Stormbringer – Michael Moorcock (1965)
‘Sword and Swordsman… but which was master?
STORMBRINGER, the might runesword, hung far away in the city’s armoury. ELRIC, haunted albino warrior-king, had sworn never again to touch the enchanted blade. But now he needed it as never before. Evil supernatural beings had abducted his lovely wife Zarozinia. he would sacrifice the world itself to rescue her. But would STORMBRINGER, seemingly endowed with a mind of its own, allow it?
He was fated to ride out again over spectral landscapes, with the sentient blade he both loved and hated… which had slain enemies – and claimed comrades!’
Blurb from the 1974 Mayflower paperback edition.
You know you are in Moorcock country when there’s a short preface to each section. This generally contains a quote from a long-lost Tome and is moribund in tone, telling of the downfall of some civilisation or other in High Gothic vernacular. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Elric books were the equivalent of Smiths albums to teenagers of the late Sixties and Seventies, and in comparison with some other books that were being printed in the name of Fantasy at the time, came out rating very highly indeed.
Mayflower books, whose covers boasted the author’s surname alone, seemed to print Moorcock almost exclusively; a man whose prolific output was probably only exceeded by Lionel L Fanthorpe.
This volume is the final (in chronological terms, although the definition of chronological in a Moorcock universe is somewhat fluid) in the Elric saga and contains three consecutive tales; ‘The Coming of Chaos’, ‘Sad Giant’s Shield’ and ‘Doomed Lord’s Passing’.
In ‘The Coming of Chaos’ Elric awakens to find his wife Zarazinia in the process of being kidnapped by malformed beasts.
By summoning the spirit of one of the creatures he has killed, Elric learns that he must seek his kinsman, and Mournblade, the twin to his sentient black sword ‘Stormbringer’ in order to rescue his wife and prevent the powers of Chaos from taking over the world.
In ‘The Sad Giant’s Shield’, Elric, Moonglum, Rackhir the Red and Elric’s cousin, Dyvim Slorm, have to take the shield of the Sad Giant Margada. It has been prophesied that the giant will be killed and when Elric spares his life, Moonglum follows the giant and slays him, since he does not wish to alter anything which is fated to happen.
The book, in fact, is bound with concepts of predestination and fatality, in contrast to the fact of Elric’s fealty to the Lords of Chaos, a fealty which finally crumbles when his wife is transformed into a white worm and she is impaled upon his soul-drinking sword.
‘Doomed Lord’s Passing’ continues in this vein, culminating Elric’s long journey in a tragedy well beyond Shakespearean proportions.