Saturday, August 22, 2015

Elric of Melnibone

I've had Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone for at least ten years now. An old friend recommended it and I put off reading it. It sounded intriguing enough, but I wasn't sure it was the sort of thing I would like (not being familiar with that friend's taste in books). But I figured it was past time I actually read the thing.

Elric is an albino who also happens to be the Emperor of Melnibone. But he is no typical Emperor; Elric tends to be introspective and concerned with morality, which is foreign to the Melnibonean way. His cousin, Yyrkoon, makes this clear; Yyrkoon believes that he is the emperor Melnibone needs, not Elric.

When Melnibone is attacked by barbarians, Elric rallies his troops to the defense. All goes well until Yyrkoon betrays his cousin, sending Elric to his death at the bottom of the ocean. But Elric is not without friends, even at the bottom of the sea; the elemental King Straasha saves Elric. Returning to (and beating Yyrkoon to) the Ruby Throne, Elric declares Yyrkoon a traitor to the throne. Of course, Yyrkoon refuses to let that be the end of it: he escapes using sorcery, kidnapping his sister, Cymoril, (who happens to be Elric's lover) in the process. Elric is forced to chase Yyrkoon to the ends of the earth and even into another world in order to save his love.

As I said, Elric of Melnibone is an intriguing story. Unfortunately I found it to be a bit dated in both writing style and plot. The two men were fighting for a large chunk of the book not only for power but for Cymoril as well (Yyrkoon said a few times that once Elric was dead, Cymoril would be his). The writing is rather sparse, and none of the characters seem to have much character at all. Which is rather unfortunate because Elric himself is quite interesting. How often do you see a fantasy hero who needs to take magical drugs daily to function? (Of course, even this is taken away from him when he gets his rune sword at the end of the book). While I was left with some questions at the end of the book (like where did the other rune sword go?), I'm not really interested enough to look for the next book in Moorcock's Elric Saga.

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