Book Review: “The Knight of the Swords” by Michael Moorcock

8/10 A very enjoyable classic of epic fantasy

Corum is the Prince in the Scarlet Robe and belongs to an ancient race of people, the Vadhagh. Tragedy sets him on an epic adventure far from any lands he has ever known—in order to slay a god.

The Corum books come from a distant era of epic fantasy, and for better or worse, it shows. The story is one of ancient peoples, mysterious lands, and powers beyond mortals. The Knight of the Swords has many of the hallmarks you’d expect from the genre, but much of the first book in this pair of trilogies is centered on Corum’s personal journey and transformation both external and internal. While it makes him a fascinating hero to follow, little of that same attention is given to the rest of the cast of characters. The romance subplot in particular is shallow and rushed. I found the sorcerer Shool to be one of the only interesting characters other than our hero. But where the story shines is on the adventure and the deeply creative lands and creatures Moorcock throws at Corum and the readers.

At least equal in quality to the adventure, maybe even greater, is the prose. Moorcock immerses you in an alien world with unusual cultures and creatures with language that evokes history and characterization. Some of his descriptions may stretch overlong, going into unnecessary detail you’ll forget by the next page, but at other times, it’s just right. It’s a style that’s very easy to read while pulling you into the story, making the book overall a quick read. Especially in the fantasy genre, prose of this style and quality is rare.

This is a series I’ll be continuing, having already read book 2. It’s a consumable, enjoyable read that never falls into the trap of becoming homework like the genre often does these days. Recommended to fantasy fans new and old who want to be whisked away to a strange land.

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