The City in the Autumn Stars

Michael Moorcock
The City in the Autumn Stars Cover

The City in the Autumn Stars


As with The Warhound and the World's Pain, I found this second tale more fulfilling on a reread than I did with my original read through a few years ago.

Whereas Warhound presents itself as a take on the traditional Grail Quest, this entry in the series comes across as something altogether more obtuse. The narrative is entirely told from the point of view of Manfred von Bek, the seventeenth century descendant of the antagonist of the previous novel, and follows his adventures and misadventures as he flees the Terror of France and becomes embroiled in an occult quest to change the course of human development.

There are many of the usual Moorcockian elements in here, including an ambiguously magical sword, the ongoing conflict between the forces of Law and Chaos (even though they are barely referred to in such terms), and the oft-used joining of the million worlds of multiverse in a climax that echoes several of the authors other finales. And just as Manfred is this novel's aspect of the Eternal Champion, we also get the Eternal Companion in the form of the dashing balloonist and swindler St Odhram.

Style wise, this is a very different book to Moorcock's earlier works. The writing beautifully emulates the style of late seventeenth century romances, and carries enough historical detail to make it feel sufficiently like a genuine found manuscript. Indeed, one of the early conceits of the novel is the suggestion that Moorcock is merely the translator of a genuine document taken from the von Bek archives.

All in all, rereading this volume as part of my exploration of Moorcock's works has definitely given me a deeper understanding and greater appreciation of the two novels it comprises. I'd certainly have no problem suggesting this book to fantasy fans looking for something a little different with which to broaden their reading horizons.