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on November 26, 2012
The Fantasy Masterworks series has made a fine editorial decision in its presentation of the Elric saga of Michael Moorcock. Elric and the mythos of Melnibone have permeated the fantasy genre, and most fans know Elric through secondary sources such as the various comics, RPGs, etc. I fell into this category for a long time, and similar to the Fafhrd/Gray Mouser stories of Fritz Leiber, I had initially been put off by my readings of the actual Elric books. The problem was that I didn't know where to start. The "Elric opus" has much good, but much potboiler filler as well. And the titles offer little guidance, produced and organized by multiple publishers and editors, they are a labyrinth of redundancy with many stories, books, and compilations all bearing the titles Stormbringer, Stealer of Souls, and Elric. This review will be a guide through the title jungle.

The earliest Elric material were short stories serialized in the pulps during the 60s. These stories, beginning with "The Dreaming City", were published in mass market paperback form in the US under the title "Stealer of Souls". "The Dreaming City" itself, still one of the greatest Elric stories, has been published under the title "Stormbringer" and "Stealer of Souls", as a stand alone story! Later, in response to the Elric mania which ensued, Moorcock wrote a "conclusion" of the Elric Saga in the form of four short novellas, which were later published in book form under the title "Stormbringer" in the US. These two compilations, "Stealer of Souls" and "Stormbringer" are the earliest and best of the Elric series. These compilations are what are referred to in the Appendix N list of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide and what Fantasy Masterworks has published in this volume under the title "Elric". So, you see, this is the best place to begin.

Subsequently, Moorcock published a further series of Elric books which are set in the time periods prior to and between the first two volumes. These include "The Singing Citadel"(1970), "The Sleeping Sorceress"(1971), "Elric of Melnibone"(1972), and "The Sailor on the Seas of Fate"(1976). From what I've experienced--and I haven't read much--these are inferior to the first two books and only for Elric addicts. A good source has told me that Sailor on the Seas of Fate is unreadably boring.

Reading the Elric saga as it should be read leaves little doubt that Michael Moorcock is in the top tier of fantasy authors. It's hard to convey how truly original and innovative the stories are. The first sequence of short stories in "Stealer of Souls" is probably the best of Elric. Tolkien seems to have been influenced by this sequence in the published version of the Silmarillion. The kin slaying by the Noldor must owe something to Elric's kin-slaying in the "Dreaming City". Elric is even once called "kin slayer" in a subsequent story. The story of Turin Turambar is a forceful homage to Elric, which also points out that Elric is a retelling of the story of Kullervo from the Finnish Kalevala. What other living writer can say "I influenced the Master"?!
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on January 15, 2016
I would like to review this book where I review the negative reviews instead of the book. I am a long time fan, been reading these since the seventies.

Now, looking at these negative reviews. I read these and what I hear by their reviews is basically that most of these people didn't grow up when these were written, they use current writing as a basis to not see these books for what they are, or, they've read one or part of the first book and make an opinion.

To each there own, you don't like it? fine, that's cool, but to come up with serious personal issues of why it wasn't liked because it comes off as this or that, well, these were written BEFORE most of the books that can compare to it. Sure, if I am 15 and my first book is a dragonlance in 1994 or if I was 16 in 2010 when Hunger Games was written and released and found out about Elric now, sure, I would probably have a different opinion. However, it doesn't excuse someone from downing it because they don't understand the timeframe it was written in.

With all that said, please take into account that you may or may not like this series, however, please don't compare these books to modern day fiction. Also, if you ARE going to read these, at least read all six books of the original series and remember that they were written long ago. If you do that, your possibly dislike of these books may be tempered to just what they are, good stories.

