Elric, the albino king of Melniboné – a once great kingdom now in decline – is away from his kingdom, hoping to learn more about the world outside his ancient island. Standing alone on a shore, he hails a ship that has appeared in shallow waters, and thus begins his journey as a sailor on the seas of fate.
The others aboard include Hawkmoon, Corum, and Erekose and the ship’s captain is blind.
The ‘novel’ is broken into three ‘books’. In the first, “Sailing To the Future,” it seems as though Elric has been fated to join up with the other champions (one whom claims to have fought beside Elric before, though Elric has no memory of it, but he learns that this other warrior doesn’t live in a chronological timeline). With his new compatriots, Elric will battle sibling sorcerers who are out to destroy the world.
In the second book, “Sailing To the Present,” Elric is now partnered with Count Smiorgan Baldhead and they face off against a sorcerer from ancient Melniboné.
The final ‘book’, “Sailing to the Past,” has Elric with yet again a new companion, Duke Avan Astran. The pair will explore a ruined city that is rumored to have been the origins of the Melnibonéan race. They are looking to retrieve a set of jade jewels.
This is one of my favorite of the Elric books. For those of us who read the Elric books first (before reading any of the other Eternal Champion stories), this was the first hint that there was something bigger than Elric and Melniboné going on. Not that there needs to be. Elric is already a hero bigger than life. Despite his brooding, philosophical nature, the character has a charisma that immediately connects him with other characters.
This book also has a better balance between the swordplay action and the magic. We also really start to understand the magic sword, Stormbringer, and how it is a parasite and yet there is a symbiotic relationship between Elric and Stormbringer.
Brooding philosopher, drug-addicted, and with a sword that hungers for souls … a sword that can build his strength as long as it can take the power away from others by cutting them down … much of Elric’s nature is revealed in this particular book.
There is a disconnect, getting Elric from one story to the next, which I didn’t remember from readingit as a teen, but I liked (and still like) that Elric isn’t your typical sword & sorcery hero. He’s not a powerful fighter like Conan, he’s not a cute adventurer like the halflings and hobbits, he’s a charismatic king who is wasting away and often fighting just as hard to save himself from the weariness of life, as he is fighting for others.
Looking for a good book? The Sailor on the Seas of Fate by Michael Moorcock is, chronologically, the third book in the Elric seas, and perhaps the most revealing of Elric and his world.
I purchased a paperback in the 1970’s and received a digital copy as part of the new omnibus edition, from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Sailor on the Seas of Fate
author: Michael Moorcock
series: The Elric Saga #2, Elric Chronological Order #3, The Eternal Champion Sequence #5.3
publisher: DAW Books (1976); Gallery/Saga Press (2021)
ISBN: 0879977140 (1976); 1534445684 (2021)
paperback, 160 pages (1976); hardcover, 752 pages (2022)