THE DREAMTHIEF'S DAUGHTER
by Michael Moorcock
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Although The Dreamthief's Daughter is an Elric novel, it does not feel like the earlier novels in the sequence. In fact, Elric shares pride of place with another albino, Ulric von Bek. Michael Moorcock introduced the von Bek family into his theory of the multiverse and Eternal Champions in the early eighties and has continuously expanded their role as protectors of the Holy Grail. The Dreamthief's Daughter follows Ulric von Bek as he lives a quiet life between the World Wars of the twentieth century until his cousin, Gaynor von Minct appears, searching for a variety of family heirlooms he believes to be in Ulric's possession.
Moorcock has used the background of Nazi Germany before, perhaps most notably in Dragon in the Sword, an earlier novel in which an Ulrich von Bek teams with another identity of the Eternal Champion to thwart the Nazis plans. In both cases, Moorcock focuses on the Nazi quest for the occult. While he portrays the Nazi elite as buffoons, he does so in a manner which does not detract from the evil which they embodied. Ulric's imprisonment in a concentration camp allows Moorcock to focus the novel on the question of good vs. evil. Unlike his forces of Law and Chaos, which Moorcock believes to remain in balance, it is clear that good and evil are moral imperatives which can be equated to right and wrong.
The Multiverse which is inhabited by so many of Moorcock's characters has been building since Moorcock's earliest work, and it is clear that Moorcock continues to re-envision even the basics of his world. Many items and characters who have been seen in his writing for decades are seen in a new light in this book. Elric's sword Stormbringer, for instance, shares a relationship with Ulric's sword Ravenbrand. However, the swords' relationship is even more complex than the relationship between Ulric and Elric. Furthermore, in earlier stories when Elric came into contact with other versions of the Eternal Champion, they merged into a multi-faced hero. In The Dreamthief's Daughter, Elric and Ulric merge on a much more psychological level.
At the same time, Moorcock has tried to remain as consistent as possible with his previous writings. Characters who are at least vaguely familiar to Moorcock's readers are constantly appearing, from the treacherous Gaynor and his henchman, Klosterheim, to Elric's companion, Moonglum. At other times, Moorcock is content to make an allusion to his earlier novels, usually in the form of von Bek discounting the family legends which Moorcock has recounted in The Warhound and the World's Pain, City in the Autumn Stars or Dragon in the Sword. The inclusion of these offhand remarks will send long-time fans searching through the older books and provide a sense of depth and history for those fans who are not familiar with the works described.
The cover of the novel calls The Dreamthief's Daughter "a novel of the albino." Although albinos are rife throughout the novel, it is also misleading for anyone who picks up the book expecting an Elric-style sword and sorcery novel. The Dreamthief's Daughter is much more a philosophical novel than Elric of Melniboné and similar books. Instead, it has much more in common with Moorcock's later works and the stories which focus on the von Bek family.
The one place where The Dreamthief's Daughter falls flat is the romantic plotline between Ulric von Bek and Oona, the dreamthief's daughter of the title. Although Oona is practically the only female character in the novel (Lady Miggea, a goddess, hardly counts), there is little emotional interplay between Oona and Ulric. While the ultimate result of their relationship does not appear to be particularly important, the fact that Moorcock does not include a build up to it detracts from the outcome of the novel.
The Dreamthief's Daughter is a fantastic combination of Moorcock's most famous character and the style of novel he has been writing in recent years, focusing on philosophical questions as well the meaning of good and evil. While his characters have a tendency to see things in black and white, they still find that they have to make correct decisions which are not always clear until after the decision has been made.
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