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Elric was not really a book I thought I would really enjoy. Fantasy is not a genre that I have really latched onto. The main reason for this is the convoluted plotlines and incomprehensible names that authors attach onto them that can make reading them an arduous task. So then, when I picked up Michael Moorcock's weighty 'Elric' I wasn't relishing reading the thing. But, I had set myself a task of reading the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Masterworks Collection - a collection of much revered sci-fi novels from the world's greatest authors.
Elric brings together the first few books in Moorcock's Elric saga. Elric himself is a doomed sorcerer albino prince. Doomed mainly because of his attachment to his sword - Stormbringer. Elric and Strormbringer are inexorably linked together, because Elric draws his energy from the souls of those he kills with the mysterious blade. This dichotomy is the backbone of much of the book - one cannot live without the other and there are many parts of the book which are quite moving - as Stormbringer takes the lives of many of Elric's friends and lovers.
The book is full of the usual elements of a fantasy novel. Dragons, weird beasts and semi-medieval settings and villages. Everyone speaks in olde-English which can be a little irritating for longer periods of reading, but is to be expected in this sort of book. Moorcock's writing is epic in scope, but also a little pedestrian. It's pretty much straight down the line and to the point; some might call it pretty naive as a writing style. It's not got the great flourish of a Tolkien book, but it has the detail and scope of Lord of the Rings.
It's also a really gruesome book. There is so much blood-letting in the book which is usually described in explicit detail. You will get snippets in the book that read like this - 'Elric thrust his runeblade into the skull of the peasant, spilling his brain and innards onto the floor of the cavern with a delicious squelch' which is hilarious to read. The book was also full of action - unlike Tolkien's Lord of the Rings where a lot of the action is implied, rather than described. Elric is full of intense battles, storming of cities and ferocious swordfights.
The book was very easy to read and my usual problem with outlandish names that are difficult to remember, let alone pronounce isn't that much of an issue. Elric is a classic character who you can really empathise with. His dependency upon his magic sword is a great plot device. It makes Elric really interesting and also quite frail.
If you want an introduction to the world of fantasy novels and haven't got the time for the entire Lord of the Rings, then this might be a book for you. Its good as well because the book is split into handy sized chapters, and because Moorcock wrote smaller 'novellas' of around 35 pages long each, the first few of them make up the first part of the book. This means you can read these smaller novellas independently of one another and not get too out of synch.
If you like a good sword and sorcery book, Elric and 'Stormbringer' is a great piece of work.