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The Jewel In The Skull : First volume in the…

The Jewel In The Skull : First volume in the history of the runestaff. (original 1967; edition 1969)

by Michael Moorcock

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738819,147 (3.67)5
Title:The Jewel In The Skull : First volume in the history of the runestaff.
Authors:Michael Moorcock
Info:New York Mayflower 1969. (1969), Edition: 1St Edition, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:Science fiction, Fantasy

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The Jewel in the Skull by Michael Moorcock (1967)

  1. 00
    The Jackal of Nar by John Marco (Jarandel)
    Jarandel: Remarkable similarities in the careers of the protagonists, and the feel of the main antagonists. Being your typical door-stopper, the Jackal gets more sprawling and detailed though, and also starts comparatively earlier in Richius Vantran's life, what would be the rough equivalent of the opening scenes of Hawkmoon taking place maybe halfway through.… (more)

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A young knight, having lost everyone and everything he holds dear, travels to a strange land, falls in with an older man and a beautiful woman in a battle against an evil empire, one that is ruled by a mystical ancient emperor and his most trusted evil, general, a vile battle-hardened brute who always wears a mask. There's a mystical force controlling our hero's destiny although he knows little about it at first, oh, and there's also a trusted companion covered totally in long ginger hair.

Stop me if you've heard this before :-)

Moorcock's tale came a few years before Star Wars, but a fairy tale is a fairy tale, however it's told, and this one follows the same great themes. It takes place in the far future on earth rather than in a galaxy long ago and far away, and being Moorcock, reality is never all that stable, but it's another great romp.

Dorian Hawkmoon is the latest incarnation of the Eternal Champion in this one, book one of the four-book history of the Runestaff. And again there's epic battles -- even more of them than in previous volumes -- some truly vicious bad guys, and heroic defenders standing against them.

The evil empire of the future Great Britain, with its beast-masks, vast military, flying machines, time palaces and crystal bridges is more of Moorcock's early proto-steampunk, and comes alive wonderfully in the mind's eye, as does the castle in the Camarg that stands against them.

As book 1 of 4 it's a wonderful introduction to all the main players, and the big battle is a joyous romp of old-school sword and sorcery. These four books as a whole are among my favorites of all of Moorcock's work, and I'm looking forward to spending most of the weekend lost in his world with them. ( )
  williemeikle | Dec 22, 2018 |
WAR FLAMINGOS and BATTLE BATS, y'all. 'Nuff said. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
This one, even more so than last year’s re-reading of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Grey Mouser series, was a real trip down Memory Lane for me. I think I must have been about 13-14 years old when I read my first work by Michael Moorcock (an Elric novella in an anthology edited by Lin Carter). I suppose I must have been very susceptible for tragic anti-heroes as a teenager because I was very enthusiastic about the story and immediately began to get and read (it’s hard to imagine for me today, but back in those days I didn’t have a TBR shelf) everything by Michael Moorcock I could get my hands on. As I didn’t read English at the time, and the selection of available SFF books was rather slim at the time, rather than starting with the Elric books, my first Moorcock novels were his History of the Runestaff tetralogy, of which this is the first volume.

Returning to a book one has loved as a kid or a teenager always bears the risk of ending up shattering some fond memories when it turns that the characters once dear to one’s hear are insufferably clichéd, the plot one used to follow with bated breath ludicrously unlikely and the writing once admired unbearingly wooden. So I started this re-read with some trepidation, but soon could lay my fears to rest and let myself be carried along by a novel which turned out to be pretty good even beyond the rose-coloured haze of nostalgic recollection.

Although I have to say that I enjoyed different things this time round – when I read this and the suceeding novels as a teenager, it was mainly the mystery of the Runestaff and the tragic fate of the melancholy hero that held my interest. These days, I am finding the plot rather predictable and not quite as keen on emo characters (not that we had that term back then) as I used to be. But what I enjoy and even admire is the sheer fertility of Moorcock’s imagination, the bizarre world he imagines and the even bizarrer creatures he populates it with.

The History of the Runestaff for the most part takes place in what is either a far future or a very weird alternate version of Europe (it’s never really clear which) where in a nice inversion Great Britain (called Granbretan here) is a Nazi-like aggressor that is set to conquer the world while the resistance against them is led by the German Duke Hawkmoon of Köln. The Jewel in the Skull, like all novels in the series, is quite slim by today’s standards (it was first published in 1967), probably as long as the prologue in Brandon Sanderson’s most recent Stormlight Archive novel. This means that the novel is moving at a very brisk pace, there is no dallying for lengthy descriptions of scenery, architecture or clothing here – and it is not at all necessary either, as Moorcock does an excellent job of evoking atmosphere with just a few strokes of his literary brush. There is no lack in action either, the plot moves fast but never breathlessly so, sending our hero from London to France to Persia on a quest to get rid of the title-giving jewel implanted in his skull by the evil forces of Granbretan. The only thing that seems to get somewhat short shrift is character – it has to be said that everyone here is pretty flat and there’s not really any development either. But that might very well have been Moorcock’s intention – The History of the Runestaff is part of the larger Eternal Champion series, and that concerns itself by definition with archetypes rather than characters. But the novel really does very well without them – there is not much depth to it (unlike some of Moorcock’s other works), but The Jewel in the Skull is a highly entertaining adventure novel that I do not regret re-reading and whose sequels I’m undoubtedly going to tackle very soon.
1 vote Larou | Jan 29, 2014 |
Dorian Hawkmoon tried and failed. He tried to rally his people against the tyranny of the Dark Empire of Granbretan and failed. He was captured and sent into the heart of the empire, changed into a tool to be used to further the Dark Empire's goals - goals that included the humbling of the defiant Count Brass and the salting of the earth of his home in Kamarg. The wise Count, however, sees through Hawkmoon's ruse and through the Dark Empire's plans, giving Hawkmoon a new chance at a free life. Unfortunately, there's something of a time limit on that life, so if he's going to make it a life worth living, he'd better hurry.

A solid tale of the Eternal Champion. Not quite so fantastic as some others. While I enjoyed the book, I'm not yet sold (as some are) that Hawkmoon is the best of the Champion's incarnations. But time will tell, I imagine... ( )
1 vote helver | Apr 1, 2012 |
Of all of the Eternal Champion books, this may be my favorite. Dorian Hawkmoon and his friends, fighting the empire in their strange alternate earth. The human and no so human allies of the Empire are creepy, and there's just something extra heroic about Dorian, as opposed to the weird evilness of Elric. ( )
1 vote Karlstar | Jul 8, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Moorcock, Michaelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clifton-Dey, RichardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haberfield, BobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morrow, GrayCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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