ELRIC OF MELNIBONÉ
by Michael Moorcock
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
My introduction to Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné came from the line of text “Moorcock, Michael: STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; "Hawkmoon" series (esp. the first three books).” in Appendix N of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master Guide at the perfect time. DAW Books was releasing the six books that included Moocock’s novels and short stories about Elric (as well as many other aspects of the Eternal Champion) around that time (all with character-defining Michael Whelan covers) and it was relatively easy to wander into a bookstore and find them. A sense of nostalgia has caused me to pick up those six books, along with Moorcock’s later additions to the saga, The Fortress of the Pearl and The Revenge of the Rose for a re-reading.
The first book is the novel Elric of Melniboné (a.k.a. The Dreaming City. This thin volume introduces Elric and many of the ideas that permeate the books: the island of Melniboné and the Young Kingdoms, his cousins Yyrkoon and Cymoril, the Gods of Chaos and Law, the Elemental Rulers, and Stormbringer and Mournblade. It tells the story of Yyrkoon’s treachery against Elric and Elric’s quest for vengeance/justice which results in his acquisition of Stormbringer.
Because Moorcock wrote Elric of Melniboné well after the character was first introduced, he had a good handle on the character and could include “foreshadowing” of information and events that happen later in the series, but which had already been published. His depiction of Imrryr is more complete than it would be in later visits to the city, yet still vague enough to allow the city to have a sense of mystique.
Although Elric has already been Emperor of Melniboné for an unspecified time, the novel is an origin story, explaining what made him turn his back on the throne and begin the life of an itinerant hero, how he gained his demonic patron and equally demonic sword, and sets in motion the events which would follow it. Moorcock introduces, albeit vaguely, concepts which would be expanded upon through the rest of the series, such as the existence of multiple planes of existence.
While Elric is cast from the beginning as a loner, despite his friendships with Dyvim Tvar and Magum Colim, Elric is also shown as someone who develops fast and firm friendships based on initial impressions. While chasing after Yyrkoon and seeking Stormbringer, Elric stumbles across Rackhir the Red. Despite the hellishness of the landscape and the danger that is posed at every turn, Elric befriends the archer and promises to help him return to their own plane.
Elric of Melniboné provides the perfect introduction to the character and setting. It is written in the same style as the various stories which preceded it and introduced many of the concepts which Moorcock would explore throughout Elric’s saga. By today’s standards, the work (and many that follow), may seem a little slight, but the novel brings a sense of wonder and adventure to the reader.
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