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The Sword of the Dawn

Posted by Dan Smyth On Friday, October 01, 2010

THE SWORD OF THE DAWN is the third of four novellas by Michael Moorcock in his Hawkmoon collection. The four of these (THE JEWEL IN THE SKULL, THE MAD GOD'S AMULET, and yet to come finale THE RUNESTAFF) are getting singular reprints by Tor and from what I've read here are just some good, old-fashioned, fantasy adventure.

Dorian Hawkmoon and Huilliam D'Averc are friends and compatriots that have gathered their friends and family and fled to an alternate dimension from the attacks of the evil Baron Meliadus. Everything seems well and good for Hawkmoon and his friends when a somewhat familiar visitor shows up in their dimension, saying that he was recently in the court of Baron Meliadus himself. Hawkmoon is certain that this portent spells the end of their peace and safety and so decides to set out with D'Averc to make certain that Meladius is not on their trail. So they take up their crystal rings, which will teleport them through the dimensions, and start their adventure.

For how long ago this story was written (1968), it is still remarkably readable. There is very much the feel of the noble hero about Hawkmoon and D'Averc, on which so many of the protagonists of fantasy past have been built. This comes across very quickly, as does the undeniable hatred that Meliadus has for Hawkmoon and all that are with him. This story was especially interesting in light of the fact that we got to see a bit of the other side of the coin through Meliadus as well. We see some of what he struggles with and parts of the relationship between him and the King-Emperor, whom he serves. We see his fixation upon Hawkmoon. This bit has made me want to go back and read the previous two novels. If nothing else, I want to know how their relationship came to be and what it is built upon. Thankfully, there are two stories previous to this that might just help us out with that.

For the most part, this story focuses on the characters and their quests, though there is still very much the sense of this being an adventure story where we see the strange new worlds and peoples and histories of Hawkmoon's story. I think that Moorcock has done a good job at balancing these two facets of storytelling here, plot and world-building. There are magicians and pirates here, great cities and even greater histories. There's even a solid prophecy for us. Now what would a traditional fantasy be without one of those?

Reading this one has definitely left me with a different flavor in my mouth concerning these kinds of classic fantasy tales. It has intrigued me and got me to wondering just what else is out there, already completed decades ago, that I might enjoy. Granted, I may not come across anything like Abercrombie or Martin or Erikson, the greats of today, but there's a good chance I'll find a quick tale of love or betrayal, adventure or intrigue, mystery or suspense, that will suck me in and make me happy. The rules haven't changed. Good story is still good characters and good plot. You know this. Obviously so does this author.

So pick up something by this guy. Maybe this one, maybe an Elric book, maybe something more recent. Moorcock is still pumping out the goods, but it is nice to see Tor giving his older stuff another push. It's definitely worth the read and the chance to round up some more fans.

Recommended age: 14+, straightforward story that has that sense of wonder.
Language: Nothing that stuck out. Mild, if at all.
Violence: Some sword fighting, a few people die or are drowned
Sex: Implied and very brief.

Moorcock's Official Website


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