Rafeeq O.'s Reviews > The Eternal Champion

The Eternal Champion by Michael Moorcock
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it was amazing
Read 2 times. Last read July 10, 2021 to July 11, 2021.

Michael Moorcock's 1970 The Eternal Champion, first in the Eternal Champion Cycle, chronicles the adventure of someone who once was something of a nobody. He remembers "a woman. A child. A city. An occupation. A name: John Daker. A sense of frustration. A need for fulfillment" (1979 Dell paperback, page 13). John Daker cannot really remember much more than that. All he knows is that "[t]hey called for [him] and [he] went to them. [He] could not do otherwise. The will of the whole of humanity was a strong thing. It smashed through the ties of time and the chains of space and dragged [him] to itself" (page 11).

And where is John Draker drawn?--or "manifested," perhaps I should say? Well, it is Earth, actually, though whether of the deep past or the far future he has "no idea" (page 42), for time might be circular rather than linear. In any event, it is an Earth of proud kings in walled cities with "[m]inarets, steeples, domes, and battlements [shining] in the sun" (page 25), of warriors "flamboyant in armour of lacquered gold" (page 15) and armed with lance or sword or bow, of ships driven by sail and oar and bristling with brass cannon, of silent slaves always read to serve their noble masters with food or wine or a fresh-drawn bath...and of the menace of the Eldren, "the unhuman folk...called the Hounds of Evil, mankind's age-old enemies, reckless and wild" (page 17). The Eldren have humanity on the run once more. Or, actually, now that, according to the incantational plea of King Rigenos, they "rule one third of the world," perhaps it is more precise to say, as he does, that it is "fear[ed] they will advance yet farther into [human] territories" (page 15). This fear is axiomatic, really--it needs no special proof. And so humanity must call upon Erikose, its godlike but long-dead Champion.

Daker is Erikose, naturally. He considers the possibility that he is "experiencing classic paranoid-schizophrenic symptoms" (page 27), but of course we may discard the idea, since this is a fantasy novel, after all--why, there's even a Boris Vallejo painting on the cover! Vaguely Erikose also remembers many other names as well--"[m]any names--many names--many names" (page 148)--for his incarnations or iterations whose only goal is "To fight. .... To fight. Fight" (pages 178-79). He is a little dazzled by this world, but he has been here before, too, and he settles in to the role of god, of Champion, swiftly, with the arts of war coming back to him like forgotten memories.

There is barbaric splendor, from Erekose's robe of "deep blue, with complicated designed stitched into it in gold, silver and scarlet thread" and his "wide belt of light brown leather with an iron buckle in which there [are] set rubies and sapphires" (page 23), through camel-top howdahs "of ebony, ivory and mother-of-pearl, curtained in scintillating silks" (page 24), to castles whose "furnishings...would have delighted even the most jaded sybarite" (page 31). There is stern King Rigenos with his "tall, spiked crown of iron and diamonds" (page 15). There is "[m]oody Katorn, Captain of the Imperial Guard" (pages 31-32), who, despite the legends, cannot help distrusting the newcomer. There is the King's daughter, Iolinda, "an amazingly beautiful woman, with blonde hair piled beneath a diadem of precious stones which [seem] to light the sweetness of her oval face" (page 18). And of course there is the mystery of exactly what the Eldren really are, and what is the true nature of their threat.

As Erekose girds himself for the war that will save humanity, he falls in love with the fair princess for whom he would do anything--anything. But war is hell, and even a godlike warrior may grow uneasy, even disenchanted, when, after all the men of an enemy city's fighting force have been "slain...at sea" (page 121), even the women and children, against his "plead[ing]," are to be put to death (page 122). A trusted comrade assures Erekose that they are not "bloody-handed butchers" but simply men who "are at war with those who would destroy" humanity (page 131). It is easier to say, perhaps, than to believe. Suffice it to say that Erekose, after committing himself to one awful decision, ultimately must make another judgment that will be even more agonizing.

Michael Moorcock's The Eternal Champion is heavy in the predictable fairy-tale-like trappings of fantasy writing, and sometimes characterization of those we will come to dislike is a tad wooden. For what it is, though, the book nevertheless is an enjoyable 4.5- to 5-star read with an ending well worth the journey.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
July 10, 2021 – Started Reading
July 11, 2021 – Finished Reading
July 12, 2021 – Shelved

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