Elric of Melniboné (mel-ni-BO-nay, mind your accents!) is a sword and sorcery novella by Michael Moorcock that followed a series of Elric stories in Science Fantasy as pulp-esque novellas ala Howard’s Conan.
I’m surprised that I had never heard of Elric at all until my buddy Jack suggested the novellas to me and purchased a set for me as a gift. I thoroughly enjoyed this first novella and prefer Moorcock’s writing style to Howard’s. Howard took snippets of Conan’s entire life and put them out in random order. I do like that idea because it portrays Conan’s exploits as more of a mythic, fragmented tale of the past. The last Conan story I read, The God in the Bowl, is part of Volume 1 of three Ballantine anthologies. This anthology is The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian. In that story Conan is caught attempting to steal from a wealthy merchant and a tense standoff ensues.
The little history of Elric of Melniboné is that Moorcock had this novella published with a title that he didn’t like. He eventually republished in 1972 with the current title and subsequent novellas drawn from prior work were published in the late 70s. I’ll get to those eventually. I’m currently reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and really enjoying that more than I expected. I’m just catching up on a lot of fantasy pulp and sci fi I feel like I have missed out on!
Elric of Melniboné tells the tale of an ancient race of albinos that inhabit Earth long before us. The title character is King of this kingdom, yet very weak, relying upon drugs to sustain him. He is an arcane sorcerer as well, setting this series as more high fantasy as compared to Howard’s Conan. His love interest, Princess Cymoril, is brother to the antagonist of the book,Yyrkoon, whom desires his throne. Elric is the ultimate emo brooding king. Without spoiling it too much, Yyrkoon attempts to usurp the throne, kidnaps Cymoril, and the rest of the novella is a chase to find her.
What I like most about the novel is how quickly the plot advances, yet Elric is still put through a satisfying character arc. Moorcock really puts you in his mind and the regret that he feels over a kidnapping that he probably could have prevented with his wealth and power. Yyrkoon is a sympathetic villain and reacts how someone might react if someone else mercilessly taunts their poor decisions. I found myself thinking that Elric was reaping what he sowed. That doesn’t excuse Yyrkoon’s boorish arrogance and actions, but creates a more complex villain than the cookie-cutter, one-dimensional tripe we have to suffer through in modern cinema.
A novella also has to be concise and I enjoyed this about Moorcock’s work. A goo writer can advance characters without needing copious numbers of pages and events to do so. This was my big criticism of Stranger in a Strange Land and I don’t believe it has to be that way. Don’t get me wrong, I love A Song of Ice and Fire but any one of those books could be cut down to 400 pages. Most of what happens in the bloat is just suspense building for the reader. There may be something to be said for that. Yet, I respect an author who can tell a simultaneously concise yet rich story and the Elric series is just that. So, hats off to Moorcock!
I’m currently playing Steamworld Heist on 3DS and will have a lot of great things to say about that when I finish. Next novel? I’m thinking Ringworld and then going back to Elric.