Michael Moorcock, The Sword of the Dawn (Tor Books, 2010 [orig. 1968])
Michael Moorcock's The Sword of the Dawn, the third in his Hawkmoon quartet, reinforced something I had noticed earlier: this is, indeed, pulp fiction, of a high order. Everything's a little bigger than life, drawn in bold strokes, rendered in strong colors, and a lot of fun.
Baron Meliadus of Kroidon, Hawkmoon's arch-enemy, fears he is losing his influence at court: while his rivals are out making further conquests in the name of Granbretan, he is babysitting two envoys from Asiacommunista, a mysterious country to the east that could be a serious challenge to the empire of King-Emperor Huon. Meliadus would much rather be trying to find Kamarg, which vanished the last time he attacked it, thanks to the good offices of the Mad God's Amulet, in reality a machine that warps space and time. It seems that Hawkmoon has stumbled upon another, similar machine: the envoys are none other than he and Huillem D'Averc, the Granbretanian turncoat who is now an ally of Kamarg. Escaping Londra, the two make their way to the western land of Yel, where they can supposedly find one Mygan of Llandar, who created the rings they used to get to Londra. They find Mygan and the rings, but have been pursued by Meliadus and once again, barely make their escape, only to find themselves in the fabled continent of Amarekh where, on Mygan's dying instructions, they set off south to Narleen to find and take the Sword of the Dawn.
One thing that struck me about this installment of the saga, which otherwise is a good, rousing continuation of the adventures of Dorian Hawkmoon, is that the shape of the quest is becoming clearer, to the reader if not to Hawkmoon himself. It's part quest, part treasure hunt, as Hawkmoon is sent off in search of one element or another that will ultimately bring him to his ultimate goal, the Runestaff, that mystical object that seems, somehow, to be guiding this whole endeavor. The Hawkmoon cycle, like a number of Moorcock's other novels that eventually became tied together under the general rubric of "The Eternal Champion," was written before that concept, and its allied ideas of the Multiverse and the war between Law and Chaos, had become solidified. That's simply to say that in this series, the idea has not yet taken over the story, which makes for a better read. It's worth noting here that Moorcock is, if sometimes uneven, certainly an able writer and one who is concerned with more than nuts and bolts: even blatant plot devices, such as the Warrior in Gold and Jet, take on an added dimension, an almost mythic resonance, and not only move the story along but give it greater depth.
So it's another installment of the Dorian Hawkmoon saga, an absorbing story that takes place in a rich, inventive setting (and no one has ever accused Moorcock of a lack of imagination -- he's come up with some of the weirdest things I've ever run across) inhabited by larger-than-life people. It's a great way to spend some time until the next volume of this Tor reissue comes out.