Monday, May 03, 2010

29: The Knight of Swords: The First Book of Corum by Michael Moorcock

Ah back to some classic 70s sword & sorcery. I found this entire trilogy at our local thrift store and snatched it up based on the covers alone. What I particularly appreciate is the thinness of these volumes. Most of these kind of fantastic epics are super-thick by definition, thus the term "fat fantasy", I guess the geeks want to be absorbed into their world and never leave. I'm happy to say that, at least in the first volume, Moorcock delivers all the fantasy world, epic quests, short-lived adventuring companions, powerful relics and mad gods in 143 efficient pages.

The story is about Corum, the last of his ancient race, who due to their own complacency, but also the machinations of the gods got wiped out by the barbaric Mabden (humans). He discovers this reality in a quest to find another of his race's castle with whom he and his family had long lost touch and in doing so gets caught up in a quest of vengeance and god-driven world changing. Moorcock's cosmology concerns the balance between the gods of chaos and gods of order and in the Books of Corum, chaos, in the form of the Sword Gods, has upset the balance of power.

Corum's quest in this book is to find the heart of the Knight of Swords, which is hidden in his castle far to the north. There is much coincidence and strange encounters leading him there. There is a fantastic scene when he first discovers the god, in the form of a corpulent naked giant, his fetid body swarming with humans chewing at his scab, picking food out of his hair. It's the kind of image you read these books for and Moorcock delivers.

I only every now and then dip into fantasy, but this one has worked out quite well so far. I shall continue with the other two in the series and report back here.


Doc said...

Wow. Those are some cool/trippy covers. The older I get the more I become a fan of the "thin fantasy" books of the 70's and (to a lesser extent) 80's. I think I have just come to appreciate a fantasy that gets right to the point and doesn't waste my time pulling canons onto the stage that will never be fired. Last year I read a number of thin fantasies, including The Sorcerer's Skull by David Mason, Volkhaavar by Tanith Lee, and Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson. All were good. All left me wanting more (in a good way).

WalkerP said...

Oh that's very good to know that it actually was a trend. I guess I came of reading age when the fat fantasy books were becoming the norm (like that series about the guy with leprosy who would go into the other fantasy world) and I kind of got off the boat. I'm glad to know that there are more of these kinds of fantasy novels that give you the escape you want without burying you in it. I'll take a look at some of those in your comment above.

Great covers, eh!