Just as with the first volume in the Elric Saga, I’m quite pleased to have the entire Elric series being re-released and available digitally. The order of the books is slightly different from earlier releases, but this being the latest collection of Elric books, I would assume this is the current, definitive order in which to read the series.
This collection contains four Elric books: The Vanishing Tower, The Revenge of the Rose, The Bane of the Black Sword, and Stormbringer. I reviewed these books separately and have reposted those reviews here.
This collection features a preface by Michael Chabon and, what might be truly exciting for Moorcock fans or Elric fans … a very detailed Reader’s Guide to Elric, listing when and where the stories and the books came out, including the different editions, different publishers, etc. This was almost as complicated as an Elric story but very rewarding for the fan.
Reviews of the four books below.
Looking for a good book? The collection of Elric books, Stormbringer: The Elric Saga Book 2, by Michael Moorcock is a little weak in the beginning but ends on a very strong note.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Michael Moorcock
series: The Elric Saga #2
publisher: Saga Press
hardcover, 851 pages
Individual book reviews:
The Vanishing Tower
It’s Elric time again, as I am working my way through the entire series.
As with the four previous Elric books, there are three ‘books’ between the covers – likely novellas or novelettes.
In the first, “The Torment of the Last Lord,” Elric and his faithful servant Sancho Moonglum head off to confront the evil wizard Theleb K’aarna but they are beset upon by strange and terrible monsters. They are ill prepared for this battle and Elric calls upon an ancient god to help them, but the god refuses and they are captured and his sword, Stormbringer, lost. When they are taken away Elric finds a woman in coma who speaks to him (this is Moorcock, remember) and tells him many things, including where to find an item that will help him defeat the wizard’s army. But that item is on the other side of the world, so Elric has to take a magical bird that she somehow supplies, after some effort finds the jewel that will help him defeat Theleb K’aarna, but also finds a jewel that should awaken the woman.
Battle ensues, Stormbringer returns, Theleb K’aarna flees, woman awakes, love is made.
The second ‘book’ in this volume is “To Snare the Pale Prince.” Elric and Moonglum are off in a quiet village recuperating from their recent adventure. They are nearly undefeatable when facing armies and evil wizards and maniacal kings, but the pair of them get hoodwinked by a couple of young ladies who steal the Ring of Actorios – the ring that Elric must use to summon supernatural assistance.
It is, of course, a ploy on the part of Theleb K’aarna and Elric and Moonglum will fight more monsters.
The final piece is “Three Heroes with a Single Aim.” Elric connects once again with other incarnations of the Eternal Champion to visit Tanelorn – the refuge for tormented souls. The three-in-one eternal champion must enter the Vanishing Tower together to defeat an evil wizard (but this time it’s not Theleb K’aarna).
While the 1977 edition of this book still sits on my shelf, I don’t remember if I read it or not. There were times when the story seemed familiar, but I recognize that all three of these stories seem similar to stories in the previous volumes as well.
While I like the Eternal Champion theme, I recognize that it isn’t explained particularly well in the Elric books. In a nutshell – all the heroes (at least all of Moorcock’s heroes) are incarnations of the same person but in different realities and from time to time, they meet to fight together. And as time runs differently in different realities they sometimes know each other and sometimes don’t. Sometimes they remember shared battles that haven’t happened yet. Yes, it’s all a bit metaphysical and the Elric books are often quite philosophical and existential.
This particular volume didn’t excite me too tremendously. There was either a lot of senseless fighting or a lot of brooding. Sometimes at the same time.
For a short time I enjoyed the middle story, which, although a little ridiculous to have Elric and Moonglum taken in by your average prostitutes, was a little more on the relaxing side after all the heavy battling and brooding from the previous story, but then it, too, turned darker.
This is part of the Elric saga so I’m glad to have read it, but if I wasn’t a little OCD about book series, I’d probably have skipped it.
Looking for a good book? The Vanishing Tower is part of the Elric series by Michael Moorcock, and in that regard it is worth reading, but it’s not a particularly strong addition to the series.
