A major influence on writers like M.John Harrison, China Mieville, David Gemmell and dozens of others, this book is made up of four more or less independent novels, each following on from the other. This is a future world dominated by the Dark Empire of Granbretan whose neurotic warrior castes wear heavy masks to which they are deeply attached. They are slowly conquering Europe and those who resist them are ruthlessly extinguished. Dorian Hawkmoon, Prince of Koln (Cologne) is dragged back to Granbretan in chains and there they plan to use him to betray Count Brass of the Kamarg, one of the few independent kingdoms holding out against them. They imbet a black jewel in his skull by which they will be able to trace his movements and see what he sees. Unfortunately they don't allow for the power of love. Hawkmoon falls in love with Ysselda of Brass, the Count's daughter, and then begins a series of action-packed tales which don't slacken until the very last page, full of colour, brooding Gothic landscapes, battles and blood. It's easy to see how this book was a seminal work, as Moorcock's Elric stories were, on the generations which came after it. It's also very easy to enjoy wholeheartedly for what it is and what it was always intended to be. It's a rattling good tale of demons, heroes, magic and corrupted science which makes it the forerunner of all the 'new wave' science fantasy (magic and science mixed, frequently against the background of almost Dickensian London) being published today. And it's still better than everything which came after it!
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