Monday, September 14, 2015

The Fortress of the Pearl by Michael Moorcock

(hb; 1989: seventh book in the Elric series) 

From the inside flap:

"[Fortress] is set early in the warrior's career, opening as the Lord Gho Fhaazi seeks the principal seat on the ruling Council of Seven of the city of Quarzhasaat. He lures Elric into seeking the Pearl at the Heart of the World -- the price of admission to the council -- by addicting him to a slow-acting poison to which he, the Lord Gho, has the only antidote. Moorcock leads Elric over a course of monstrous and horrifying obstacles, pits him against the Sorcerer Adventurers, servants of Quarzhasaat's jaded rich, and then thrusts him into a dreamworld within the mind of an adolescent girl. Trapped in a comatose state by the Sorcerer Adventurers, she is undergoing her own rite of passage into adulthood. Through the vast and turbulent landscape of the Dream Realm, guided by the Dreamthief Lady Oone, Elric seeks the Pearl."


Note: Fortress -- written and published as the seventh Elric book -- is a prequel, which chronologically happens in a period of time between Elric of Melniboné and The Sailor on the Seas of Fate (the first and second book in the series).

This word-spare, surrealistic and metaphor-deft prequel shows Elric not only trying to save himself from a poisonous death, but also a Quarzhasaatim boy (Anigh) and a Bauradiam "Holy Girl" (Varadia, a citizen of the Silver Flower Oasis) from equally horrible, if different, fates.

In order to do so, he must travel down the deadly Red Road (where bizarre, armed attacks can take place at any moment), as well as the expansive Sighing Desert to the Silver Flower Oasis, where the wise folk of Bauradim hold vigil over Varadia, a "Holy Girl" whose dream-coma fragility and inevitable disintegration threatens all of existence. This compels Elric and Oone (an experienced Dreamthief, who may be more than a traveling companion) to astrally traverse the seven, surrealistic lands of the Dream Realm to not only find the Pearl, which will save Elric's life and end Anigh's captivity, but shatter the paralyzing hold of whatever layers Varadia in life-draining slumber.

What sets Fortress apart from most of the previous Elric books is that it is a whole novel: it is not broken up into a series of tightly linked novellas, like Books two through six. Elric, in this seventh work, also possesses a hope that he lost early on in the series (Cymoril -- his fiancée -- is still alive and Melniboné has not yet fallen), which lends a different side-tale feel to these new adventures -- adventures whose events further shape and deepen readers' understandings of what was previously shown in Books two through six.

This, like previous Elric works, is excellent, word-efficient and otherwise masterful, a book worth owning.

Followed by The Revenge of the Rose.

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