THE REVENGE OF THE ROSE
by Michael Moorcock
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
At the end of the 1980s, Moorcock returned to his Elric stories, writing two novels about the albino anti-hero. While most of his Elric storis were short stories and novellas, The Fortress of the Pearl and The Revenge of the Rose were each complete novels. They had other similarities as well, with only a short portion of each novel taking place in Elric's native world of Melniboné and the Young Kingdoms. By the time these novels were written, Moorcock also had a clearer idea of how his multiverse fit together, and so Fortress of the Pearl linked loosely to his Jerry Cornelius stories while The Revenge of the Rose borrowed from his other works.
In earlier stories in the cycle, Moorcock had Elric meet other aspects of the Eternal Champion: Corum, Erekosë, and Dorian Hawkmoon. In The Revenge of the Rose, Elric finds himself face to face with other characters from Moorcock's writings. Ernest Wheldrake, a poet from Moorcock's "The Dancers at the End of Time" sequence and Gaynor the Damned, the villain from Corum's "Swords Trilogy" show up as a companion to Elric and his nemesis, respectively.
Elric and Wheldrake first meet each other in the Weeping Wastes and become fast friends, although they are quickly sundered from each other when Elric finds himself reunited with one of Melniboné's dragons, flying for a reunion with his dead father's spirit. Although his father has been referred to in Elric of Melniboné, this is the character's only appearance in the saga. Moorcock has established Sadric the 86th's contempt for his albino son, and this contempt is on full display, along with more details of Sadric's love for his wife, which allows Moorcock to make the character a little more sympathetic. Sadric informs Elric that if Elric doesn't find a wooden box containing Sadric's soul, then Elric's soul would be joined with Sadric's in perpetuity.
His quest for the box takes him away from the Young Kingdoms and he meets up with a vengeful woman named the Rose, along with Wheldrake, with whom he has reconnected, they travel in search of three sisters and Prince Gaynor the damned. Their travels take them to a plane that focuses on a massive gypsy caravan made up of cities on wheels forever traveling. The three adventurers befriend a family named the Phatts who are about to be disposessed and in return for allowing them to remain in their house, the Phatts teach the adventurers about the world in which they have found themselves.
Elric shows little agency in the novel, which is, of course, named after the actions of a different character, Rose. While many of Moorcock's Elric (or, to be sure, his Eternal Champion) stories deal with the idea of fate and pre-determinism, Elric often provides a sense that he is fighting against his fate, trying to either determine his own future or, at least, his own manner of getting to his fated end. There is no sense of that in The Revenge of the Rose, in which Elric is simply led along his fated path by Wheldrake, Rose, the Phatts, and others.
Perhaps because it doesn't take place in the Young Kingdoms, which provide a lot of the background for Elric's adventures (although the albino spends portions of four of the novels on other planes), The Revenge of the Rose doesn't quite feel like most of the Elric stories. Furthermore, while Elric's fate plays a large role in all of the books, in most of them he actively works to change, or deny, his fate, trying to claim some semblence of self-determination. In The REvenge of the Rose, he allows his fate to determine who he is, or relies on other characters, not only the Rose, but also the three sisters, to control what happens to him.
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