The Jewel in the Skull (History of the Runestaff, #1)The Jewel in the Skull by Michael Moorcock

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A young knight, having lost everyone and everything he holds dear, travels to a strange land, falls in with an older man and a beautiful woman in a battle against an evil empire, one that is ruled by a mystical ancient emperor and his most trusted evil, general, a vile battle-hardened brute who always wears a mask. There’s a mystical force controlling our hero’s destiny although he knows little about it at first, oh, and there’s also a trusted companion covered totally in long ginger hair.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before 🙂

Moorcock’s tale came a few years before Star Wars, but a fairy tale is a fairy tale, however it’s told, and this one follows the same great themes. It takes place in the far future on earth rather than in a galaxy long ago and far away, and being Moorcock, reality is never all that stable, but it’s another great romp.

Dorian Hawkmoon is the latest incarnation of the Eternal Champion in this one, book one of the four-book history of the Runestaff. And again there’s epic battles — even more of them than in previous volumes — some truly vicious bad guys, and heroic defenders standing against them.

The evil empire of the future Great Britain, with its beast-masks, vast military, flying machines, time palaces and crystal bridges is more of Moorcock’s early proto-steampunk, and comes alive wonderfully in the mind’s eye, as does the castle in the Camarg that stands against them.

As book 1 of 4 it’s a wonderful introduction to all the main players, and the big battle is a joyous romp of old-school sword and sorcery. These four books as a whole are among my favorites of all of Moorcock’s work, and I’m looking forward to spending most of the weekend lost in his world with them.

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