Michael Moorcock


"The White Wolf's Son: The Albino in the Middle March"

(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer OCT 30, 2005)

"MY NAME IS Oonagh, granddaughter of the Countess Oona von Bek. This is my story of Elric, the White Wolf, and Onric, the White Wolf’s son, of a talking beast in the World Below, of the League of Temporal Adventurers, the Knights of the Balance and those who serve the world; of the wonders and terrors I experienced as the forces of Law and Chaos sought the power of the Black Sword, found the source of Hell and the San Grael. All this happened several years ago, when I was still a child. It is only now that I feel able to tell my story."

Oonagh von Beck is a simple girl who is enjoying a lazy summer until two strange men, Prince Gaynor the Damned and Klosterheim, come to kidnap her. Several interesting men come to her family home to defend her, including Monsieur Zodiac, Herr Lobkowitz and Lt. Fromental. She almost falls into a trap that the two men had lain for her, and in fleeing finds herself in a different world, where she comes under the protection, of Monsieur Renyard, the king of thieves who is also a talking fox. As she tries to avoid these men, the others, including her grandmother (the Dreamthief’s Daughter) and grandfather (Elric, or Zodiac) follow. We end up in the dark land of Granbretan, the world of Hawkmoon and the Runestaff, where the evil sorcerers have hatched a plot to destroy the balance between Chaos and Law.

This book ties up the trilogy that began with The Dreamthief’s Daughter and continued in The Skrayling Tree. Elric has been on a dream quest (though sometimes more of a nightmare) called the Dream of a Thousand Years as he seeks his black sword, Stormbringer, and travels through history. We learn more about his dream, and more about the interconnections of the multiverse as some things are tied up, such as the story of the Dreamthief’s daughter and the man she loved but was parted from, the White’ Wolf’s son, Jack D’acre, who Oonagh finds and is determined to rescue (it occurs to me that Jack’s name is similar to another Moorcock character’s… John Daker. Moorcock rarely does things like this without a good reason.) and the history of the Runestaff are all things that are delved into a little more.

I enjoyed this book the most out of the previous two because the narrative is mostly divided between Oonagh and Elric. Oonagh might be only 12, but she is extremely smart, and her sensible narrative combines awe and practicality in a way an adult narrator never could. Children are more accepting when strange things happen to them, because strange things are still possible, they can still imagine it. And so she is taken on a very dangerous, often horrific adventure that many 12 year olds would love to go on, yet it still remains adult enough that you don’t have the feeling this should be shelved in with the Harry Potter books. (Definitely not.) We get to spend much more time with Elric, which is wonderful, as he uses his wits as well as his resources to find his way.

As always, the fantasy worlds are described well, and we get a really strong feeling for the different places we enter into, the different cultures. Reynard’s men with their odd secret language to the Grebretans who never show their faces, but to always wear ornate masks styled after an animal – all these details create interesting, and often spooky and dangerous worlds.

Some say that this might be the last Elric book, but in the worlds of the Eternal Champion, can Elric’s story ever truly end?

  • Amazon readers rating: from 14 reviews

 

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"The Skrayling Tree: The Albino in America"

(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer APR 20, 2003)

Oona and her husband Ulrich are taking a much needed vacation in Nova Scotia. When Ulrich is kidnapped by a mysterious troop of Kakatanawa warriors, she embarks on a strange journey, away from the 1940's to 1135 A.D. There she meets Anyanawatta, who Longfellow named Hiawatha, and whom is about to set off from the shores of Gitche Gumee to follow the path of his destiny. Along the way his friend, White Crow, joins them, riding his magnificent mammoth, Bes. White Crow is also following his myth, his destiny. The men were, in their way, expecting Oona...to them, with her albino coloring and skills at archery, she is White Buffalo Woman incarnate.

