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Elric: The Stealer of Souls by Michael…

Elric: The Stealer of Souls (2008)

by Michael Moorcock

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This to my recollection, the first Moorcock writing about Elric. The best story and collection about that troubled soul, and his Mobey Dick of a weapon. I remember this s the best idea MM ever had. The British publication was entitled "The Dreaming City" and is in my possession. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Dec 27, 2016 |
My reaction to reading this book in 1999. Spoilers follow.

“Introduction” -- Detail of fantasy influences on Moorcock and circumstances that early Elric stories written under. Elric remains Moorcock’s favorite character because “He was working through many of his questions at the same time I was working through mine.”

The Sleeping Sorceress -- Another of Elric’s battles with Theleb Kàarna. Elric meets another lover, Law sorceress Myshella (the Sleeping Sorceress of the title). The notion of a Beggar Court that derives its power through a natural aversion to disease and dirt was interesting. The third novella in the book is a retelling of an incident in Moorcock’s Corum: The Coming of Chaos where Corum, Elric, and Erekosë team up in a magical union of Eternal Champions to defeat a sorcerer. (Erekosë wryly laments that he wishes the Eternal Champions could face a “small problem, a domestic problem” sometime.) Theleb Kàarna kills Myshella, and provides still another reason for Elric to kill him.

The Revenge of the Rose -- As the early Elric stories reflect Moorcock’s youthful struggles with various political, social, and personal issues, this novel reflects, perhaps not for the good, the concerns and the style of the latter, older Moorcock. As in another late Elric novel, The Fortress of the Pearl (though worse here), this novel’s style and structure jar with those of the earlier Elric stories (though they would be just fine in another series where expectations are different). The spare, adventure-driven narrative of earlier novels, usually fixups (Moorcock says he wrote them at a time when, if it couldn’t be written in 24 hours, it wasn’t worth writing), is gone, replaced by a denser, allegorical narrative (John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was, after all, Moorcock’s first book purchase) that was slower to read. Still, I liked several things about this novel. I liked the character of poet Ernest Wheldrake (who, in this novel, has also spent time with John Dee in Elizabethean times). His poetry seems so apt for the saga of Elric that he either had a big influence on a young Moorcock or he’s a creation of Moorcock. I liked the variation on the plot of a child reconciling or rescuing a parent. Here Elric wants to escape the influence of his father and all he represents and embarks on the quest for his father’s lost soul not out of love (though he is reconciled with his father at novel’s end) but out of fear his father will haunt him, be inextricably linked to his body and soul. I liked references to the Vadagh and the appearance of the Rose (another character with evidently multiple manifestations in the multiverse and depicted in Moorcock’s Blood series and Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse comics). Prince Gaynor, a man who knew and betrayed the Cosmic Balance and who longs for death, appears here. His origins (murky in the Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse comic) are explained here. The most obvious political allegory is the H. G. Wells-like (as in The Time Machine) allegory of the constantly moving, bizarre Gypsy society on huge carts, the elite above enjoying art and riches, while propelled below by suffering masses serving their debts and punishments. All the while the carts move on a rode straight and bordered by near impassable mounds of their garbage, a society that literally would go off a cliff (a destroyed bridge, actually) that stop its tradition of movement. I suspect Moorcock meant this (he was a Laborite) as an allegory for modern capitalism. (Power, notes Elric, is as randomly distributed as any physical trait.) In some way, it also seems a critique of imperialism since Wheldrake finds it worse than the empires of Victoria and Elizabeth. Empire-building is also addressed in the scene where Elric meets his father in a dimension where the city H’hui’shan is. It is a city destroyed in the civil war where the imperialist Melniboneans defeated their non-imperialist cousins. The Three Sisters also represent a related race that renounced empire building.

“The Stealer of Souls” -- An enjoyable Elric story I’d read before. It’s dramatic high point is when Elric Womanslayer, destroyer of Imrryr, meets, for the first time, the remnants of his race who are surprisingly forgiving and fatalistic (and working as mercenaries). Theleb K’aarna finally meets his end.

“Kings in Darkness -- A creepy tale involving ghouls and the resurrection of dead kings. Elric also meets his wife Zarozinia and decides to settle down.

“The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams” -- Elric defeats a Mongol-type barbarian that threatens his married tranquility. Dyvim Tvar and the remnants of the Melnibonean dragons put in an appearance. At story’s end, Elric thinks he’s found herbs that can maintain his strength in place of Stormbringer. He even thinks he’s finally managed to discard Stormbringer. He tells his wife Zarozinia that he’s “tired of swords and sorcery”. Sarozinia doesn’t have the heart to tell him that a screaming Stormbringer came back from battle before he did.

