The usual story: I’m working on new reviews, so you get old stuff. In this case, that’s more Michael Moorcock.
Raw Feed (1999): Corum: The Coming of Chaos, Michael Moorcock, 1971, 1997.
“Introduction” — Moorock notes this is only fantasy whose language and mythology derives from a specific source, specifically Cornish.
The Knight of the Swords — I liked this fantasy more than I thought I would, especially since I found out it was based on Cornish mythology. I found several things surprising, variations on the other fantasies of the Eternal Champion saga. The book wastes no time giving us Corum as a mournful, melancholy figure. In short order, he finds himself virtually the last Vadagh, a complacent, rational, anti-social race that he finds upon venturing out of his castle, almost dead at the hands of the upstart race of man, here called Mabden. He gets maimed, losing an eye and hand, and then falls in love with a Mabden woman. Unlike Elric, he is a rational, dispassionate sort who dismisses sorcery, in this world practiced by the upstart Mabden. His lover Rhalina is much more learned in sorcery. (The ship of corpses, including that of her husband, is one of the most startling images of the book along with the vast, naked form of Arioch, Lord of Chaos, Knight of Swords — the Sword Rulers are Chaos Lords in this series — with men, lice-like, crawling over his body, feeding on crumbs, sweats, and scabs). Unlike Elric, Corum is never allied with the Chaos Lords. He finds out they want the destruction of all the older races on his plane and want to supplant them with Mabden whom they have been aiding. His quest for vengeance against the Mabden man who killed his family broadens to take on the Chaos Lords. Like Elric, Corum possesses an unreliable, murderous weapon in his prosthetic Hand of Kwill (the only remnant of a dead god). Unlike Stormbringer, the Hand doesn’t feed on souls nor does it seem to kill indiscriminately (it seems to kill those suborned by Arioch), but its sudden, uncontrollable violence against those Corum does not wish to kill distresses him, makes him guilt-ridden like Elric. I liked the character of sorcerer Shool-an-Jyvan who wants to overthrow Arioch. Vain, what he wants, in his own words, is to be the first truly omniscient and omnipotent god, to “make the universe concerned” to “change all the conditions” of the universe. He sends Corum on a quest to recover the hidden heart of Arioch to gain power over the god. He doesn’t realize he’s a pawn of Arioch’s, that Arioch has given him his power, can’t get at his heart and wants it taken by Corum so he can roam the Planes at will. Arioch is a Chaos Lord. Chaos leads to injustice, death, but also creation – the older races, under the sway of the Lords of Law were degenerating into stagnation. Chaos is the enemy of truth, and Arioch says that mortals never accept the natural state of the universe is anarchy. At novel’s end, Corum meets Lord Arkyn (who he unknowingly met earlier as the Giant of Laahr), a Lord of Law weakening on the mortal plane, a lover of the dead Vadhagh. At novel’s end, after the death of Shoal, he knows, like most Eternal Champions, his happiness must be put aside for the struggle to restore the Cosmic Balance, here tipped too far towards Chaos. (It usually is tipped toward Chaos in the Eternal Champion perhaps because a world overly dominated by Law is less dramatic.)
The Queen of the Swords — I liked this quest story of Corum entering the Chaotic Fire Planes of Xiombarg, the Queen of Swords. The baroque details of the chaotic landscape and degenerate armies of Chaos were quite stunning and inventive. I also liked Jhary-a-Couel, sort of an Eternal Sidekick to Eternal Champions, and his knowledge (with bouts of amnesia and vagueness) of the multiverse and the struggles between Law and Chaos. I also liked his cat. The fact that neither the gods of Law or Chaos can act directly but only through mortal agents is driven home when Law God Arkyn reveals the manipulations he has put Corum through just to destroy Xiombarg (and, almost incidentally, help Corum). Corum notes he could grow to hate the gods to which Arkyn replies he would understand that attitude. Continue reading