Read excerptHer story is not the only one told...after awhile we leave her, and join her father, Elric of Melniboné. In order to save himself and his friend Moonglum, and hopefully the Multiverse, Elric has decided to take part in a Dream of a Thousand Years. Hanging crucified on a ship's rigging, he hopes that by traveling into this dream and living out the thousand years he will be lead to the answer...and his sword, Stormbringer. In fact, it is on his quest to find the blacksmith who forged his weapon and its sisters that he runs into a Viking pirate, Gunnar, who wears a mask of silver. Elric becomes a passenger on Gunnar's long ship, and journeys across churning, dangerous waters to see the fabled City of Gold that exists in Vineland. Gunnar promises his men treasure, but he is seeking something entirely more dangerous...the end of all life.

The final story is told by Ulrich himself. He was kidnapped, not for harm, but for good...for chaos and law are about to clash once more, and the balance, the precarious place where all lives exist, depends on the meeting of these three heroes, who will each bring with them the only thing that can restore the dying Skrayling Tree.

To grasp this incredibly intricate universe, you have to understand that it is actually a Multiverse...a thousand possibilities, a thousand time periods and ideas and hopes. In this book, the Multiverse is represented by the Skrayling Tree, housed in the Katanawa's City of Gold. Oona, the Dreamtheif's daughter, and her companions are very careful about what they say or what they ask, knowing that by making certain comments they can change or ruin their myth, the destiny that they follow. A careless word on future expectations can cause the "branch" they travel upon to split off in a new direction, or even break off entirely, Chaos and Law are constantly fighting each other...both are absolutes, but the protagonists in these books follow the Balance, not Law or Chaos...because they understand that there are no absolutes, that without one, you can not have the other. You can not have life. So, they fight, not for law, as you may expect, them being the good guys, but for a medium, a balance between the two.

The journeys that these three take are almost dreams...Elric's literally is, even though he exists in this world, and fights and lives and journeys in a physical form, he must live out the dream for one thousand years (even if he finds what he needs sooner, he cannot wake up). Even though the other two have actually journeyed to that time, there is a dream like quality to Oona's following of her myth, in Ulrich meeting different people, such as his cousin Lobkowitz. There is always a quality of dreaminess, of surrealness. This is even more so as we see the worlds from different eyes...Elric sees the world as giant, the plants and everything are huge, because the trip, his reality, has shrunk him to pygmy size, like his companions the Pukawatchis, who claim that White Crow is an evil enemy who stole their precious relics. Oona is larger, and so sees the world around her much differently. Also, many of the actions and descriptions have a symbolic feel to them. For instance, some of the relics (if not all) that White Crow stole have brothers in other myths...the perpetual pipe, with its bowl of red stone has Grail-like connotations, and many of the scenes where Ulrich can feel the presence of his father in law, because their souls are bound, make it hard to tell if Ulrich is himself, or a man acting as a symbolic Elric. Indeed, the similarity in their names makes this seem more definite, as sometimes you cannot tell if it is Ulrich's thoughts you hear, or if Elric has somehow reached in and taken over. It's entirely possible that Elric could take hold of Ulrich, for both of them are deeply bonded through the sword Stormbringer, which absorbs the souls of those it slays to feed and strengthen its user.

I call this story intricate, and it is. All these little tendrils are woven together, and the three stories play out and meet at the crucial point. Having read most of the Elric stories I can say that Moorcock has really built up the series, adding layer upon layer, making the first stories simple adventures in comparison. The abiding richness and strangeness of this universe grows with every book, making for strange, dense and satisfying reading.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 16 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from The Skrayling Tree at MostlyFiction.com



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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

The Elric Novels (in order that they should be read; also don't trust my publication dates completely):

Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné

Collections with some Elric stories

And more Elric:

Some other novels:

Other Multiverse:

This is an incomplete bibliography, for all of Moorcock's novels, go here.

For more on the order in which to read his books, go to this page.

 

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Book Marks:

 

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About the Author:

Michael Moorcock is a vanguard author, pioneering editor, journalist, critic, and rock musician. Editor of the controversial magazine New Worlds, he provided a haven for authors who would go on to win accolades as prestigious as the Booker Prize. Moorcock's own novels, of which there are about a hundred, have won the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the British Fantasy Award, among others. He received a platinum disk for his work with Hawkwind on Warrior on the Edge of Time, the band's bestselling Eternal Champion concept album. His "Black Blade" is one of several songs produced with Blue Oyster Cult. Michael Moorcock lives in Texas.

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