The Citadel of Forgotten Myths by Michael Moorcock
I’ve been a fan of Michael Moorcock’s work, and Elric in particular, since I was about ten years old. So when I found out there was a new novel in the Elric Saga coming out, of course I was going to buy it.
Set between Weird of the White Wolf and The Sleeping Sorceress/The Vanishing Tower, this book tells us of Elric’s adventures in the World Below, with his erstwhile companion Moonglum, and their quest to learn more of the origins of the Melnibonéan people.
As with many of Moorcock’s novels The Citadel of Forgotten Myths is a fix up of two previously published novellas (Black Petals and Red Pearls), and a third unpublished work, though a note at the start of the book tells us the two earlier pieces have been extensively revised for the novel. The thing is, there is something of a stylistic divide between the two earlier works and the third part of the novel.
The first two portions of the novel are typical early Moorcock. Punchy prose with little in the way of obfuscation and plenty of action to keep the pace going. While there are the usual episodes of introspective ennui from our silver-skinned anti-hero, they are kept brief and to the point, and help push the narrative forward. In a lot of ways, it took me back to the first time read those very early novels, almost like coming home after a long absence.
The third part of the story, however, is a very different kind of beast. This one, which takes up roughly half of the narrative, is much more like Moorcock’s later works, with long stretches of introspection and musings on the metaphysical. Switching points of view almost chaotically, the narrative all but twists around on itself, repeating key concepts and going over previously broken ground time and again as the story slowly unfolds. This is quite literally a book of two halves, and personally, I found it all the better for that.
As well as expanding on the lore of Elric himself, this novel also includes a veritable treasure trove of Easter eggs. Sly little references to Moorcock’s other worlds and works abound, with Orlando Funk (aka Fank) popping in from the Hawkmoon tales, ties to the Runestaff itself, a couple of passing mentions of the War Amongst the Angels, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it call out to Gloriana, the name-dropping of a number of other Champions Eternal, and probably even a few connections I missed on this first read-through. As a long-time fan and reader, I have to admit I genuinely appreciated these little touches.
So overall, a good book on its own, but just that little bit better if you’ve made even a half-decent foray into the worlds of Moorcock’s ever-expanding multiverse. If you’ve not read any Moorcock before, this is as good a place as any to start, though you may not get as much out of it as a veteran of the moonbeam roads.