THE VANISHING TOWER
a.k.a. THE SLEEPING SORCERESS
by Michael Moorcock
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Michael Moorcock's The Vanishing Tower, much like The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, is comprised of three novellas that are loosely linked. The loose tie between the three stories is Elric's antagonist, Theleb K'Aarna, who was introduced in "The Singing Citadel" in The Weird of the White Wolf, although Theleb K'Aarna's appearance in the final story amounts mostly to a framing mechanism for the focus of the tale.
The first novella, "The Sleeping Sorceress," reintroduces the Lady Myshella, who interacted with Earl Aubec at the beginning of The Weird of the White Wolf. The intervening centuries haven't changed her at all, although the location of her castle, Kaneloon, at the Edge of the World has moved. Elric and Moonglum are taken to her castle by the shape-shifting Oonai and learn that Theleb K'Aarna has selected this strange location to wage his war of vengeance against Elric with the aid of King Umbda and his Kelmain Horde of golden alien warriors. Elric alone isn't quite up to the task of defeating the Kelmain horde, but Moorcock has fallen into a redundancy by this point in the series (noting that the currently presented series is not related to the order in which the stories were written). Moorcock builds up the enemy Elric is facing and whether Elric defeats them by force of arms of by summoning supernatural allies, the enemy's resistance collapses upon first contact.
After rescuing Myshella and Kaneloon from the forces of Chaos and driving his own patron into the camp of his enemy, Elric and Moonglum travel to the Eastern continent where Elric's Actorios Ring is stolen during a street brawl, leading him to try to recover it from Nadsokor, the city of beggars, whose king has sworn to kill Elric should he ever return. Elric and Moonglum have also learned that Theleb K'Aarna and King Urish of Nadsokor, intend to destroy a caravan heading for the Eternal city of Tanelorn, led by Elric's old friend Rackhir the Red. This battle sees Theleb K'Aarna's peak of influence with the lords of Chaos and the summoning of the Elenoin, a race of warrior women. Despite his weakened powers, Elric eventually is able to summon the Elenoin's eternal enemies, the Grahluk, to help in battle, although the Grahluk's ultimate actions seem odd, despite Elric/Moorcock's explanation.
The final story has Elric living in Tanelorn, but unhappy and bored. Theleb K'Aarna is still out in the world seeking vengeance against Elric, who feels he must destroy Theleb K'Aarna as an upstart and nuisance. Theleb K'Aarna only really appears in this section as part of a framing device for the main story, which unites Elric with two of Moorcock's other characters, Erekose and Corum. In The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, these three characters, along with Dorian Hawkmoon, united on a quest, but the current adventure happens earlier in Corum's timeline and Elric has no recollection of the earlier adventure. As with the earlier adventure, and so many of Elric's battles, Moorcock never really makes it clear in The Vanishing Tower why all three aspects of the Eternal Champion are needed to defeat Voilodion Ghagnasdiak, the master of the castle, although the story results in each of the three aspects of the Eternal Champion receiving items from the tower that would help them on their current adventures.
In the end, The Vanishing Tower is anticlimactic. Although Elric defeats Theleb K'Aarna a third time, the evil Pan Tangian wizard is able to escape death each time, the last having lost the patronage of the lords of Chaos. However, Theleb K'Aarna is not a particularly well written villain, his motivations are his perceived displacement of Yishana of Jharkor's affection by Elric (who has long since turned his back on Yishana). Theleb K'Aarna isn't particularly witty and when Moorcock gives any thought to his partner's personalities, such as with King Urish of Nadsokor, they overshadow the man who vexes Elric through more than three novels.
|The Sleeping Sorceress|
|To Snare the Pale Prince|
|The Vanishing Tower|
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