Wednesday, 4 December 2013

'Daughter of Dreams' - Michael Moorcock (Gollancz)

Thank the Lords of the Balance that all of Michael Moorcock’s books are being republished by Gollancz. As much as I like trawling through second hand bookshops (in my top five list of favourite things to do) it’s always good to be able to get my hands on sought after books without searching for them. It’s also always a welcome surprise to think I’ve read all the ‘Elric’ books and then find that there are a load more that I’ve still to read. Books like the ‘Moonbeam Roads’ trilogy, for example, that I had never picked up until now. It’s worth pointing out, for those of you wondering, that ‘Daughter of Dreams’ is actually the new incarnation of ‘The Dreamthief’s Daughter’, all spruced up to reflect various changes in the multiverse since it was last published. If you want an updated version then this is the copy for you but if you’re not too bothered about that kind of thing… Well, it’s up to you :o)
Like I said though, I’ve never read these books though so was more than happy to jump in here. And what a ride it was. On the one hand, it was very much your typical adventure of the Eternal Champion but, on the other hand, it was a lot more at the same time...

Dark forces are behind the rise of Hitler and imprisoned Count Ulric von Bek must fight to keep his family's black sword out of Nazi hands. Left for dead, he is rescued by a mysterious Englishman and a woman named Oona, the Dreamthief's daughter. Journeying with them to a strange subterranean world, he meets his counterpart, the albino Elric, last sorcerer-king of Melnibone. Ulric and Elric must become one hero to save the entire Multiverse from the machinations of Ulric’s cousin Gaynor, soon to be Gaynor the Damned…

Certain of the Eternal Champion books all follow the same lines and ‘Daughter of Dreams’ is no different. A man of means sees his world come crashing down around him and must fight to regain that world, a fight that invariably becomes part of a much wider struggle. ‘Daughter of Dreams’ doesn’t stray too far from that path and I will be interested to see if the trilogy, as a whole, stays on those lines as well. That’s not to say you’re reading the same book all over again though. Moorcock sets up Ulric Von Bek as a distinctive character in his own right (albeit with perhaps a little too much philosophising sometimes) and sets him against a backdrop that has links to both our history and that of Moorcock’s multiverse. All kinds of familiar names crop up but I’d say that ‘Daughter of Dreams’ remains a book that can be read on its own without too much knowledge of the wider setting, being structurally very self-contained. There is a lot here to reward long term fans though (finding out more about Gaynor was a big plus for me) and there’s a lot to reward fans of fantasy in general. Moorcock’s fantasy worlds are always a pleasure to visit (not sure that I’d ever want to live in any of them though…) and this time round was no different. It made for gripping reading to find out about the landscape (dreamscape?) that underpins Moorcock’s multiverse with the mechanics of the Moonbeam Roads resulting in some beautiful passages. It’s not just the worldbuilding though, ‘Daughter of Dreams’ is very much about high stakes adventure and the swordfights that result from this. If that wasn’t enough, you even get to see dragons take on the Luftwaffe. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Perhaps the biggest change that I encountered in ‘Daughter of Dreams’, compared to other ‘Eternal Champion’ books, is that we see Elric’s adventures through a first person perspective; finding out more about his thoughts than we do normally . Structurally this move makes a lot of sense, seeing that we have the same viewpoint for Ulric , but for me a lot of Elric’s mystique seemed to disappear and he needs that air of mystery about him. It’s almost like we know a little too much about Elric now; he is no longer a man of brooding silences and melancholy, just another guy with the same problems as us. I’m hoping for a little less of this approach and more of the Elric that I’m used to seeing in the next book.

This is a relatively small niggle though when the story, as a whole, makes for an incredibly satisfying and fun read (with a little bit of Multiversal Mechanics to chew on at the same time) I'm rubbish at leaving Moorcock trilogies unfinished so I’ll be into ‘Destiny’s Brother’ pretty soon.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I read The Dreamthief’s Daughter in its original form, and I had the same concern with being inside Elric's head. I have The Skrayling Tree on my shelf (which I assume is the newly titled Destiny’s Brother) but never got around to reading it.