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3.65  ·  Rating details ·  2,119 ratings  ·  118 reviews
A fable satirizing Spenser's "The Fairie Queen" and reflecting the real life of Elizabeth I, tells of a woman who ascends to the throne upon the death of her debauched and corrupted father, King Hern. Gloriana's reign brings the Empire of Albion into a Golden Age, but her oppressive responsibilities choke her, prohibiting any form of sexual satisfaction, no matter what fet ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published August 1st 2004 by Aspect (first published April 1978)
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Dan Schwent
May 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: steampunk, moorcock
Queen Gloriana rules Albion, an alternate reality British Empire, with the help of her Chancellor, Montfallcon, and his dirty deeds in the name of the throne. Gloriana, as the title indicates, gets no release from sex and grows increasingly distraut. Montfallcon's main henchman, Quire, doesn't like how he's being treated and finds a new patron. His goal: the toppling of Albion...

Like a lot of people, the first thing that drew me to Michael Moorcock was the Elric saga. In my old age, the Moorcock
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, 2020-shelf
I'm honestly tempted to call this a classic, but with one caveat: it will mostly be a treat for any die-hard fans of Elizabethian court intrigue, also being devoted to subverting the spin on the same.

Wait... is that really a thing?

Yep. I mean, yes, you can read this as a political fantasy intrigue with lots of spycraft and court and great passionate characters and a woman who is unable to get any satisfaction at all, but I prefer to see it as only a single layer to a rather complicated quasi-sat
J.G. Keely
May 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
Moorcock has posited himself as the rebel of fantasy, sapping the high walls built by Howard and Tolkien. He is a well-spoken and thoughtful critic of the complete lack of romance in either of these would-be romances, but the love in Gloriana's court is anything but courtly.

There is a delightful Quentin Crisp quote about how innovation is not 'seeing your neighbor to the left has a straight walk and your neighbor to the right a curved and thence making your own diagonal', suffice it to say that
Feb 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
Michael Moorcock wants to comment on British imperialism so he writes a Faerie Queene parody/Peake pastiche where the Queen can't get off so she isn't a Real Woman but then she gets raped and finally has an orgasm.

Someone publishes this book.

Then Andrea Dworkin yells at Michael Moorcock because apparently it takes Andrea Dworkin to flag this rape thing as a bad idea and then Michael Moorcock writes an alternate ending with less rape that is somehow worse than the original.

He also includes a not
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
A though-provoking, subverted story with very interesting plot, characters and setting (particularly the royal palace, “the haunted palace of the mind”, which plays a role in its own right). This alternate history fantasy is heavily laced with allegory, satire, irony and cynicism; it’s elaborately worded and woven into a tapestry of decadence, ennui, treachery and corruption, but also idealism, philosophy, duty and human misery.

"Gloriana told the story of a woman who personified the State in pub
Jan 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Peake,Spenser, and Shakespeare
Another flamboyant cast of decadents from Moorcock. A tribute to Peake’s Titus Groan and tribute/critique of Spenser’s Faerie Queene, this is more of reworking of assumptions and symbols that the myth of the British Empire rests on then an alternative history(though it’s a good one). A fantasy construct, not hinging on an adventure or a quest, filled with madness, political intrigue, travelers from other realms, automatons. Doctor Dee, court rituals, court poetry, and lots of sex. Captain Arctur ...more
Aug 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
When I started reading Gloriana -- maybe even before that, when I read about the premise -- I was very doubtful about whether I'd like it. The way the plot revolves around the fact that Gloriana can't have an orgasm just baffled me: it made it sound like that was the most important thing in life, which... it isn't. Still, actually reading the book, and especially the ending, made me think that aspect of it is actually a metaphor. I understand people who find the ending abhorrent: there's a rape ...more
Michael Moorcock is well known for having strong views on what type of fantasy he likes and what he doesn't. For instance, he doesn't like Tolkien but does like Peake, to whose memory he dedicated this book. It's a long time since I read the Gormenghast trilogy but there are some obvious parallels although I didn't dwell on these; I wanted it to stand up as a story in it's own right. And it certainly did.

The events of this story take place in some kind of alternative version of our history at wh
BookAddict  ✒ La Crimson Femme
Apr 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Scifi fans
Recommended to BookAddict by: Senior High School AP Lit Teacher
Shelves: erotica, sci-fi
This was the first rather deviant science fiction book I'd read as a MINOR. My AP lit teacher senior year gave those of us who survived four years of "enriched" English a gift. Only 15 of us made it through to her class. She wasn't kidding when we started as freshmen and she told us to look left, right, front and back. Only one of us would remain and qualify to see her again senior year.

