The Stealer Of Souls by Michael Moorcock

(7.4/10)

Elric of Melniboné, the haunted, treacherous and doomed albino sorcerer-prince, is one of the great creations of modern fantasy. An introspective weakling in thrall to his soul-eating sword, Stormbringer, he is yet a hero whose bloody adventures and wanderings lead inexorably to his decisive intervention in the war between the forces of Law and Chaos.

This volume brings together The Stealer of Souls and Stormbringer, the two earliest books of Elric's adventures, and confirms Michael Moorcock's place as one of the most important fantasy writers of our time.

The Stealer Of Souls is all about action, the development of the characters is there but there is not a great deal of emphasis laid on it. Elric is undoubtedly a memorable character, an anti-hero, and an obsessed, deceitful and fated albino. There is, unfortunately, rather a contrived feel to The Stealer Of Souls – an exercise in painting by numbers, lets get from A-B and throw the necessary battles in. I am always concerned when I see the bibliography of an author and notice that they are “prolific”. Moorcock published over twenty books in the 1960s and in my experience quantity and quality rarely go hand-in-hand.

In a city called Bakshan, which was rich enough to make all other cities of the North East seem poor, in a tall-towered tavern one night, Elric, Lord of the smoking ruins of Melniboné, smiled like a shark and dryly jested with four powerful merchant prince whom, in a day or so, he intended to pauperize.

From: The Stealer of Souls by Michael Moorcock Chapter: The Stealer of Souls

The Stealer of Souls seems rushed with a lack of attention to detail. The fantasy genre has come a long way since 1963 and the reader expects more. Moorcock's influence, however, must not be underestimated - J.G. Ballard stated that the Elric books are: “A work of powerful and sustained imagination which confirms Moorcock as the most important successor to Mervyn Peake and Wyndham Lewis… The vast, tragic symbols by which Moorcock continually illuminates the metaphysical quest of his hero are a measure of the author's remarkable talents.”

Michael Moorcock heavily influenced David Gemmell and his influence is possibly now more important than his body of work. David Gemmell took the anti-hero to a new level by adding stronger plots, characters and word building and Moorcock's hand can be seen in the creations of Tad Williams and, in my opinion, Steven Erikson.

The Stealer Of Souls was an important book in terms of the development of the fantasy genre. If you ever wondered where Gemmell drew his influence from then look no further.

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