by Michael Moorcock


220pp/$.95/September 1973

Phoenix in Obsidian

Cover by Frank Frazetta

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Set a century after the events of The Eternal Champion, Michael Moorcock's Phoenix in Obsidian (originally published in the U.S. as The Silver Warriors) sees Erekose summoned away from the love of his life, Ermizhad, to fight another battle for survival on another world in the guide of Urlik Skarsol, Count of the Southern Ice. Although Erekose/Urlik makes some of the same mistakes he made as Erekose, he has also learned from what happened when he was summoned in the earlier novel, although he really won't be able to be happy until he is reunited with Ermirzhad.

Count Urlik Skarsol finds himself in a world at the end of time. The sun is faded and rarely seen and the land is covered in fields of ice. Urlik finds himself in the city of Rowernarc, where the inhabitants know that they live in the end times and live a life of abandon, where everything that is consensual, up to and including murder, is legal, and actions don't seem to have ramifications. Rowernarc is headed by a Lord Spiritual, Bishop Belphig, who has completely given himself to the hedonistic lifestyle, and a Lord Temporal, Shanosfane, who lived an ascetic life among the debauchery. Urlik relied upon these two men to teach him bout the strange world to which he found himself summoned, although both denied any knowledge of his summoning.

Eventually, Urlik finds that he was actually summoned by Bladrak Morningstar and not all of the people who live in this world are as accepting the fact that their world is coming to an end. Bladrak tells Urlik about the Silver Warriors, who hail from Moon and are threatening to destroy all the humans. Urlik agrees to help Bladrak and they uncover potential alliances and betrayals. Urlik, however, has clearly learned from his experiences and doesn't take everything he is told at face value.

Phoenix in Obsidian continues the character's dreams and ties to other aspects of the Eternal Champion and Moorcock spells out the way he envisions the multiverse working, at least as far as the Eternal Champion and his frequent companions and consorts, works. While he does come across an aspect of the Eternal Companion, Urlik is not given a love interest in Phoenix in Obsidian. This frees Urlik up to pine for, and scheme how to get back to, Ermizhad.

Urlik is not as interesting a character as Erekose, but the world to which he has been summoned is more fleshed out than the world he came from. Moorcock details the civilizations at Rowernarc, in the Scarlet Fjord, and at Moon, making each location a separate culture with their own goals (or lack thereof, in the case of Rowernarc). And while Moorcock is mostly focused on the humans and the Silver Warriors, he also spends time creating the giant sea stag that Belphig takes Urlik to hunt, as well as other fauna unique to this world. Even where the animals are similar to what Urlik knew in his first life as John Daker, such as Urlik's polar bears who pull his chariot, they are different from what would be expected.

While Phoenix in Obsidian does a wonderful job helping to structure Moorcock's multiverse and the role of the Eternal Champion, it is hindered by the fact that Urlik doesn't form the close relationships that so many of the other aspects of the Eternal Champion forms. Bladark is there for him, but he never really comes to life, appearing more to simply help point Urlik in the right direction. There is no equivalent of Moonglum or Huillam d'Averc to play off. Phoenix in Obsidian lacks the flair that so many of the other novels of the aspects of the Eternal Champion have.

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