Elric: To Rescue Tanelorn (Chronicles of the Last Emperor of Melniboné: Volume 2)
Michael Moorcock, 2008
Premise: This is the second collected volume of stories, following Elric: The Stealer of Souls. These stories include several more Elric tales, a few other stories set in that world, and more stories on the theme of the Eternal Champion.
I am beginning to think maybe some other reviewers had the right idea when they criticized these collections. I loved the first one, and I love the idea of reading the stories in publication order. There was a set of volumes that tried to arrange the stories in a in-world order of continuity, and that made little sense to me for a character who was written over so many stories and so many years. (I have a Annotated Sherlock Holmes that I have never read most of, because the idea of putting those stories in “continuity” order rather than publication order seems incredibly foolish to me.)
Well, I'm second guessing myself now.
This isn't a bad volume, but I really question the inclusion of some of these stories. Maybe I don't understand Moorcock's Eternal Champion thing completely, or maybe I just don't like it, but the further away from Elric the story gets, the less interested I am. Some of these stories get pretty darn far away.
Let me break it down a bit more. I loved The Eternal Champion, the longest piece, about a Champion called from beyond the grave to play a part in a devastating war between Men and the Eldren. I loved To Rescue Tanelorn, in which Rackhir the Red Archer seeks aid for the besieged, beloved city. I liked The Last Enchantment, in which Elric contests the Lords of Chaos in a battle of wits.
The Greater Conqueror, about dark cults during the reign of Alexander the Great, felt meandering and dull to me. However, Master of Chaos, about a man on the edge of reality, was really intriguing.
I hated Phase 1, a modern-day-ish story about an insane heist gone wrong. It isn't terrible on its own, but I just don't like the conceit of telling the same exact adventures with different Eternal Champions.
I really liked The Singing Citadel, (finally, page 235 and we're only on the second story actually about Elric), and The Jade Man's Eyes was pretty decent. Both of these are 'Elric travels to a new place and does battle' stories.
There is a three page story with a punch line, which was okay, and then Elric at the End of Time, which was kind of cool, but really surreal. The next piece, The Black Blade's Song, was pretty great. There were two short stories about Elric-ish characters on Earth, and I guess they were sort of intriguing, although I was a little sad about how little actual Elric was in this volume by that point. The book closed with another tale of Rackhir, called The Roaming Forest: pretty good, not as good as the first one.
I would say I really liked about half the stories in this book. Those stories, I really really liked, 4 or 5 stars for those. However, the number of off-topic or boring stories (1 or 2 stars) kept me from really connecting with this book overall. I never knew whether I would like the next piece, and I started putting down the book for stretches of time.
In summary, I found this collection wildly uneven. The good ones were really good, but not quite enough to make up for the middling and downright annoying. I didn't really hate much of it, though, so it gets a middle-of-the-road sort of score.
3 Stars – A Good Book.
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