This week I’m starting reviews of one of Michael Moorcock’s tales of the Eternal Champion, with part one of the Hawkmoon series – The Jewel in the Skull.
Title: The Jewel in the Skull
Author: Michael Moorcock
Available from Amazon.com.
Dorian Hawkmoon Van Kohn has been captured by the forces of the Dark Empire of Granbretan. After realizing that Hawkmoon’s reputation as an opponent of Granbretan, Baron of Meliadus of Granbretan decides to use Hawkmoon to destroy his enemy, Count Brass of Kamarg. Meliadus has a special black jewel installed in Hawkmoon’s head that lets him see what he sees, and kill him if he attempts to deviate from his mission – to kill Count Brass and kidnap his daughter, Yisselda.
After Count Brass figures out Meliadus’ plan, he and his adviser Bowgentle, release Hawkmoon from Meliadus’ control. Hawkmoon, now free from the control of the Dark Empire, joins forces with Count Brass to fight back. However, Bowgentle’s remedy is only temporary. To get a permanent freedom from the gem’s influence, Hawkmoon travels to the land of Turkia to find a sorcerer who can help him, and is joined along the way by the half-giant Oladahn.
Hawkmoon’s guerrilla fight against the dark empire after being freed by Count Brass is very exciting and tense.
Umm… you have a gemstone in your skull that could be used to kill you if activated. Even if this sorcerer has deactivated the stone, why keep it in? If you want to keep it as a reminder of the Dark Empire’s cruelty you could have the stone mounted in an amulet or broach for your cloak instead, and it’d be easier to hide. Even better, if somehow the Dark Empire found a way to re-activate it, they couldn’t kill you with it.
Originality: While other writers and creators would write post-apocalyptic science fantasy after Hawkmoon came out, I can’t really think of any stories in this sub-genre before this – aside from maybe The Dying Earth. 5/6
Imagery: Moorcock paints a picture of a techno-Gothic Europe that would fit in perfectly with later works like Vampire Hunter D. 6/6
Story: The book feels like we’re coming in the middle of a larger story, as Count Brass and Hawkmoon have had long and exciting careers prior to the events of this story. I’ll presume that is covered in the Count Brass series, which was published later, but set earlier. 4/6
Characterization: The evolution of Hawkmoon from shell-shocked apathy to a desire for vengence is very well done. Other than that, the other characters are interesting, but not necessarily well fleshed out. 4/6
Emotional Response: Being the first volume in a series, there is a certain degree of “well, they can’t die yet, he’s going to be in 3 more books,” with this one. Castle Brass, on the other hand, could theoretically fall. 4/6
Overall: This is a great start to the series. 5/6
In total, The Jewel in the Skull gets 34/42.