As a gift for making it through, she gave us each a book she felt best represented us. She gave me this book.
Carol Storm
Feb 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
I first read this book as a teenager some thirty five years ago. At that time, I found the haunting atmosphere of Elizabethan sensuality to be extremely arousing and stimulating. Moorcock serves up a rich pageant of decadence, luxury and pleasure, with every variety of sex either shown explicitly or hinted at.

The problem is that Moorcock is the kind of guy who gets all the little things right -- but can't create a big picture story-line to save his life! Tiny episodes are scorchingly erotic, lik
Tim Pendry
Mar 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
A book that shows that Moorcock can really write and think.

This Gothic Elizabethan fantasy shows an alternate world (in which Moorcock specialises) which clearly, consciously or not in his successors' cases, is part of the same fantasy complexes of Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman and the American Tim Powers. This is not steam-punk perhaps but sail-punk.

Hidden within the folds of the story (and Moorcock folds his stories in time and space like the folds of a rose) are some serious ruminations on po
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 29, 2007 rated it it was ok
I slogged through the first half of this book with little interest. There was so much exposition with so little action, and characters were piled on. An interesting setting - within the walls of the palace - was introduced, but it didn't really go anywhere.

Finally, almost two-thirds of the way through, plots started to thicken, irrelevant characters started to show up, THINGS HAPPENED.

So the book went from a total loss to a 'meh'. Looking back on the book, I'm mostly disappointed by what could h
in a far more lush and gothic olde england, a decidedly NOT virgin queen rules over a golden age of expansion, exploration, and harmony. a secret population of those who have slipped into disfavor or diminished in fame live in between the walls of her sprawling palace. her gorgeous reign of peace and prosperity is built upon the blood and misery of her unlamented insane father. she keeps a seraglio of willing creatures of every sort because she loves them too much to ever turn anyone out of her ...more
Mar 07, 2009 rated it liked it
This has what we could call *highly problematic* sexual themes. The conceit is that an alternate fantasy Queen Elizabeth runs a world-spanning and semi-Utopian Empire, and has only one problem -- she can't find sexual satisfaction. Well, it's Mr. Moorcock, and he wrote it in the 70s, so what can you do. Worth reading, but incoherent, and with a pretty appalling ending, even given the conceit. ...more
Michael Battaglia
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I feel bad for the person who unknowingly picks this up thinking that its a more realistic historical novel or (bless their innocent hearts) an actual biography of Queen Elizabeth I. Readers who don't do their research beforehand may be mildly surprised to find out that it doesn't really match any kind of history at all, which is intentional, as its basically an alternate history given a fantastic slant, substituting a new version of Elizabeth (here called "Gloriana") and turning her reign into ...more
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
In the Afterword, Moorcock reduces Gloriana to a pretty straightforward idea: an anti-imperialist counterpoint to Faerie Queene, in the style of Gormenghast. Which could be a cool project, and it has some mixed successes, but it ends up kind of tripping over the stuff it has to say while it's trying to say it. The thematic material is overtly written into the narration but coexists awkwardly with the plot, an odd blend of telling where most books would show and wasting time instead on stupid sym ...more
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, own
2.5 stars review to come :)
‘Gloriana’ is Michael Moorcock’s tribute to the incomparable Mervyn Peake. The young Moorcock was a great admirer of Peake’s work when it was little known, became a friend in his tragic last illness and assisted in the publication of ‘Titus Alone’.

Structurally, Moorcock’s book has many similarities to the Gormenghast books: the sprawling castle with its worlds-within-worlds, the large and quirky cast of fancifully named characters, the elaborate and ceremonial descriptions – although it is all
I have tried reading this blasted book three times. I know it's me. Moorcock does a wonderful job of creating an alternate England. But, for me, something is missing. I'm not sure. Maybe its the whole take on Elizabeth. I don't know. Moorcock does write an excellent Dr. Dee, however. ...more
Zachary Latif
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What turns out to be a comical almost farcical theme (a Queen, modelling on the Virgin Queen, struggling for "release") turns out to be deftly spun and extraordinarily written novel, marking it as one of Fantasy's most searing triumphs. ...more
Colin Heber-Percy
Nov 21, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Made the mistake of persevering with this. Balderdash, and boring to boot.
C.M. Crockford
Messy, sprawling and often brilliant. I don't think Moorcock could have created a great novel out of his need to satirize 17th century Romance, but it's still an accomplishment hobbled by turns into pulp ridiculousness. The (view spoiler) Some texts are designed to not entirely work. ...more
Mandy Jackson-Beverly
My review is up on the New York Journal of Books website. Side note- I read the re-released hard copy of Gloriana: Or The Unfulfilled Queen. This magnificent story is on my "forever favorite" list of books. Michael Moorcock is brilliant! ...more
Simon Mcleish
Nov 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in June 2001.

