Mark Lawrence's Reviews > The Bull and the Spear

The Bull and the Spear by Michael Moorcock
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really liked it

This book was published in 1973, my copy dates from 1976, and I acquired it from a second-hand book shop in 1979.

This is a slim book that makes my own relatively short debut seem positively bulky. I estimate it at 50-60,000 words, and given that Moorcock could write 15,000 words in a day, I can well believe his claim to have written many of these eternal champion books in a couple of weeks.

The Corum books, along with Elric & Hawkmoon, are highlights of my early fantasy reading and I've avoided returning to them for 30+ years partly because I was afraid they wouldn't live up to those early memories.

I failed to bring any of my current reads with me to this stay at the hospice and so I started this one again. I picked it up last night and finished this morning. It's the first book of the second trilogy, with an 80 year gap and change of worlds between them, so it's pretty much a new trilogy for all that it's called #4.

And so, the verdict? It's a mixed bag. Very obviously Moorcock can write. It's clear in many of the lines that he has a great way with words. He has focused prose with a poet's touches. For example 'a grey wind' - of course the wind wasn't grey, but in context you know exactly what this means and it paints the picture with great economy. I suspect my own style owes a lot to early readings of Moorcock's work.

The Bull and The Spear trilogy echo a lot of celtic mythology and are written with a mythic feel to them, that strengthens rapidly toward the end of the book. For example, (spoiler) the bull runs across the land and renews it with its blood, where the blood falls the Fhoi-Myore's winter is reversed. Now this is the sort of thing that's written in Norse sagas or celtic legend. If you think about the mechanics of how long it would take to run _everywhere_ and how much blood it would take etc... it all sounds a bit silly. But the mythic style supports it, though ramping up uncomfortably quickly. The bull's activity contrasting to the start where there's considerable realism with Corum fighting competently but subject to all the limitations of a normal man and running out of steam quickly in any prolonged combat.

The book is short and somewhat crowded, especially toward the end where characters like Hew Argtec and Prince Gaynor are thrown very briefly into the mix.

The relationships (such as they are) are fairly unconvincing and supported by minimal and fairly wooden dialogue - Corum's affair with the king's daughter being the prime example.

However, the imagination and feel and swiftness of the book all carry you through it and at the end it left me not regretting my decision to re-read, but with this icon of my youth very definitely shrunk to human dimensions.

I'll give this book 4* and one of those is for old time's sake.


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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
February 18, 2011 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Adam (new)

Adam Claxton I enjoy the mythological elements of these tales also, and his characters are so very different to most fantasy archetypes; Elric himself being the anathema to one of my other favourite fantasy protagonists - Conan.

Yet Moorcock, Howard, and the likes of Lovecraft etc. All have one thing in common; the imagination and vision of their creations sometimes carries the story through where the flow of the story/writing/dialogue etc sometimes stalls, or grates.

They are all however, along with Terry Pratchett the reason I am here.


James David Hudnall I grew up on Moorcock and Tolkien. I love them both, even though Moorcock doesn't dig Tolkien. I loved the free associated style of Moorcock's imagination. You can almost see him making up ideas as he went along but they're great. During that period his stuff was a tour de force, even if it was pulp fantasy.

I havent read this book in a long time myself. All my copies are in storage along with my Howard, Burroughs and Zelazny books but they bring back many a fond memory and I also consider him an influence. As I was rereading my first novel (while going over the proof notes)I could see some echoes of Moorcock in there. Actually, I give a minor nod to Moorcock as one of the characters has a runestaff. :)


Bookwraiths Like you, I have not read these for many years, but Corum will always have a special place in my heart as my favorite Eternal Champions. And if I had rated it back when I was a teen, it would have been a five star without a doubt; the amazing sword and sorcery imagery and celtic myths dazzling me back then.


message 4: by Dan (new) - added it

Dan The original Swords Trilogy is one of, if not, my favourite works of fiction. Love Moorcock's writing. Still have to tackle the second trilogy though.


message 5: by Chris (new)

Chris Loved the Eternal Champion books! Just a few minutes ago I was compiling a list of them so that when I go to a huge book sale tomorrow I can look for them.


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