Monday, April 2, 2012

recent read; The Jewel in the Skull

The Jewel in the Skull, the first novel of The History of the Runestaff omnibus, is another foray into an aspect of Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion.  I've only read Elric tales and a few standalone novels (The Silver Warriors) from Moorcock, so I've been looking forward to trying something a bit different.

The setting is a fictional world, but is our own - a far, far future post-apocalyptic Earth with Granbretan (Great Britain) as the evil Empire, spreading its dark clutches and chaotic madness into the heart of Europe.  In southern France, the Kamarg, ruled by Count Brass, is the only area able to resist the Empire.  Hakwmoon, a Germanic prisoner of war of Granbretan, is offered a deal if he will infiltrate the Kamarg.  To seal his agreement, a black jewel is implanted in his head that allows the Granbretans to see everything he sees.  And, should they not trust Hawkmoon, they can kill him from a distance by the scientific sorcery of the black jewel (it is, perhaps, related to the black sword of Elric.)

I generally enjoyed it as a fun, quick read.  It could be one of those famous Moorcock "wrote it over a single weekend" tales, though.  I found it unbalanced.  The action is good, but it takes a long time to get going.  The entire first act doesn't even feature the central hero, Dorian Hawkmoon, but rather focuses on the man who later becomes his ally, Count Brass.  Quite a few coincidences pile on in the third act, too.  At least with Moorcock's Eternal Champion and Multiverse, it is a little easier to shrug off disbelief, as many things are fated to be such.

I will be continuing on with the omnibus, but I'll take a break to read some short stories this week before heading back into The History of the Runestaff.


  1. I have yet to read this, but I am fascinated by the aspect of a weekend written novel and have wondered at the quality.
    I'd love to see you do a "Best of Heroic Fantasy" one of these days.

  2. The best of the Runestaff connected books is "Count Brass," I believe. I liked that one quite a bit.

  3. It's been years since I've read any Moorcock's fantasy works. I've got "The Queen of the Swords" waiting in the wings, so I might be turning to that in the next few weeks or months.

    Though known among most readers for his sword and sorcery writing, it's astounded me over the years how versatile Moorcock has been as a writer, penning swift action adventure while also relatively deep, philosophical works.