Tuesday, 30 May 2000

Michael Moorcock: The King of the Swords (1972)

Edition: Grafton, 1986
Review number: 514

The last of the Swords of Corum trilogy is very similar to the last of Hawkmoon's adventures in The Quest for Tanelorn. Corum, last of the Vadagh race, faces a renewed attack by the Chaos gods, led by Mabelode, King of the Swords, brother of the less powerful gods destroyed by Corum in the earlier books of the trilogy. This time the attack, again mediated by the barbaric Earl Glandyth, is more subtle, involving sorcery rather than military force. His minions have created a potion which causes distrust and dissension, so that those affected by it destroy each other.

Battling the tensions this psychoactive gas causes within their party, Corum, his wife Rhalina and their friend Jhary set out on a quest to destroy Mabelode, which they soon discover is only possible after Corum travels to Tanelorn with two other aspects of the Eternal Champion to perform a task at the Conjunction of a Million Spheres, an event which can affect every one of the infinite number of parallel worlds.

The joining together of different versions of the Eternal Champion in a quest for Tanelorn is exactly the same as the Dorian Hawkmoon plot. The atmosphere of The King of the Swords is as strong as in any of Moorcock's novels, it just has a re-used plot. (This is, of course, part of the point of the idea of the Eternal Champion; it does, however, rather reduce the interest of this novel.)

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