Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories have been informing the subconscious world of fantasy since the character first appeared (in a novella called The Dreaming City, published in Science Fantasy magazine in 1961, but later reprinted 1965’s Stormbringer). With books appearing sporadically since, Moorcock is a pioneer of darker, grimmer fantasy, taking Tolkien out of the world of black and white, and into a more morbid, vampiric world, where fetishism and torture rule.
This French adaptation is beautifully rendered, embracing rather than shying away from the worst habits of Elric’s people. We’re immediately immersed in a dark, satanic country called Melniboné, where Elric is emperor. His court drink from the open wounds of sacrificial human victims and partake in orgies of debauchery. Meanwhile, down in his dungeons, a torturer is dismembering spies for information, piercing them with a thousand needles and somehow keeping them alive throughout.
It’s a brutal imagining of a horrific world and its artwork, if you can handle the content, will take your breath away. Elric’s world is a gothic marvel, stunningly realised.
Elric’s literary heritage also shines through. The art may have its shock value, but the story occupies a deeply considered world. Family intrigue is at its heart, with Elric’s cousin eyeing up the Emperor’s Ruby Throne for himself. The plot thickens through the book, ending with a climatic cliff hanger bound to leave you first in the queue for book two.
It’s an interesting time for dark fantasy with things like the Game of Thrones TV show bringing it to a mainstream audience. Elric perhaps takes things even further into horror, particularly in this version, but it’s a great opportunity to sample another adult fantasy world whose production values are just as high.
The next book in the Elric series: