The more I read of Moorcock, the more I realize how silly those theories about talent and innate genius really are. Some of Moorcock's works are sublime, subtle, and quite literary; others are real stinkers. This one, coming as early in his career and in the "Eternal Champion" cycle as it did, contains very little of his mature qualities; it's trite, shallow, and ridiculously full of two-page blow-by-blow accounts of sword fights.
It's practically a caricature of all that is distasteful about the fantasy genre. Written in 1968, it has the full complement: cardboard characters, flimsy plots, unnecessary blood and guts, sexism, total reliance on unexplained deus ex machina devices, etc.. The gap in quality between this book and, say, The War Hound and the World's Pain
, written in 1981, is so huge as to disprove the old adage, "you either have it or you don't." Apparently, writerly skill can
be learned, can
improve tremendously with practice. In fact, it might be possible to align the development of Moorcock's career with the evolution of genre fiction itself: what began in naivety, shallowness, and sensationalism has deepened into a medium capable of subtlety and real literary merit.
I have recommended Moorcock to non-genre-fan friends before, but now I feel like I'll need to add a caveat: yes, read Moorcock, but please don't read the "Hawkmoon" books. Egads.