as individual novellas, but then you start getting into the real meat -- Revenge of the Rose is a superb fantasy, head and shoulders above any of its contemporaries, and offers us, as well as poetic parodies and the like, wonderful images of the Gypsy Nation, perpetually trundling round the world and speaking the rhetoric of freedom while having become a total orthodoxy, the gigantic clock made up of human beings who will perish if any one of them makes a mistake -- and Moorcock is off at full throttle. Every scene has ironic meaning. A couple of minor stories (Kings in Darkness, The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams) and we're into the lush, manic rush to Armageddon that is STORMBRINGER! Still the greatest plot on the planet and the best ending in all fantasy fiction! Long before Pullman won the Whitbread Moorcock was offering this mad, bad and thoroughly humane fantasy to the world. He remains a giant. One word of advice -- buy this and not the Fantasy Masterworks edition, which is not good value and doesn't really give you the build-up which Moorcock artfully introduced with intermediary books, all relentlessly leading that dark, astonishing ending. You might want to stop off after Caravan of Forgotten Dreams and read The Dreamthief's Daughter, the latest singleton where Elric takes on the Nazis!
You'll believe it when you read it!
Wonderful energy. Marvellous ideas. Tremendous landscapes. Massive emotions. Yet somehow reality is never far away. In a great British tradition.
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