By Michael Moorcock, Tor, $14.00, 203 pages

10“And Hawkmoon, drawing further energy from the Runestaff, raised his sword knowing he had only enough strength for one blow and that blow must slay the man who stood transfixed before him, mesmerized by his own image.”

The Runestaff is the fourth book in Michael Moorcock’s History of the Runestaff series. The book was originally printed in 1969 as The Secret of the Runestaff and continues the adventures of Dorian Hawkmoon one of Mr. Moorcock’s incarnations of the “Eternal Champion.” As such it isn’t the best place to start for new readers of Mr. Moorcock. Not only does the book begin in media res for this adventure of Hawkmoon but it assumes the reader is familiar with Moorcock’s multiverse and the “Eternal Champion.”

Long time fans of Hawkmoon and readers of Moorcock will be right at home in the pulp action of this book. The Runestaff details Hawkmoon’s journey to lost lands and his recovery of the “runestaff” an artifact that can only be wielded by him and exists to maintain the balance in this world. Pursued by agents of the evil empire of Granbretan, Hawkmoon flees to an alternate dimension where his wife and friends have hidden, safe, from danger until the scientific wizardry of Granbretan’s twisted scientists draw them back. Drawn into inevitable conflict with the empire and its mad general Hawkmoon and his company of small fighters hope to destroy the empire for all and free their world. Moorcock’s work is punchy, quick, full of action and yet remain evocative and compelling. The world he creates in The Runestaff fantastical as it might be is real and compelling.

Reviewed by Jonathon Howard