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Corum - The King of Swords: The Eternal Champion Kindle Edition
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Since " King of the Swords " is book 3 of the six-book Corum series I have to inform curious readers that it is essential that they read the previous two books in the series - "Knight of the Swords" and "Queen of the Swords". Ok, perhaps not exactly essential but you will have missed a substantial portion of the back-story that propels this novel. Since the books are so interrelated there have been several editions published that include all three books in the first Corum cycle and also editions of the second Corum cycle - books 4 to 6.
"King of the Swords" picks up where "Queen of the Swords" left off: Corum has defeated the Knight and Queen of Swords thereby restoring the rule of Law on Ten Planes of reality. Undaunted Corum's sworn enemy Earl Glangyth-a-Krae seeks supernatural aid, which results in a curse causing all his enemies to turn on one another. Jhary-a-Conel - an individual who is companion across space-time to several of Moorcock's Eternal Champions plays a critical role in this story. It seems to this reader that in this book the author wanted to ruminate through his characters concerning the nature of The Cosmic Balance, the Planes and space-time. I found it informative but the sharp actions sequences took a back seat in this volume. No spoilers here you have to read it to see how it all shakes out - highly recommended.
Michael Moorcock is a creative master at assigning names to character, place and item names. His fantasy novels resonate with his memorable creations. In fact just the mention of a fictional name in a review or article about Moorcock brings to this readers mind stories and personalities I hold in great esteem.
In the six book Corum series these terms and names seem to fit exactly into the context of the fantasy world Moorcock created: Vadhagh and Nhadragh were the Elder Races or Old Races - ancient enemies; the Nhadragh lived in castles on islands in the sea - the Vadhagh lived in family groups on the continent Bro-an-Vadhagh; man called Mabden at first fearful of the Elder Races then jealous then began to feel malicious; Jhary-a-Conel companion to champions in many of Moorcock's series - also referred to as "you of many names" - a co-adventurer with Prince Corum starting with "Queen of the Swords"; Prince Corum Jhaelen Irsei perhaps the last of the Vadhagh race - sometimes known as Prince in the Scarlet Robe also known as Prince with the Silver Hand; Earl Glangyth-a-Krae, a mabden(man), sworn enemy of Corum and leader of the Denledhyssij (murderers); Five Planes of reality - cotangent realms ruled by Lord Arioch of Chaos and subject of Corum book 1 and Lord Arkyn of Law assist Corum in restoring the Cosmic Balance between Chaos and Law or good and evil.
Some of the characters and locations and narrative tropes used in the Corum series play significant roles in other series and novels by Moorcock. While perplexing to new readers it make marvelous sense once you become acquainted with some of his other eternal champions such as Elric of Melnibone, Duke Dorian Hawkmoon and Prince Corum Jhaelen Irsei. This aspect of his storytelling prowess has and continues to make this author a favorite of many readers. If your read and enjoyed this book and intend to read addition books by Moorcock expect to meet up with Prince Corum and Jhary-a-Conel again.
I really liked this one. The adventure doesn't take too long to start, and the pacing throughout is great. Jhary-a-Conel and Rhalina accompany Corum for a decent portion of his journey but he also teams up with Elric of Melnibone (circa Sailor of the Seas on Fate, I believe) and Erekose (the bear helm and beard version, not the golden armor guy). There are also some really cool references and appearances of other Moorcock Multiverse characters and artifacts that pop up as well, great stuff.
Some of the story threads can get a bit convoluted at a certain point. Without giving major spoilers, I'll just say that some of the content regarding the city of Tanelorn seemed a bit contradictory to me. This was a minor issue, and is overshadowed by the fantastic ending. The end was pretty unexpected, and I felt it wrapped the story up well while leaving it open enough to have room for the 2nd trilogy.
Definitely a recommended read!
Titan Books, Jul 7 2015, $9.95
War weary and still with no respite to grieve the deaths of his family and his people from the Mabden massacre and too aware of the loss of fifteen planes to Chaos, Vadhagh Prince Corum knows it is not over. Instead the Eternal Champion realizes the victories by him and his allies on the side of Law against The Queen of the Swords and The Knight of the Swords are preliminaries before the main event. He, his wife Rhalina and their companion Jhary the Conel must confront the enemy leader King of the Swords Mabelode the Faceless on their deadly adversary’s turf.
Instead of a direct assault, Mabelode uses subterfuge to defeat his foe. His supporters release a sorcery-created airborne toxin into the Eternal Champion’s encampment. This leads to mistrust and rage as friends fight to the death. Desperate Corum accompanied by Rhalina and Jhary enter the conquered planes to confront and kill Mabelode; but the Eternal Champion quickly concludes they cannot succeed without help. Corum recruits other Eternal Champions to join him on a dangerous Hail Mary to save the remaining planes from Chaos and its invincible King of Swords.
The reprint of the third Corum Swords and sorcery fantasy is a terrific climax to an enjoyable trilogy as this Eternal Champion must control his need for vengeance in order to vanquish an unbeatable opponent who unlike his defeated comrades uses cunning rather than direct attacks. Extremely fast-paced from start to finish, this reprint of a British Fantasy Awards for best novel is a fabulous finish.