Saturday, 10 May 2003

Michael Moorcock: The Revenge of the Rose (1991)

Edition: Orion, 1997
Review number: 1157

The longest and most recent Elric story, The Revenge of the Rose is much more complex than the earlier books featuring this hero. Like most of them, it reflects Moorcock's concerns at the time of writing, and is much more literary in flavour as were the other novels he wrote around this time. It takes the same familiar fantasy genre form as the others in this particular omnibus (they are all quests), but it has a twist.

The plot stems from a Hamlet-like meeting between Elric and the ghost of his father, who commissions him to recover his soul, taken by a trio of warrior sisters. This quest is part of a power struggle between two Lords of Chaos, one of whom is Elric's patron Duke Arioch, and takes place across several planes of the multiverse (these elements coming from the common background to all the Eternal Champion stories). He joins together with a group of characters from these planes, including the fictional Victorian poet Wheldrake, who appears in several Moorcock novels, and, most interesting, a bizarre family of psychics who are wandering the multiverse. (The character from this family, Mother Phatt, bears a striking resemblance to how one imagines Jerry Cornelius' mother would become if she went senile.)

The most interesting part of the novel is the first, which takes place mostly in the fascinating Gypsy Nation. The background to this section, with its rolling cities, must be one of the most unusual in the fantasy genre. The rest of the novel seems to pale by comparison, but this section alone would make it worth reading. I've never really been a fan of the Elric stories, which seem to me to lie at the most hackneyed end of Moorcock's writing; but The Revenge of the Rose is the one which I would choose as the best of them.

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