I’m not done reading this one yet, because it’s my first time and I’m savoring it, but wow. I’ve said before that I love all of Moorcock’s work, but his writing is so much better in his later works. In the hands of a lesser writer, The Skrayling Tree could have been a silly, incomprehensible mess. That it actually makes sense is either a tribute to Moorcock’s skill, or an indication that I’ve been reading way too much quantum theory.
Spoilery stuff. Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
The book is written from the perspective of Oona, Elric’s daughter and now Ulric von Bek’s wife. It’s 1951, and on a visit to North America (because von Bek’s estate now lies on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall) Ulric gets kidnapped by Native Americans. Canoe jacked, actually. They mug him and paddle away with his unconscious body. Oona sets out to rescue him, but of course he’s been dragged across the multiverse. This leads her to team up with Hiawatha (from the Longfellow poem, and possibly an aspect of the Eternal Champion), and an albino Native American who rides a wooly mammoth. They cross paths with Herr Klosterheim, an excommunicated Satanist ex-Nazi who was a secondary character in The Dreamthief’s Daughter, who is pursuing the Holy Grail. Klosterheim wants the Grail so he can reconcile with Satan, and Satan wants the Grail so he can reconcile with God. Because time isn’t a like, it’s a field. But it isn’t really a field, it’s more like an ocean.
I can’t make this stuff up, people.
It sound like it should be profoundly stupid, but again, Moorcock makes all of this work as a really good adventure story. It’s certainly not cookie-cutter Tolkien-inspired fantasy. When I told Katie about the plot, she said it sounds like Doctor Who. Then I told her that Moorcock wrote a Doctor Who novel that ties into his multiverse, and now Katie (who has never read Moorcock) wants to read that.
After this one there’s only one Elric novel left (even though this, like The Dreamthief’s Daughter, is really only marginally an Elric novel). Not to worry, because I still have tons of other Moorcock novels on my shelf that I haven’t read yet, and there is always the joy of re-reading.