Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Dreamthief's Daughter

by Michael Moorcock


In The Dreamthief's Daughter, Moorcock returns to the Von Beks and the world of the Eternal Champion. Ulric, Graf von Bek is an albino aristocrat with a humanist conscience and a liking for fencing. This is enough to get him into trouble in Nazi Germany where the story begins.

But his family heirloom, the Raven Sword, is of interest to certain Nazis, particularly his cousin Paul von Minct. Von Bek refuses to give this up, and lands himself on the inside of a concentration camp as a result. There he becomes emaciated and has strange dreams involving a white hare, and visions of Elrik of Melniboné.

The tale is written in the first person, which is a distinctly odd choice given later events. But I won't spoil the surprise. To begin with the only hint of fantasy is in Von Bek's appearance, and some vague family myths. At first solid reality blends into the eerie otherworld with relative ease. He escapes the prison camp with a little otherworldly help, as well as that of two mysterious figures. They lead him underground through a cave, which is where things start to get seriously weird.

His cousin, who his companions know as Gaynor, is in close pursuit. Gaynor is out to destroy the multiverse, for which he needs Ulric's sword and the Holy Grail. He is of course completely mad. The multiverse is Moorcock's idea of intertwining alternate realities which are all nevertheless connected. Moorcock is a touch too fond of long words in his descriptions and the concept of the multiverse ends up sounding pretentious. Oona, the dreamthief's daughter of the title, helps to explain some of this to Ulric as they travel towards Moo-oria. It's a sort of underground fairyland inhabited by the Off-Moo and other strange creatures.

As Gaynor's ambitions and determination become clearer, he begins to recruit supernatural allies. The book is spattered with images of extreme violence as the struggle intensifies. Oona leads Ulric to safety by taking his across the dream roads, along with Elrik (who turns out to be her father). But Gaynor is never far behind.

Oona is the only female of any significance, not counting supernaturals. However she isn't really the subject of this book. Moorcock's portrayal of male and female relationships is hopeless, and Von Bek's relationship with his sword is far more intense.

There's something about Von Bek himself that makes him sympathetic and fascinating to read about. Unfortunately the ending was quite a disappointment. The incongruities between the world of dragons and magic, and the real world of the Second World War become more obvious. Mysteries such as what the white hare is all about are not necessarily neatly tied up. This book is a cracking read in spite of what's wrong with it, but it loses momentum just at the final hurdle. Captivating but flawed.

Book Details

Year: 2001

Categories: Books

    Male Protagonist  

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson


ruth southcombe     22nd July, 2005 14:33pm

i could not put the book down, i thought it was amazing. just what i like =)