I received a digital copy, as Volume 2 in The Elric Saga, from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
The Revenge of the Rose
Three novellas in one title, as seems to be the pattern with the Elric books. “Concerning the Fate of Empires,” “Esbern Snare; The Northern Werewolf,” and “A Rose Redeemed; A Rose Revived.”
Elric, the albino prince of the doomed city of Melniboné still cavorts with his friend Moonglum when Elric is visited by a dragon who brings the prince to the ghost of Sadric his father. Sadric needs Elric to find his soul which is currently being kept in a wooden box in a land far away, and reunite spirit and soul. If Elric fails, he will be paired with Sadric’s ghost, at which time bad things will happen.
On his journey to find the lost soul, Elric will gain an ally – the warrior princess Rose. Elric and Rose have a mutual enemy, Charion, a high valued, undead agent of Chaos. They need to deal with Charion or Chaos will rule without check. But a couple of demons make it more challenging.
Just before completing his mission to restore Sadric with his soul, Elric learns that Rose’s involvement in the fight against Charion was all about revenge for what Charion had done, destroying her people.
I bought this book when it first came out but I’d not read it because I had fallen behind in reading the series at the time. It was, I believe, the 8th book in the series then. Now in this new definitive (?) collection, this becomes the 6th book in the Elric saga.
Elric has always been philosophical but I think there’s more talk and waxing philosophic in this volume than there is swordplay – and that’s not why we read these kinds of books. There is a little bit of high stakes conflict with Charion, but that almost feels secondary to Elric being able to reflect and get morose about the world.
This is not a strong addition to the series and I’m curious why it’s being moved up in the order of the books.
Looking for a good book? The Revenge of the Rose by Michael Moorcock is a late addition to the Elric saga, low on action but high on existential philosophy.
I received a digital copy of this book, as part of a collection, from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
The Bane of the Black Sword
The saga of the damned albino prince of Melniboné continues in another novel composed of three novellas in The Bane of the Black Sword. As the title might suggest, Elric’s cursed sword, the soul-drinking runeblade known as Stormbringer plays a larger part in this collection.
We have the ‘usual’ three novellas making up this book, with a short extra. The first of these novellas is “The Stealer of Souls” in which the albino king has his final (?) battle with Theleb Ka’arna, the evil wizard who has plagued Elric. Elric is helped by his old friend Dyvim Tvar and a small horde of dragons.
In “Kings in Darkness” Elric and Moonglum are on a hurried retreat from what must surely be a misunderstanding. Elric, who can slay wizards and demons with his soul-drinking sword, runs away from common soldiers. They find themselves in the dark Forest of Troos and Elric falls in love with the beautiful 17 year old Zarozinia.
“The Flamebringers” sees Elric looking to enjoy his time with his beautiful bride, Zarozinia, to whom he has promised he will not put his hands on his soul-drinking sword, but when you are a fated hero, life intervenes. Elric must face a million mad nomads raping their way toward him while also helping a sorcerer friend whose soul is trapped in the body of a black cat. (Yeah, isn’t fantasy great?)
There is also the “Epilogue: To Rescue Tanelorn” which might be the best part of the book even though Elric isn’t in the story. Instead we get Rackhir the Red Archer who must protect Tanelorn (think of Tanelorn like Switzerland – it’s neutral territory for all sorts of mercenaries and rebels. But it’s under threat from a wizard and the beggars he’s gathered as an army.
I am now in unchartered territory for me in the Elric series and I understand why. These stories are beginning to feel quite the same.
There is some appeal to this – consistency and knowing what you’re going to get. It’s the reason chain stores all look the same. And as a young reader, when these books were still being released new (I was 16 when this first came out), we didn’t have that immediacy of being able to read them all in a row (unless we waited for them all or re-read all the previous books) so knowing, in general, what we would get with the next book, was appealing. But now, reading seven books – essentially in a row – it doesn’t hold the same appeal.
