Michael Moorcock is truly a living legend in the genre of speculative fiction, having garnered numerous awards throughout his career. Storm Constantine is a highly respected writer in her own right, having gained a strong reputation through her sensual Wraeththu sequence of novels. Their talents have converged on Silverheart, a fantasy novel set in Moorock’s uber-saga, the Multiverse. Silverheart began life as an outline by Mr. Moorcock fleshed out into this novel by Ms. Constantine. I have never read Ms. Constantine’s work but I’ve got a nice collection of the White Wolf omnibus volumes of Moorcock’s Multiverse/Eternal Champion Sequence. So I had some expectations with this novel.
The protagonist here in Silverheart is a rogue, the thief Max Silverskin, a distant relative of one of the elite lordly Metal Clans in the decadent city of Karadur. The novel starts with an ample amount of background about Max and how the Metal Clans came to dominate the city of Karadur, this is clearly a well-detailed world in which the story takes place. The story also has many of the hallmarks readers of Moorock’s Eternal Champion/Multiverse saga have grown to enjoy. Max, the shady protagonist, is reminiscent of Elric and Corum, the sidekick Menni is reminiscent of any one of Elric’s companions, and Lady Rose Iron, the noble the love interest finalizes the triad seen in many of Moorcock’s novels. While these elements definitely have the air of familiarity, this does not render them any less enjoyable.
When we first meet Max, he is in prison with his pal Menni. This is not unexpected, since Max has lived a rather unseemly life. Upon his “release” from prison, Max soon finds himself involved in the affairs of Shriltasi, the underworld of Karadur. Where Karadur, for the most part, eschews magic, the underworld of Shriltasi is steeped in barishi, the powerful magical lore of the Multiverse. Again, the theme of opposing forces, most often represented by Order and Chaos, is a theme which pervades the majority of Moorcock’s fiction. Here as well, these diametrically opposed forces are at a juncture, and resolving the issue lies on the shoulders of our protagonist, Max, according to a prophecy known in Shriltasi. Not only does Max fit the roles of both savior and trickster, he is also a “man of two worlds” with familial ties to both the barishi-rich underworld Shriltasi and Karadur.
Another thing struck me very early on in this novel, and I can’t quite decide if this is good or bad. As Max is being told what he must do in order to save the two worlds, and the manner in which the information was presented to him, I had the feel of a video game. Now, I enjoy playing video games and whether this was intentional or not on the part of the author team, I don’t know. Once this informational dump passes, the story takes off a bit more, as Max begins to discover his hidden destiny, particularly his role in preventing the destruction of the two worlds.
On the whole, I thought the book was entertaining and interesting, though not up to what I’d come to expect from most of Mr. Moorcock’s work, but still a solid novel. While this may not sound like a resounding thumbs-up, the majority of what Mr. Moorcock puts his name to is above the standard fare of the genre, and while this may be considered a minor effort in his otherwise grand bibliography, it is still a worthy novel. This book has also piqued my interest in looking into some of Ms. Constantine’s fiction, of which, I’ve seen and heard very good things.
So the question remains, would I recommend this novel? I think I would, there was enough connection to Moorcock’s Multiverse to satisfy his long-standing fans (such as myself); however, the story stood well-enough on its own, without a strong enough connection to those stories for readers unfamiliar with the saga to be lost. A few times I found myself trying to determine where Constantine strayed from the blueprint Moorcock provided, but ultimately, I was better served when I simply allowed the story to move along without such questions.
© 2005 Rob H. Bedford