Book Review: Weird of the White Wolf

Weird of the White Wolf is the fourth part of the first of the current set of Elric omnibus volumes, and undoubtedly, this is where things get serious. I mean – there were serious things before, but this is where Elric gets shoved headlong into his destiny (the “Weird” in the title referring the Old English use of the word – Wyrd – meaning destiny) – like it or not (tending towards “or not”). And this is helped by the fact that here is where we encounter the first stories in the publication order, even if they’re not the first in Elric’s internal chronology.

Outside of a brief prologue, “The Dream of Earl Aubec”, which gets into how the forces of Law have made their presence known in the world, we get straight into the meat of the book – “The Dreaming City”, and the thing everything from Elric of Melnibone onward was retroactively building up to. It turns out, to the surprise of literally nobody reading the books, that Yrkoon has decided not to cede the throne to Elric after a year of Elric wandering the earth seeking to learn from the Young Kingdoms. So Elric decides enough is enough and he’s just going to sack Imryyr, with an assortment of various navies of the Young Kingdoms. The plan was while the armies of the Young Kingdoms sack those who had previously claimed tribute from them in the past, Elric intends to rescue Cymoril and either get Yrkoon with her (to get him to lift his sleeping spell – again), or bring Tanglebones (if the spell has been lifted). Well, as the title of the book suggests, Elric is fate’s chew toy, and the result of this story is tragic, to say the least.

The next story of the collection, “While the Gods Laugh”, is a good follow-up. I’d compare it to “The Price of Pain-Ease” by Fritz Leiber, though that story was published later. Elric, in his grief after the events of “The Dreaming City” – is asked by a young woman to help her retrieve the “Dead Gods Book” – Elric agrees, in the hopes that he will find some meaning in the cosmos within that book’s pages – to find (to reference Poe) if there is “balm in Gilead”. Of course, this is Elric we’re talking about – and he’s someone who definitely rarely ever gets what he actually wants. However, the story has the additional purpose of introducing the character who will be Elric’s sidekick for the majority of the series to come – Moonglum.

Moonglum doesn’t really come into his own, though, until the book’s final story, “The Singing Citadel”. Not because of the amount of a role he plays in the story (not much), but by how his character is fleshed out. Here he serves as not only somewhat needed comic relief (serving as a mild “funny man” to Elric’s ultimate “Straight man”) – but also serving to loosen Elric up so much. Elric sneaking out of a paramour’s room with boots in hand before quietly making his way out of town with Moonglum at the story’s conclusion is a nice shift in tone from Elric being wracked with despair and angst at the end of “While the Gods Laugh”. The story also serves to introduce one of Elric’s recurring antagonists for the series to come, Theleb K’aarna.

In short, Weird of the White Wolf makes for a cohesive tonal (rather than thematic) whole – setting up what form Elric’s future adventures will take him in the books to come.

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