The 2011 Re-read:Elric of Melnibone:
Elric, the sickly albino emperor of Melnibone, combats his cousin Yrkoon's machinations for his throne and winds up on a quest across dimensions for a pair of magical black swords.
In the long, long, long, long wait between volumes four and five of The Dark Tower, a friend of mine told me about Elric, an albino with a soul-sucking sword that kept him alive. Intrigued, I took advantage of my Science Fiction Book Club membership and bought the two collected volumes they had. I was not disappointed.
Elric was created by Michael Moorcock to be the anti-Conan. Where Conan is strong, Elric is sickly. Conan distrusts magic where Elric embraced it. Conan is noble while Elric is... less than noble some of the time.
The first book in this collection deals with Elric and Yrkoon battling for the Ruby Throne. Moorcock builds his multiverse world by world, taking Elric across planes and into encounters with elementals and Lords of Chaos in his quest to foil Yrkoon.
Moorcock manages an epic feel despite the small size of the individual books. Not only was it influential when it first appeared, it's still a damn good story. The dying culture of the Melniboneans and the magical system were both really interesting to me, both during the initial reading and in the subsequent re-reads.
Blood and souls for Arioch!The Sailor on the Seas of Fate:
After leaving Melnibone behind, Elric ventures into the Young Kingdoms. While exhausted on a lonely shingle, Elric boards a mysterious ship. What will he encounter on his voyage before he returns to Melnibone?
Sailor on the Seas of Fate is what hooked me and made me a permanent Moorcock fan. Moorcock introduces the concept of the Eternal Champion and introduces three of them: Erekose, Corum, and Hawkmoon, and does some foreshadowing of things to come. Smiorgan Baldhead is introduced and Elric and Arioch become further entwined. Elric travels to even more planes and explores the ancestral home island of the Melniboneans. Good stuff!Weird of the White Wolf:
Elric leads the Sea Lords of the Purple Towns against his own homeland, Melnibone, seeks The Dead God's Book, and braves the Singing Citadel.
The tragedy and the cosmic scope of the Elric saga become even more apparent with the Weird of the White Wolf. How many other fantasy tales feature an emperor in exile committing genocide on his own people? Elric accidentally slays Cymoril, betrays his Sea Lord allies, and abandons his new lover to roam the world with his new friend Moonglum. The Cosmic Balance is introduced, Elric does more plane-hopping, and tangles with more entities beyond the mortal ken. By the end, he's apparently done with adventuring... until the next volume!