by Michael Moorcock

DAW Books


220pp/$1.50/November 1977


Michael Whelan

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Stormbringer is the final novel of Michael Moorcock's initial Elric saga, although he subsequently included Elric in his Moonbeam Roads trilogy, comprised of The Dreamthief's Daughter, The Skrayling Tree, and The White Wolf's Son. Originally published as four separate novellas in 1962 and 1963, the stories merge almost seamlessly into a full length novel rather than appearing as an episodic fix-up as The Sailor on the Seas of Fate. Moorcock introduces a new character, Sepiriz, early in the book, and his recurring appearances help with the unity of the work.

"Dead God's Homecoming" is different from the Elric stories which preceded it in that Moorcock clearly has planned out the subsequent tales. The story opens with Elric's wife, Zarozinia, kidnapped from their home in Karlaak, and Elric most go in search of her, leading to the introduction of Pan Tangian Theocrat Jagreen Lern's attempt to conquer the world in the name of Pan Tang and Chaos. Despite this, Elric's main adversary is one of the Dead Gods, Dharnizhaan, whose goal in kidnapping Zarozinia was to gain control over Stormbringer and Mournblade to keep them from playing a part in the battle at the end of the world. Elric and Dyvim Slorm have a brief encounter with Jagreen Lern and vow vengeance against him, encounters which will occur in the rest of the novel. Furthermore, Elric's discussion with Sepiriz following Zarozinia's rescue provides Moorcock's blueprint for his Elric's personal Ragnarok.

Having retrieved Zarozinia from the forces of Chaos, Elric attempts to rally the kings of the Southlands and the rulers of the Eastern continent against Jagreen Lern's growing forces in "Black Sword's Brothers." When the Southern kings turn their back on him, Elric sets off to the Sorcerer's Island to try to gain the aid of the Grey Lords against the growing forces of Chaos and Pan Tang. Unfortunately, he and Moonglum find themselves stranded on the Western continent and eventually must make their way to Pan Tang's capital of Hwarmgaarl to take on Jagreen Lern and the Lords of Chaos, including Elric's patron lord Arioch. This story really sets Jagreen Lern up as Elric's strongest enemy, as Lern not only can handle the Lords of Chaos, but can also pose an actual threat to Elric and Moonglum. "Black Sword's Brothers" is, in many ways, a transitional piece. Even thought it was published separately before being included in Stormbringer, it very clearly moves a larger story further along and, although Elric eventually is partially triumphant, there are tasks ahead of him and Jagreen Lern's plans continue to move forward in a way that didn't happen with Elric's previous Pan Tangian nemesis, Theleb K'aarna.

Introduced only in the first story in Stormbringer, Sepiriz has quickly become a major player in Elric's world, providing him clues to his fate, helping him reach Pan Tang, and in "Sad Giant's Shield," setting Elric's penultimate quest in motion. Despite Sepiriz's warning that Elric will need to obtain a Chaos shield from the fallen god Mordaga, Elric chooses his own fate (a far cry from his actions in The Revenge of the Rose) and tries to delay his fate by focusing his attention on Jagreen Lern's enormous fleet, swelled by the ships of the countries he has conquered as well as the Chaos fleet of ships that usually sail the depths. Elric's summoning of Straasha is only partially successful. Zarozinia makes her largest appearance in this story since she first appeared in The Bane of the Black Sword, but her role is little more than loving wife, which may be a step up from damsel in distress, but still weaker than Moorcock's portrayals of Rose and Oone in his later Elric novels. Jagreen Lern, on the other hand, continues to be built up as a competent enemy for Elric. As Jagreen Lern conquers the world, Chaos accompanies him, changing the very nature of the land and seas Jagreen Lern rules.

The final story in Stormbringer, "Doomed Lord's Passing," begins where the series began, with Elric in Imrryr on Melniboné. He, Moonglum, and Dyvim Slorm are attempting to wake the dragons of Melniboné while waiting for Sepiriz to bring the aid of the White Lords in their losing battle against Chaos and Jagreen Lern. This is the story which is the most doom-laden. Chaos is marching across the Young Kingdoms and the Gods are in league with Jagreen Lern. Everyone seems to realize how the war will end, even Jagreen Lern, who seems to have gotten caught up in something he can't control and is just trying to ride it out. While there is always a nihilistic streak in the Elric novels, it is strongest in this story, which moves inexorably towards the end of the world. In his later novels, particularly the von Bek cycle, Moorcock tends to tie the legends of our own world into his Eternal Champion cycle, but even as early as "Doomed Lord's Passing," Elric has an encounter with Charlemagne's paladin, Roland, and must acquire his fabled horn, Oliphant, in order to cause the passing of his own world and the rise of, presumably, our own.

The four stories included in Stormbringer provide a strong conclusion to the Elric saga, even if Moorcock eventually returned to it. Ending with the end of the world, Elric revisits his native land of Melniboné, where the saga started. While Dyvim Tvar appeared in the first story and his descendent, Dyvim Slorm, was one of Elric's final companions. Moorcock continued to introduce fantastic elements in Stormbringer which were in line with what he had done in the earlier stories.

Dead God's Homecoming Sad Giant's Shield
Black Sword's Brothers Doomed Lord's Passing

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