THE SWORD OF THE DAWN
by Michael Moorcock
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
The Sword of the Dawn, the third novel of Michael Moorcock's History of the Runestaff, picks up shortly after Castle Brass has disappeared from its natural plane of existence, denying Baron Meliadus of Kroiden his sworn vengeance while still allowing Granbretan to complete its conquest of Europe. The penultimate novel in the History of the Runestaff, The Sword of the Dawn continues to be a chance for Dorian Hawkmoon and his companions to collect the artifacts they'll need for their eventual face-off with Granbretan and their eventual goal comes into more clear view.
A chance and confusing encounter with the Granbretan playwright Elvereza Tozer causes concern for the inhabitants of the Kamarg as it becomes clear to them that their interdimensional haven is not as safe as they initially thought. Knowledge that Granbretanish scientists are the most accomplished scientists in the world and that Tozer hailed from Granbretan further convinces Hawkmoon and his companions that they must track back Tozer's method for reaching them, a ring he claims he received from Mygan of Llandar.
Moorcock also follows Hawkmoon's nemesis, Baron Meliadus of Kroiden. Feted for his success against the rebels of the Kamarg, Meliadus is given the task to begin the subjugation of distant Asiacommunista. However, as he was thwarted in his revenge, Meliadus is convinced that Hawkmoon and the denizens of Castle Brass continue to pose a great threat to the empire.
Hawkmoon and his companion eventually find themselves in a in a strange world unknown to the empire of Granbretan. Amarekh has suffered a similar fate as Europe, fallen back into a state of feudal barbarism punctuated by high tech instruments left over from a previous golden age. Finding themselves enslaved, they must escape to find the fabled Sword of the Dawn, which will somehow help them out of their predicament. Along the way, they make enemies, such as the pirate Lord Valjon, and friends, such as the pirate hunter Paul Bewchard.
Just as Hawkmoon was able to use the Soryandum machine to achieve a victory of sorts in The Mad God's Amulet, the Sword of the Dawn allows Hawkmoon to call upon the mystical powers he needs to be victorious in the current volume. However, this clear use of magic to let Hawkmoon get out of trouble isn't as troubling as it might be since Moorcock has laid the foundation for his supernatural rescue and makes use of clever and powerful artifacts to do so.
As Moorcock wrote the four volumes of the History of the Runestaff in a short time, they are stylistically similar. As the earlier volumes do, The Sword of the Dawn tells a complete story in and of itself, but fits as part of the whole. In many ways, it and the preceding volume, The Mad God's Amulet can be read as two halves of the same work, as they fit together even more smoothly than either does with the first or last book of the series.
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