Wednesday, 5 March 2003

Michael Moorcock: The Sleeping Sorceress (1971)

Edition: Orion, 1997
Review number: 1155

Much of Moorcock's output consists of series, some written close together (the Runestaff, for example) others very stretched out (the John Daker / Erekose novels). The Elric series, his longest, are in both categories, most novels appearing in the early sixties, this novel in 1971 and The Revenge of the Rose twenty years later. The unusual aspect of the Elric chronology is that the internal order is sometimes different, with the two final novels coming at the beginning of this omnibus (the second of two Elric collections in the current set of Eternal Champion editions).

The Sleeping Sorceress is really a series in itself, consisting of a trilogy of novellas in which Elric seeks revenge on the sorcerer Theleb K'aarna, chasing him across the world on which his dead kingdom of Melniboné lies. The sleeping sorceress of the title, a victim of Theleb K'aarna's enchantments, plays quite a small part in the plot; her significance is mainly due to the feelings she arouses in Elric through her resemblance to his long dead lover.

Elric has probably always been the best known of the various incarnations of the Eternal Champion, and the only Moorcock character who rivals his popularity is Jerry Cornelius (who has rather ambiguous connections with the concept). However, the reasons for this are not really apparent in The Sleeping Sorceress, which is one of Moorcock's less individual novels. (Even the relationship between Elric and his companion Moonglum reminds me of that between Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, the central characters in Fritz Leiber's Swords of Lankhmar series.

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