Monday, 24 July 2000

Michael Moorcock: The Oak and the Ram (1973)

Edition: Berkley, 1978
Review number: 546

The second novel in The Chronicles of Corum is even more sombre than the first. The Fhoi Mhore continue to overwhelm the world, though only six of them remain - the warmth of the world is killing them even as they destroy it. Yet mankind is unwilling to unite against them, using the excuse that the High King Amergrim has not ordered them to do so. He is unable to, having been captured by the Fhoi Mhore and enchanted to think himself a sheep (Moorcock presumably being inspired by the fate of Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel). In this novel, then, Corum's task is to rescue Amergrim and obtain the items needed for a counterspell - Sidhe talismans, the Oak and the Ram.

As always in Moorcock, the background is particularly strong, with a universal sense of decay (both in the institutions of men and in the slow sinking into death of the Fhoi Mhore). The only real characters in this novel are Corum and his companions; all the others are marginalised, and their adventures are only important to hold the attention while the reader soaks in the background.

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