By Michael Moorcock

Ace Books


298pp/$16.95/September 1986

The Dragon in the Sword
Cover by Robert Gould

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Several years after publishing Phoenix in Obsidian, Michael Moorcock returned to the John Daker aspect of his Eternal Champion with The Dragon in the Sword. One of the defining characteristics of Daker is that unlike most aspects of the Eternal Champion, he has some awareness of his myriad aspects, even if they may only be names. He also has strong memories of his existance as Erekose, as described in The Eternal Champion and he yearns to be reignited with Ermizhad, the love of Erekose's life. The final book of the trilogy, The Dragon in the Sword is also the longest and most complex of the novels.

Following Phoenix in Obsidian, Urlik Skarsol takes passage on the dark ship, one of his means of traveling between dimensions, and finds himself in a new land with a new identity, Prince Flamadin. He becomes acquainted and fast friends with another dimensional traveler, Ulrich Von Bek, directly connecting the Eternal Champion series to the series of books Moorcock began with The War Hound and the World's Pain. Von Bek is an exile from the mid-twentieth century earth following his attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The two explore the world they find themselves in, often getting into situations that are exacerbated by the fact that neither are native and Daker doesn't seem to fully inhabit Prince Flamadin the way he has inhabited other aspects of the Eternal Champion.

Eventually, the two learn that Flamadin has been outlawed, and possibly killed, by his ruthless sister, Sharadim. As they make their way through the world, they discover that Sharadim has her sites on becoming the ruler of the realm in which they are traveling in and potentially even one of the Lords of Chaos, whose help she has sought out to attain her goals. Sharadim is a stand-in for the type of demagogue and despot that Ulrich wants to rid his own world of and gives Moorcock the opportunity to look at the dangers of demagoguery and tyranny which are often present in his novels, but aren't the focus as much as in The Dragon in the Sword.

Flamadin and Von Bek travel through several different cultures, some of which are inhabited by various human cultures, one by relatives of Ermizhad's Eldren, and one by a race of bear-like creatures known as the Ursine Princes. In addition, they make a brief foray into the heart of Nazi Germany to witness Hitler, Goebbels, and Goering conducting farcical occult rites, which, in juxtaposition to Sharadim's actions offers a commentary on the banality of evil. It drives home that the fight against evil takes on many forms and isn't just a single front battle as Von Bek (and Daker/Flamadin) must fight evil in the forms of Sharadim, Nazis, and the Chaos Lords at the same time.

And while Daker spent much of the previous novel lamenting his loss of Ermizhad and his life as Erekose, in The Dragon in the Sword, while still focused on Ermizhad, he actually is more focused on his John Daker identity, in part because of Ulrich Von Bek's presence and insistance on referring to him as Daker. However, Daker has clearly been influenced by his crimes as Erekose and Von Bek actually seems more like the incarnation of twentieth century Western values than Daker does.

Possibly because the evil Flamadin and Von Bek face is more grounded than the forces Erekose and Urlik Skarsol fought against in the previous novels the settings, while featuring Moorcock's penchant for nomenclature and sketching complex and intriguing cultures in only a few words gets lost in th ebackground. The Ursine Princes and their world never come fully to life, instead offering a taste of what their world might be like. The Eldren women who Flamadin and Von Bek deal with have more heft and a strong dichotomy between the appearance and their reality which makes their culture one of the more interesting onces of the several that are explored in the novel.

The core of the novel, however, is John Daker/Erekose/Urlik Skarsol/Prince Flamadin trying to figure out what his/their identity really is, made more difficult by the fact that Flamadin isn't a complete aspect of the champion. It also help give a cohesion to the trilogy that was missing from the first two novels, although it wasn't clear that the trilogy needed it until Moorcock began to explore the question in The Dragon in the Sword, making the novel a fitting conclusion to that trilogy even as it tied the story in to his Von Bek trilogy.

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