Gloriana marks something of a new departure for Moorcock. It is more removed from the swqord-and-sorcery epics which were the inspiration for (say) the Runestaff series and is a longer novel not part of a series. It shows clear traces of its influences, but these are in the most part more literary than before.

It is possible that one of the immediate influences on Moorcock was Queen ELizabeth's Silver Jubilee, but I find it difficult to see him be
Dec 04, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not convinced it is as successful as Thor: Ragnarok, which has similar meditations on the provenance of empire and power and its propagation to following generations. Moorcock has ambitions above and beyond his typical Eternal Champions stories, and while aspiring for Spenser's The Faerie Queene and Peake's Titus Groan with elements of Elizabeth I, the layers of irony and alternating light (Romance) and darkness (realpolitik and real disturbing grimdark) eventually traps him into a forced h ...more
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is an incredibly lush story about an idealized England. Albion has emerged from tyranny and into a Golden Age, brought about by its perfect queen, the titular Gloriana. As with most empires, there's corruption behind the scenes, however: the queen's advisor, Montfalcon, breaks quite a few eggs making the omelets necessary to keep Albion running while protecting her from his scheming. A careless mistake leads to hurt feelings and a growing sense of enmity that threatens to topple the whole k ...more
Fantasy Literature
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars

Gloriana (1979) is Moorcock's homage to Mervyn Peake (author of the Gormenghast saga), and fittingly, is a lush tale of intrigue told in thoroughly British prose. At times brilliant (especially in the descriptions of the seasonal festivities), often captivating and humorous, often sluggish and overly subtle, ultimately unfulfilling, it's a book I recommend borrowing from the library before buying. Not everyone will enjoy such decadence.

Speaking of decadence, the tale takes place in Rena
Jayne Lamb
I read this becuase my husband's a devoted Moorcock fan (they're on first name terms- isn't this internet thing amazing?) I'll diplomatically say it's just not my cup of tea - there are just too many lists of fabrics, metals, walls that makes the prose unwieldy. I did love the fact that the most powerful character was a woman - exaggerated, but still human and I can't actively dislike a book that concludes that a really good orgasm is good for queen and country. So much SF/ fantasy (especially b ...more
May 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Moorcock's writing oscillates between excellence and bullshit so dramatically and with such frequency that it's dizzying. Nowhere is this better exemplified then with this book, which was promised as courtly intrigue that takes place in Spencer's Fairy Queene. There are few things that could mar such an outstanding premise. One of those things is a persistent misogyny built into the very foundation of the plot.
Moorcock is a well poisoner. No one can ever write an erotic romp through a Shakespea
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Michael John Moorcock is an English writer primarily of science fiction and fantasy who has also published a number of literary novels.
Moorcock has mentioned The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Apple Cart by George Bernard Shaw and The Constable of St. Nicholas by Edward Lester Arnold as the first three books which captured his imagination. He became editor of Tarzan Adventures in 1956,

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“She yawned. If the Lords of Entropy were to manifest themselves on Earth again as they had in the legendary past she felt she might welcome them as a relief, at least, to her boredom. Not, of course, that she believed in those terrible prehistoric fables, though sometimes she could not help wishing that they had really existed and that she had lived in them, for they must surely have been more colourful and stimulating than this present age, where dull Reason drove bright Romance away: granite scattering mercury.” 9 likes
“Unsettled by the sudden appearance of Captain Quire within her court, Gloriana resolved to forego all frivolous entertainments and shun the more unnecessary pleasures. Yet, the queen reasoned, this surely did not apply to healthful exercise, such as riding in the royal park. Nor could she refuse to spend the remainder of the afternoon in quiet seclusion, lying face down upon a cushioned bench in her private dressing room while gentle Lady Mary rubbed all the soreness from her muscles. Such occupations were safe, and harmless. It was only afterwards, when she was sleeping deeply, that Captain Quire came to her in a dream.” 4 likes
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