So, three novellas, structurally identical, wherein each the same lame antagonist threatens something that Elric wants preserved simply because he hates the antagonist, who returns from prior installments with new armies (one for each novella here) and new versions of the Fell Sorcery, only to be--surprise!--countered by Elric & Co., when they very luckily accidentally find a useful numinous object or when they very originally and unintuitively invoke the aid of some divine patron or other, or both. Sadly, the antagonist escapes every time, which guarantees at least one more exercise in tedium to kill him off. I suppose this gives the volume a unity of sorts, and detailed comparisons likely should be made between the three novellas.
This is not to say that the individual iterations do not possess items of interest.
Fr'instance, when confronted with crocodile-elephant things (alliphants
, maybe? elegators
? Nothing so cutesy--they're just oonai
, which recalls Butler's later ooloi
, if only in terms of silly spelling), Elric comments, "not an aesthetic combination" (23), which is a nice joke at the author's expense. (No shit--elegators are a profoundly stupid idea.)
We also find more evidence in our unceasing quest to ferret out the sources and analogues of R. Scott Bakker's work: "There was more to summoning than the words of invocation. There were the abstract thoughts in the head, the visual images which had to be retained in the mind the whole time, the emotions felt, the memories made shap and true" (27). Not quite utterals/inutterals, but, you know, the influence is plain.
Elric, in explaining his summoning, notes that it is based on "an ancient bargain my ancestors made" (29). This is constant throughout the first four volumes; Elric is the beneficiary of contracts that he did not negotiate and for which he provided no consideration. He is rescued from many lethal scenes by obligors on ancient accords, all because he is to fulfill his end of the contract at some future date, as succesor in interest of the original obligees. Perhaps the finale to the series will render all of it sensible. But, for now, the contractual divines are functioning only on the metafantastical level as a fairly clever means for Moorcock to write the deus ex machina
into the narrative with mechanical regularity. The oddity would be for Elric to rescue himself one time, and, importantly, the story is to an extent mostly about the contracts and their performance. It's a story for lawyers who are closet fantasy nerds, who should recongize all of the nastiness of feudalism underlying the silly geektalk about sorcery and nuclear-swords.
By the time of the second novella herein, Elric is "already a hero of several ballads by poets not over-talented" (77)--a fine bit of self-derogation by the author.
The same novella reveals that Elric possesses Plot-Significant Jewellery, in the form of a magic ring. (Alrighty then!) The second novella likewise features as sub-antagonists the Beggar King and his beggar army, "proud in their perversity" (87). (Alrighty then?)
The third novella notes Elric's "pointless search for a meaning to his existence" (132), which didn't strike me as the assumption in previous volumes, except for the fundy crap in volume III, which also appeared ex nihilo
During an eternal champion interlude in the third novella, Erekose wonders why they have to fight for the destiny of the universe so often, and Corum responds that "perhaps domestic problems are worse" (154). I for one wouldn't mind seeing Elric demand his wife's handkerchief, or quibble with her regarding the pickledish, or see her bankrupt him via adultery, or deliver him locked in the attic for treatment of his hysteria.
Recommended for persons reincarnated in some form or another to fight again and to suffer again.