This is the second of the Elric books, and like the first, is crafted by using a collection of short stories (four I believe). Elric, or at least the early Elric books, because once the Elric saga became a runaway success Moorcock began to simply write, what I consider at least, rubbish simply to capitalise on the fame of his anti-hero. The only problem is that I do not believe (and I have catalogued most of my books) I still have them, and I suspect that I got rid of them back in the early naughties when I decided that I would simply cut down on the amount of stuff that I owned and try to live a simpler life (I failed, and though my room is not really cluttered, I still have a awful lot of books which are slowly making their way back to Adelaide, but are being replaced by other books – which is the problem when you walk into a bookshop and a lovely attendant looks at you with glazed eyes when you purchase Hemingway).
Here Elric has begun his adventures away from Melnibone, though he does return later to basically destroy the empire (though the empire was already in decline). I've always found Elric to be a fascinating character because he is not your typical fantasy hero. He is not a knight in shining armour, nor is he an innocent farm boy (or hobbit), but rather a diabolical sorcerer who is weak due to a wasting disease and wields a sword that drains the life out of his enemies to give him strength. Elric is not a story of good versus evil, but a story of survival, and a story of struggle in a morally grey world.
Many of us love duality, where we can create a definite good and a definite evil (and no doubt put ourselves into the good) but the reality is that reality exists in varying shades of grey. We look back on World War II and see it as a triumph of good over evil, but in reality it is much more dialectical in nature. Wars are never good verses evil, and have never been. The dialectical nature of World War II is not that freedom triumphed over oppression, but rather that two sides merged and became one. While Hitler was murdering Jews in German, the Negroes of the United States were being murdered by the Klu Klux Clan. In fact during the war the units were segregated and you would not find any Negros fighting in the same units as the whities (and in fact you never seem to hear of a Negro war hero).
The same goes for Japan: it was not a case of the triumph of good over evil, but a dialectical shift which turned Japan into the nation that we see it today. It is modern, it is clean, but it is still very conservative with a very Japanese flavour. In fact the Japanese are still a very conservative, and xenophobic, culture and while we whities are able to travel there for a holiday, and there are still places were we are not welcome (though I also discovered that that is also the case in Hong Kong).