Review: Hawkmoon: The Runestaff

Posted: April 25, 2011 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Michael Moorcock, Heroic Fantasy

And alas, we come to the end of the tale. We’ve run the gamut, the bell has tolled, and the last of Hawkmoon’s adventures have passed by our eyes. The pages have flown so fast.

HAWKMOON: THE RUNESTAFF (Amazon) is the fourth and final book of the Hawkmoon series by Michael Moorcock that Tor has been giving an upgrade and reprint to over the last year or so. These books hearken us back to the old days of classic fantasy fiction when the heroes were gallant gentlemen and their foes nefarious men of wickedness. Honor and virtue always triumphed over evil, and it was seeing how it would all play out this time around that always drew the readers in droves.

Dorian Hawkmoon and Huilliam D’Averc, friends and bretheren, have won the day and Hawkmoon has gained the Sword of the Dawn which allows him to summon a legion of supernatural warriors to his side when he has need of them. And though Hawkmoon wants only to return to Castle Brass and his lovely wife, the Runestaff has other plans for him–plans that will lead to one final fight with the wicked Baron Meliadus.

Reading this one was an interesting experience, as this part of the tale doesn’t really stand by itself very well. When taken into context with the other books in the series, however, and when viewed in light of the fact that each of them was similarly short, the capstone of the tale here stands just fine. So if you’re going to read this one, read the others beforehand. If not, I’m afraid that you’ll probably be sorely disappointed.

As a single book, it has a surprising lack of characterization. What little we get has Hawkmoon pining for his wife and whining about being manipulated by a supernatural item of power. As the climax of the series though, there is little need for more characterization, as it has already come in the preceding books. The story is pretty straight-forward, moves along at a fair clip, and still has that great sense of adventure written into its folds as so many stories of this era have.

This is a classic. High-level reading, heroic quests, magical items collected that will help the hero save the day, and of course, the eventual conquest of evil. (And no, that’s not a spoiler. You already knew it was going to happen.) In all honesty, I don’t know that a new story like this would make it in today’s publishing world. This one though, is something that’s there to remind us of where we’ve come from. Of what we were. It’s a way to remember the days when heroes were valiant and brave and strong.

AWKMOON: THE RUNESTAFF is the fourth and final book of the Hawkmoon series by Michael Moorcock that Tor has been giving an upgrade and reprint to.

As fantasy nuts, these stories are our history. Our roots.

And we are its legacy.

So even if you don’t go out and buy this book, take a look at your local library and see if they have a copy of the set. Odds are pretty good that you’ll be able to find something, as they’ve been getting print-time since the late 60’s. Just good, old-fashioned fun, and something we should all be a part of.

  • Recommended Age: 14+
  • Language: A few mild epithets
  • Violence: Mild, some people die--a surprising number, actually
  • Sex: None


  • membrillu says:

    How do the Hawkmoon novels compare to the Elric ones? It's been only a few years since I have been able to read them in English, and I didn't manage to get into Elric. Truth is, I was disappointed with myself, as my expectatives were high.
    Also, thanks for your reviews. This is my favourite web to check for reviews on SF and Fantasy ๐Ÿ™‚

  • criticalmark says:

    They say you can't go back … and with these books I'm a little scared to. I rooted Moorcock's Elric, Corum & Hawkmoon series out of 2nd hand book shops in my early teens in the late 70's and later finished the sets with new copies (financed by my paper round) – I loved them to bits. The cemented an interest in fantasy started by LoTR. But what would I make of them now? I'm not sure I want to risk spoiling my memories of them.

    Mark Lawrence

  • Dan Smyth says:

    @membrillu: You know, the Elric novels are ones that I've been railing on myself to read for the last few years now, and it just hasn't happened yet. This series was just really high-level stuff though, and quick to read. I enjoyed it, even if it is so radically different from the more modern stuff that I enjoy nowdays.

    @Mark: I totally know what you mean. About five years ago I went back and re-read the whole main Dragonlance sequence, the series that got me hooked on fantasy in the first place. (Which, I guess, dates me rather handily…) Thankfully, it was a good experience, but that fear…man, I fought with it for a while before giving in. ๐Ÿ™‚ Luck.

    And double thanks for the comments, all. We love seeing that people are taking advantage of our “expertise”. ๐Ÿ™‚

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