This book does seem to be more straight-forward. In the Sword & Sorcery category, we have both – sword (that is magicked) and wizards and sorcerers aplenty and Elric does much less ruminating or brooding or philosophizing and I almost rather miss it – I mean that’s part of what really defines the brooding albino.
I think that this stands as a decent S&S story, and a decent addition to the Elric saga, but not outstanding, and for the hardcore Elric reader, reading all the books in a row, this might be a less-than-exciting, repetitive volume.
Looking for a good book? The Bane of the Black Sword by Michael Moorcock is a volume of the Elric saga – where it falls in the saga depends on which collection you adhere to, but it does fall just a bit short of being truly unique and interesting.
I received a digital version of this book, as part of a larger collection, from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
In this collection of Elric novellas we have “Dead God’s Homecoming,” “Black Sword’s Brothers,” “Sad Giant’s Shield,” and “Doomed Lord’s Passing.”
In the first story, Elric’s wife, Zarozinia, is kidnapped by some beings out of chaos, on the behest of a resurrected god named Darnizhaan. Darnizhaan was killed by a soul-drinking Black Sword. Not Elric’s Stormbringer, but its twin, Mournblade. Darnizhaan wants both swords so that he doesn’t have to fear being killed again, and so that he can begin taking over the world. Elric, his companion Moonglum, and Mournblade’s owner, Dyvim Slorm, deliver the swords to Darnizhaan … but they have a little trick up their sleeves.
In “Black Sword’s Brothers” Elric learns that Stormbringer has the power to call upon its brothers (like Mournblade) to fight for it. Elric learns the secrets to make this happen, sending some of his opponents to an eternal death, but Elric loses his sword in the process and he’ll need to get it back as the sword feeds Elric, providing him with the sustenance he needs to survive. He succeeds in getting Stormbringer once again, and he heads off to rescue Moonglum.
Elric and Moonglum head off to fight Jagreen Lern, who is amassing an army to take control of large swaths of land. They learn of a giant who own s a Chaos Shield, which would come in real handy in the battle against Jagreen Lern so they go to get it. Along the way, while aboard a ship, a storm nearly has them drown when tossed from the ship, but they are saved by Straasha, Lord of the Sea. They get the shield, go off to battle and Elric is ready to confront his foes when he discovers Zarozinia who has been transformed into a giant worm. Distraught, she kills herself on Elric’s sword.
And finally, a strange end with “Doomed Lord’s Passing.” Elric and his band of friends and fighters head back to Melnibone. To put a stop to Chaos, Elric will need to blow the Horn of Fate. Blowing it once will awaken dragons. Blowing it twice will bring the White Lords. And blowing three times will end the world. But as Fate would have it, Elric is completely exhausted and drained and is unable to muster the strength to blow the horn three times and there no one near enough for him to kill in order for Stormbringer to give him energy … except for Moonglum. What will Elric do?
This was a really strong collection, and everything we’ve liked about Elric and Stormbringer and Moonglum are present along with some moments we’ve seen before that are quite moving (the inability to save a loved one and having Elric’s precious sword being the cause of their death).
I’m quite certain I read this back in the 70’s (buying it just as much for Michael Whelan’s beautiful cover as for the story within) but I didn’t remember most of the specifics.
Stormbringer has more and more a curiosity throughout the books, and it makes sense to have these four stories together which feature Stormbringer most prominently.
This book definitely feels like the end of the series, and in that sense I’m missing one element … the Eternal Champion. We’ve touched on this theme in earlier books and I would have liked to have had that a little bit more here, but I do recognize that this likely comes from the fact that I’ve now read eight of the books almost one right after another, so this is a little more prominent to me.
This is probably one of my more favorite books in the series, but I’d highly recommend reading some of the other books first, to get a feel for Elric and his compatriots, before jumping into this.
Looking for a good book? Stormbringer, by Michael Moorcock, sees the albino king of Melnibone in a Ragnarok-like battle to save the world from Chaos.