I’ve been revisiting Michael Moorcock over the last couple of years after having not read him since high school. He’s hit & miss to be sure, but when he’s on… Corum has always been my favorite incarnation of the Eternal Champion (though, admittedly, I’m not super well versed). Rereading The Knight of the Swords was a blast. This first of the Corum tales introduces our hero, a character with some similarities to Elric, but with some welcome variations. He too is of a dying people and eventually is the last. He too has some kind of cosmic doom. He is also corrupted by an ancient being (well, two). But he’s less depressing for all of it. He has a more specific goal.
The book is super short, as most Fantasy and Science Fiction books of its time were. There’s not a ton of character development. There’s very little downtime. It moves at a very fast pace and builds tension and expectation. Moorcock’s actual writing technique feels more confident here, balancing weird with rational, description with action.
Having been dipping into Dungeon Crawl Classics lately, this book felt especially appropriate. It’s so clearly a major inspiration for early tabletop RPGs, with Corum’s new eye and hand serving as inspiration for one of Dungeons & Dragons’s classic magic items. There are a ton of cool ideas ripe for the picking. Fans of Fantasy literature and Tabletop RPGs should definitely read these books.
I read this as part of Corum: The Coming of Chaos, a collection of the first three Corum novels put out by White Wolf back in the 90s. I’ll be reading the next two soon.