Monday, August 24, 2015

Stormbringer by Michael Moorcock

(hb; 1977: sixth book in the Elric series) 


The first story, "Dead God's Homecoming," pits Elric, his cousin Dyvim Slorm, and Jharkorian Queen Yishana and her many White Leopard guards against the combined armies of Kings Sarosto (of Dharijor) and Jagreen Lern (of Pan Tang). These savage regents, also allied with a planet-decimating "Dead God" (Darnizhaan), threaten the balance of the known world. Elric's situation is further exacerbated by the fact that Darnizhaan has kidnapped his wife, Zarozinia.

"Dead" not only brings together the Melnibéan's past-tale companions, but serves as a major turning point in the series: Elric, an Eternal Champion (as revealed in The Vanishing Tower), gets his first real understanding of his destiny -- this comprehension comes courtesy of Sepiriz, an ancient Nihranian, one of the "Ten who sleep in the mountain of fire," an ally whom Elric has not seen the last of.

In "Black Sword's Brothers," Jagreen Lern's Chaos-bodied (and ever-growing) army of darkness is running roughshod over the worldwide Young Kingdom, possessing -- incorporating -- those fallen soldiers into its black, murderous mass.

Fighting against this world-ravaging tide is Elric, Moonglum, Dyvim Slorm (who bears Stormbringer's brother blade, Mournblade), Rackhir the Red, Kargan Sharpeyes (spokesmen for the Eastern Sealords) and their forces, whose men stand little chance of holding back Lern's monsters. While Elric is guided by Sepiriz's seer-like visions, Lern is guided by enfleshed gods of Chaos.

When Sepiriz tells Elric that his cursed sword, Stormbringer, has spirit brothers in an alternate realm that might help them cast out the Dukes of Hell from this largely-toxic planet, the pale ex-emperor does what he must to summon the spirit-blades.

"Sad Giant's Shield" and "Doomed Lord's Passing" details the fallout from the events of the preceding tales. Elric, once again aided by Straasha (King of the Water Elementals)**, seeks the shield of a battle-inclined giant, Mordaga (whose castle lies in -- of course -- in a far-away realm). This shield, Sepiriz has claimed, is resistant to the evil magick of Chaos, as practiced by Jagreen Lern ("the Theocrat") and his ally, the powerful Lord Pyaray, who have taken Elric's wife, Zarozinia.

Elric, Rackhir, Moonglum and Sepiriz, in order to continue combatting Lern and Pyaray, also seek aid from the White Lords of Law (the deities who oppose -- provide counterbalance to -- the Lords of Chaos).

Stormbringer is an excellent, satisfying closer volume to the first cycle of the Elric saga. The pacing, structuring and other story-telling elements of the stories are inventive, the writing is crisp, exciting and succinct and the characters are reader-familiar and worth rooting for (or hissing at). Not only that, Moorcock keeps the albino ex-regent's adventures fresh by foreshadowing and increasing the stakes of Elric's quests: in this final (timeline-wise) tale, if Elric and his allies don't win, everyone -- literally everyone -- will likely die.

This is worth owning, just like the preceding Elric books. Followed by the first of several prequels, The Fortress of the Pearl.

(**previously seen in Elric of Melniboné)

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