Sorry if this sounds almost like a rant, but I believe that a negative review from limited insight is a bad thing and not doing anyone any justice. Although, some will love these books and others will not.
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on March 4, 2001
Let me start by saying that this is only my first Elric book. My opinion may change if, and when, I read more. That stated, I must say that I found this to be a very curious "classic". For me, fantasy starts with Tolkien. Tolkien's stories have vast scope, likeable characters (hateable ones, too),and interesting plots. They also have a light, humorous touch. An element of playfulness. Thus, we get Bilbo hosting an unexpected gathering of dwarves and we get the incident involving the trolls Tom, Bert and William.
Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone also benefits from interesting plot twists and some very creative ideas. Further,Moorcock is technically an elegant writer. His prose borders on the poetic, at times. Elric, however, was a boor in my opinion. He is "cynical and melancholy" and riddled with self-doubt. He hardly ever makes a move without second-guessing himself. Some will argue that this makes him more real that the typical fantasy hero, but this IS fantasy, after all. I don't read fantasy to get "real life" thrown back in my face.
Elric, along with the rest of his people, is cruel. They think nothing of drugging galley slaves so that they give a super-human effort in battle, then drop dead afterward. They use sadistic forms of torture routinely, both to punish and to extract evidence from prisoners. This isn't very heroic,and heroes should understand that torture doesn't elicit evidence, only whatever the torturer wants to hear. A torture victim will say anything, whether it's true or not. A sorceror king shouldn't need to resort to physical torture.
Then there is Elric's evil cousin, Yyrkoon. Elric must repeatedly defend himself against Yyrkoon's treacherous betrayal, yet every time he defeats Yyrkoon, he lets him off the hook. In the end, we are to believe that Yyrkoon has changed his stripes, and Elric goes off seeking adventures leaving Yyrkoon to rule in his stead. Right! Farmer catches fox in coop eating chicken. Farmer puts fox in charge of chicken coop while he goes on vacation. Seems stupid to me.
Finally, there is no humor in this book. At all. Elric ponders. He doubts. He regrets. His kingdom is in decline. All is dark and humorless. Outside of Imrryr, Elric's capitol, all is shabby and dreary. And, ultimately, all are pawns of greater powers that care nothing for humans, anyway.
This is an imaginative, well-written, dreary story that is ultimately not very satisfying. The hero is foolish and unsympathetic. When all is said and done, you find it hard to really care what happens to him. I already have the next two books in the series, so I will read them. Perhaps Elric will become more sympathetic, but I'm not counting on it.
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on March 8, 2017
A classic
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on September 21, 2016
This is an amazing book! How have I not read this until now!? Wonderful fantasy novel. I will continue reading the series, you betcha!
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on March 12, 2001
Mr. Moorcock's delfinately has a different style of writing than most other authors and if you're only familiar with the traditional approach to fantasy then you're going to have to make some adjustments in your thinking, I know I did. All in all I really enjoyed this story. Our hero is a dark and sad character who is in a really bad situation that just gets worse. The story has a quality to it I am finding hard to articulate. Once you read one book you have to read them all. It's not quite a complusion, not quite and addiction. All in all I don't think Mr. Moorcock will win many awards for literary merit but he gets his five stars on story alone. Check him out, the cover art is almost worth the price alone.
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on August 14, 2016
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on December 21, 2015
After a lifetime of not reading Elric, (I read lots of Hawkmoon and Corum before declaring enough was enough, Eternal Champion-wise) I weakened in the prospect of running an Elric RPG and decided to get educated. This tome seemed a great way to get my feet wet.

And it was and is. If you want to introduce yourself to Elric, this is a very good way to do it at an affordable price. However, you should understand that Moorcock's style could be execrably bad at the time he was writing these Eternal Champion potboilers. Great ideas, great settings, dialogue that can make you cringe like no other writer being published by a real publisher.

The moody Elric must appeal to moody teens more than a sixty year old, that much is obvious. But from where I stand the bluster about countering Tolkien's sugary stories with dark themes more interesting than the blandness of Lord of the Rings is not realized at all in these stories. Yes Elric is gloomy and sad and moody. Yes the sword is an interesting idea. Perhaps the idea works infinitely better when a reader comes to them fresh and early in life.

There are places in these stories where I dissolved into helpless laughter at just how bad the writing had gotten. My favorite was when Elric and Moonglum were about to be overwhelmed by foes, Moonglum pauses to deliver a long monologue on how bad things are along the lines of "this is so much worse than that time I did such and such and the whoseonfirst laid waste to fifteen square miles in retaliation because they have a racial hatred for all people from my land and that has until now stood in my people's minds as the acme of badness etc etc etc".

Now I am a great fan of early Science Fiction, and have no problem reading for the times so I'm not howling with laughter about the use of vacuum tubes in electronics in the year 2000, and I can forgive lapses in structure. But the dialogue in these stories is unremittingly awful, and that's a problem. Not only that, Elric doesn't seem to grow in reaction to his experiences, something I thought was the point of literary leading characters even in Fantasy stories.

Of course, Moorcock was only about 22 when he wrote them.

Read accordingly.
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on December 22, 2013
Although there's sort of a mystique about this series, the backstory on this fantasy world is painted in very hasty strokes that just didn't really come to life, IMO. Also, the female character/love-interest is just a caricature. I'd been curious about this series for many years, and it was the cover art that intrigued me--it seemed to hint at something mystical and weird, but the actual plot turned out to be kind of pedestrian. I can tell Moorcock has some fervor for the subject, and I like the concept of a "weaker," almost effeminate hero, but, like I said the plot follows an "adventure" formula--with one "close call" after another. I was hoping to find a building, disquieting mysticism that the cover art portends.
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on March 7, 2014
This book is somewhat hard to fine. The nice thing about this book is that it is short even though it is part of a series. If you like Fantasy fiction and are looking for something shorter just for a break this would be a good book to choose.
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