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Dreamthief's Daughter, by Michael Moorcock Book Review | SFReader.com
Dreamthief's Daughter, by Michael Moorcock Genre: Fantasy Publisher: Warner Books Published: 2001 Review Posted: 10/19/2005 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10
Dreamthief's Daughter, by Michael Moorcock
Book Review by S C Bryce
Have you read this book?
The Dreamthief's Daughter: A Tale of the Albino by Michael Moorcock is billed as an Elric novel. However, the main character is really Count Ulric von Bek of Nazi Germany. Von Bek is one of Elric's avatars--a version of the Eternal Champion. Like Elric, he is an albino aristocrat, the last of his line, misunderstood by those around him. Also like Elric, von Bek is a philosopher whose betrayal by his nemesis-cousin (Gaynor) turns him from reclusive and independent thinker into a sword-swinger.
Von Bek is anti-Nazi and, in fact, hopes to join the resistance. However, he is visited by his cousin Gaynor and his secretary, Johannes Klosterheim. After much dissimilation, von Bek learns that Gaynor and the Nazis have claimed ownership over von Bek's family sword, Ravenbrand, which they believe has a long and mythological history that will help the Nazis gain mystical credibility. Though he is unaware of it, Ravenbrand is an avatar of Elric's black runeblade Stormbringer.
Von Bek quickly becomes embroiled in the struggle between Gaynor and the Nazis to obtain Ravenbrand and resistance fighters "Gertie" and "Herr El" to keep the sword hidden. The struggle is, he quickly learns, part of a greater battle between Law and Chaos for control over the multiverse. Von Bek and his new allies, including Elric, must chase Gaynor through the multiverse, using their combined skills to thwart him when they can.
"The Dreamthief's Daughter" does not fit well into the Elric chronology; it's more of a separate, parallel chronology. It also differs radically from the core Elric books in that, as a full length novel, The Dreamthief's Daughter explores in repetitive detail concepts that were left out of or reduced in the earlier works.
Moorcock fans will be gratified to by the appearances of Oswald Bastable, Moonglum, Arioch, King Straasha, and the Runestaff, among others. Elric's arrogant wit and runesword are as vicious as ever, and his sorcery ever more complex, creative, and potent. A wonderful and fascinating change from the earlier Elric books is that, rather than Chaos, von Bek and Elric must fight the evil forces of Law gone amuck.
Arguably, this novel is mis-marketed as an Elric novel. The Dreamthief's Daughter is written in the first-person but the primary narrator is von Bek. However, the first-person narration offers a fresh perspective on both Elric and von Bek. Elric's strangeness, temperament, and sorcery are judged from 20th-century human sensibilities. Moorcock provides a realistic portrayal of the reaction of a relatively ordinary person suddenly confronted by a larger-than-life sword and sorcery hero. Elric, who has grown so familiar over the decades, is suddenly seen to be more alien, powerful, and haunting than ever.
The writing style, however, is not crisp or accessible; Moorcock has changed in the decades since Elric first appeared and it shows. References to history, opera, politics, quantum physics, folklore, and literature abound. While such references are in keeping with von Bek's character and upbringing as a cultured romantic, they have the effect of making the book a more difficult read. Also, they may come across as a distraction for those looking for the something more of the sword-and-sorcery tone of the original books. Moreover, Moorcock's explanations of concepts and justifications for events sometimes seem weak -- increasingly obvious as Moorcock repeats and layers them. Overall, this volume seems aimed at a different audience than the original Elric stories, but because of von Bek's strong narrative, the book still manages a 7 out of 10 rating.
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