Stormbringer -- It’s been more than 20 years, probably, since I read this book. And, though I couldn’t remember much about it other than Elric destroys the world, Stormbringer kills all of Elric’s friends, and, at novel’s end, only Stormbringer -- revealed to be a demon – survives to declare that he was a thousand times more evil than Elric. I also remembered the gloomy, foreboding atmosphere. Well, all that was here on the second reading, but I also appreciated Moorcock’s skill (though he uses much the same novelette/novella structure as his other Elric stories in not only the prose but his ideas. Perhaps here, more than any other story I’ve read in Moorcock’s Eternal Champion cycle, he uses paradox to generate emotion and story interest. Elric, the Eternal Champion fated to bring about a better world, does so by bringing death to those close to him and who he loves. This starts with his very birth killing his mother. Stormbringer, the evil hellblade necessary to Elric’s life is also necessary for defeating Chaos, though it itself is of Chaos origin. (The Lords of Chaos seem to scheme against one another) It kills Cymoril. Here, it also takes the life, without Elric’s intent, of Rackhir the Red Archer (servant of Law and there when Elric first gets Stormbringer) and Kargan, an ally. His wife Zarozinia (horribly altered by Chaos) gives her life willingly to Stormbringer to sustain Elric. Moonglum, in the new world of Law, gives his life to Stormbringer so that Elric can blow the Horn of Fate a third time and complete the creation of a world of Law. Elric, sworn to Chaos, actually ends up serving Law, and his evil blade is necessary in the new world in order for it to avoid the stagnation of Law. Elric, always seeing events as random and no cause-or-effect relationship writ large in the universe, begins to wonder whether his actions are pre-destined by Fate, if he has any control. (This is poignantly emphasized when Elric encounters the morose, fearful Sad Giant who peaceably gives up the Shield of Chaos since he has fearfully been waiting the prophecy that says he will be killed and the Shield violently taken. Elric agrees to this, but Moonglum kills the giant, telling Elric they cannot deviate at all from Elric’s prophesied fate. At story’s end, Moonglum, feeling he is predestined to be Elric’s companion suggests giving his life for the final step of Elric’s fate.) Of course, Moorcock turns one of the major clichés of sword-and-sorcery on its head. His hero is not fated to save the world but destroy it, albeit to make a better one. In the course of doing that, he doesn’t save any loved one. He gets them all killed. Of course, the first time I read this book, I didn’t catch the allusion to Roland (I had not even heard of The Song of Roland much less read it) as an Eternal Champion. Of course, the rules are a bit vague in parts of the book – as in most fantasy. A prime example is how Dyvim Slorn and Moonglum survive unaltered in the lands of Chaos even without Elric’s Shield of Chaos. (I liked the fierce Elric taking vengeance of Jagreen Lern.) This one was even better on the second reading. ( )
  RandyStafford | Oct 2, 2013 |
Fantastic adventure with the Dread Prince of fallen Melnibone. If Conan is the strong, bronze giant who can always succeed in his quest, Elric can succeed but pay a price for that success. ( )
  Kurt.Rocourt | Jun 20, 2013 |
Strictly speaking, I'm not finished with this book. However, it's a collection of a bunch of novellas- three of which I've read- and some assorted letters and other background material. The fact is, I'm not going to get around to the rest of them for a while, but in the meantime, I'm sick of it sitting in my "currently reading" list.

Was a bit disappointed, but that's mostly because it didn't live up to the hype. I had been expecting a more literate Robert E. Howard and what I got was fairly mainstream pulp fantasy. Mind, that's not so bad. Still, given his popularity and the fact that this print edition featured laudatory comments from none other than Michael Chabon and Alan Moore and my expectations were set fairly high. If you want sophisticated pulp, read Chabon's "Gentlemen of the Road". In the meantime, I'm afraid I prefer Conan. Now just need to give John Carter of Mars a try.
  BrianFannin | May 31, 2013 |
Elric: The Stealer of Souls is the story of Elric, the last of his noble line, and his travels. Elric has left his kingdom behind and is exploring the outlying lands with Stormbringer, his sentient sword. Being a dark fantasy, Elric's adventures are filled with horrendous creatures, evil beings and violent encounters. Moorcock does a fabulous job developing the characters and setting his scenes. The world he creates is well thought out and planned. There were occasional scenes that didn't quite ring true to me, but not so much that they seemed off. Enjoyable read and recommended to those who enjoy the genre, but those who don't should probably pass. ( )
  slarsoncollins | Sep 7, 2011 |
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This is not the same book as the 1998 Elric: The Stealer of Souls by White Wolf (Tales of the Eternal Champion #11), nor Elric (The Stealer of Souls and Stormbringer) by Gollancz/Orion/Millennium (Fantasy Masterworks #17) or its 2008 reissue; they should not be combined!

Elric: The Stealer of Souls (The Tale of the Eternal Champion, Vol 11) is a different book
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345498623, Paperback)

“The stories here are the raw heart of Michael Moorcock. They are the spells that first drew me and all the numerous admirers of his work with whom I am acquainted into Moorcock’s luminous and captivating web.”
–from the Foreword by Alan Moore, creator of V for Vendetta

When Michael Moorcock began chronicling the adventures of the albino sorcerer Elric, last king of decadent Melniboné, and his sentient vampiric sword, Stormbringer, he set out to create a new kind of fantasy adventure, one that broke with tradition and reflected a more up-to-date sophistication of theme and style. The result was a bold and unique hero–weak in body, subtle in mind, dependent on drugs for the vitality to sustain himself–with great crimes behind him and a greater destiny ahead: a rock-and-roll antihero who would channel all the violent excesses of the sixties into one enduring archetype.

Now, with a major film in development, here is the first volume of a dazzling collection of stories containing the seminal appearances of Elric and lavishly illustrated by award-winning artist John Picacio–plus essays, letters, maps, and other material. Adventures include “The Dreaming City,” “While the Gods Laugh,” “Kings in Darkness,” “Dead God’s Homecoming,” “Black Sword’s Brothers,” and “Sad Giant’s Shield.”

An indispensable addition to any fantasy collection, Elric: The Stealer of Souls is an unmatched introduction to a brilliant writer and his most famous–or infamous–creation.

“The most significant UK author of sword and sorcery, a form he has both borrowed from and transformed.”
–The Encyclopedia of Fantasy

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:50 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A volume of fantasy short stories about Elric, the king of Melnibon, and his sword Stormbringer.

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