Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock – 5/5 Stars

Elric by Michael Moorcock - Front Cover
First impressions

I was expecting an anti-hero ruler with a measure of villainous strength. However, the story actually begins differently, giving the reader a premonition of tragedy as we’re introduced to the main characters of Elric’s court: Elric, his enemy Yyrkoon, Dyvim Tvar, and Elric’s love interest Cymoril who happens to be Yyrkoon’s sister. You can already imagine the tension surrounding Cymoril in the court.

We step in the shallow end with the origins of Elric, showing him to be a benevolent ruler more preoccupied with morals, mercy, and wisdom than with following the aggressive military traditions of Imrryr – a city inhabited by a god-like race of those who can practice sorcery. Elric’s physical weaknesses and unconventional approach to being a ruler brings him enemies, typically Yyrkoon who wishes to make Imrryr great again and to wage war on the Young Kingdoms — kingdoms composed of ordinary folk — as per Imrryr tradition.

It’s something old, but is it anything new?

What’s most admirable about Elric is that he won’t be swayed by the advice of Cymoril or Dyvim Tvar, even when they have his best interests at heart. It’s admirable, yet at the same time it was difficult for me to see Elric as anything more than a weak figurehead obsessed with pacifism and ideals … he was almost asking for something tragic and eye opening to happen. Suffice to say there is something of destiny and a reliance on gods, goddesses, and sorcery. Sounds like your typical sword-and-sorcery or heroic fantasy, and it is punchy and pared down compared to something like Tolkien. The introductions aren’t lengthy, and the plot barrels forward with the use of ideas and devices that will fascinate and intrigue the reader, and I’ll not say any more than that.

No spoilers but what can I expect later on in the story?

As the story progresses Yyrkoon tests Elric’s power further, trying to manipulate him into remaining at court while he goes to confront the bold Young Kingdom fleet. Later on, it’s a battle of wits as much as sorcery, magical objects galore, and on who the gods favour more. Both characters can see through one another’s plans, though Elric is wiser and less reckless.

Overall

The best fantasy writing I’ve ever read, from renowned author Michael Moorcock. The character Elric and those surrounding him infuse his quests with moral dilemmas and tragedy, and there is enough fighting and ground-shaking conflict to remind you Elric is able to take care of himself and there is a lot at stake.

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