The dark, brooding nature of Moorcock’s prose—flying in the face of conventional, happy-ending fairy tales—is perhaps why I rate the rather simplistic novellas of The Stealer of Souls so high. The fatalistic tone lifts Elric, the flawed hero of the narrative, above the often comedic and wooden comic book heroes Moorcock is riffing on. Perhaps as close to the classic presentation of myth as has been published in recent centuries, Moorcock is undoubtedly aware of the archetypes of sword and sorcery. But that he employs them in such a cold, distant tone adds an element of drama that the warm and fuzzy happenings of Harry Potter, Eragon, and the like cannot match. Many writers would try to embellish a soul-stealing sword with melodrama, but not Moorcock. He delivers indifferent to the hero and his sword’s plight, relating action, events, and outcomes as they occur, nothing more. The result is that the structure of Elric’s soul is laid bare. But what can one see? One sees that the choices he makes, good and bad, make him as human as Achilles. Though written in a paucity of words, the novellas contained within The Stealer of Souls contain enough tragedy and myth to be more interesting than the run of the mill fantasy.
(See also my review of Stormbringer for additional commentary on Elric. )