A review of Michael Moorcock’s “The Sailor on the Seas of Fate”

Elric of Melnibone is a self-exiled Sorcerer from his own land of Immryr, having forsaken his kin on a quest for self-knowledge and the redemption of his kind, who have grown proud, crazed and insouciant with their power and sorcery. Other nations in the ‘Young Kingdoms’ fear the Melniboneans at best, and to these Elric journeys in his quest for answers.
His is accompanied by an accursed sword called Stormbringer, possessed of its own lust for souls and blood. Elric himself is partly at the mercy of the forces he seeks to master.
In this tale, Elric finds a ship waiting for him on an alien shore under a blue sun, and a shadowy captain who invites him on a mysterious quest, and he is not alone. He is accompanied by heroes from other times. They must confront colossal demonic powers of multi-verse defying proportions. And that’s just book one.

Book two sees Elric face off against another Melnibonean sorcerer who is crazed for the love of a young woman whose spirit he is convinced inhabits the body of a young woman Elric has just rescued.

Book three sees Elric join forces with a wealthy explorer to find the lost land that Elric’s people first hailed from, and in that lost land a lost city and great treasure possibly awaits, and Elric hopes to find answers in his personal quest for identity and redemption. Instead, they are pursued by reptile humanoids on stork like legs launching lethal decapitating crescents from their club weapons, and are forced to summon (and then banish) the Prince of Hell.

This is high, nihilistic fantasy told on a vast, multi-dimension and multi-verse spanning canvas. It’s head spinning stuff, referencing H P Lovecraft with its ancient Gods and Demons sapping the sanity of those who behold them, to a range of other fantasy tropes, and at times you can almost hear the Dungeons and Dragons dice rattle across the table. But Moorcock’s creation is very much his own. Sanity and genre busting story telling, Elric may seem at times like the High Lord Emo, with his deathly pale skin, brooding and identity crisis, but he is nevertheless an unforgettable creation.
How strange then that the publishing world has forgotten him. The Elric books are largely out of print. I found this in a Church book sale. You can get them on Amazon from a range of sellers. Some are hard to obtain and collectors items.
A reprint is long overdue, in an age of conveyor belt fantasy clones of door stopping length. These slim volumes are a fraction of the length, but far bigger in ambition and originality than many.

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