Reader reviews for The Worm Ouroboros

I purchased this book for my husband after reading the author was one of J.K. Tolkein's favorite descriptive writers. I thought who in he world would J.K. Tolkein look up to? But I can see why! My gosh this is the most rich, enormous, decadent tapestry of descriptive prose and mythical plot I have ever drooled over in bed. Whenever someone is sick in this house and wants to be distracted from the flu or some other misery, out comes this book, which must be read slowly as the sentences are complex and beg to be savored. I would be so bold as to say that I had only thought I had read amazing fantasy and science fiction books, until I read this one. This is what they all really aspired to write, but fell short. This is no Harry Potter or Goldenn Compass series, while those are nothing to sneeze at, I'll give you all that. But it surpasses the Lord of the Rings somehow not in plot, but in world building. Have your notecards or notbooks out to keep track of the lineage of deamons you'll start to obsess about, and plan on staying up late. But whatever you do, don't sleep in Lotus Room! ;)
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this book is said to have inspired Tolkein to write Lord of the Rings. Lord of the Rings has inspired the structure of most synthetic worlds to date.
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I enjoyed this book, but it was definitely not a page turner and I'm not sure whether its a story I will want to read over and over again. The language took some getting used to and while the author's style forced me to read more slowly, it also helped me appreciate the cinematic imagery.
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To enjoy The Worm Ouroboros, one must accept the glorification of war, just as one must accept magic spells and E.R. Eddison's invented, pseudo-archaic language. Once you get used to the style, it is mostly unobtrusive and occasionally delightful.Eddison's heroes are not very clearly drawn. The one exception is the dandy and berserker Brandoch Daha -- and now I've told you everything about him. Eddison often does a better job with the villains, such as King Gorice the nth (take your pick) and the aptly-named Corsus. The most nuanced and interesting character is the principled traitor Lord Gro.As you might expect from a tale weak on characterization, events are plot-driven. The plot concerns the invasion of Demonland by the forces of Witchland under King Gorice, which includes the supernatural kidnapping and rescue of Goldry Bluszco, one of the lords of demonland. Despite the carefully constructed, symmetrical plot -- or maybe because of it -- the tale seems episodic. Actions are driven by a scheme external to the story, rather than growing from character.At the end of the novel, the glorification of war becomes explicit. This -- and the nature of the ending itself -- rather broke the spell for me. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book, and plan to read Eddison's Zimiamvia trilogy.
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An absolutely amazing book. It's kind of a cross between fantasy and a story of the days of old when knights were bold. To be honest, there were times that I thought I'd move on to something else because of the archaic language (which can be somewhat distracting), but I'm really happy that I stayed with it. I must say, I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it. To try to provide you with a brief synopsis is somewhat impossible, but I'll try. Eddison begins his story in more or less the present time, in which a man goes into a special place wherein he is visited by a martlet, a kind of bird. This martlet allows him to gaze off into time and space, and he is caught up in the saga of the lords of Witchland and Demonland. It seems that Gorice XI, Witchland's king, has decreed that Demonland's lords must pay him tribute, thus recognizing him as their king. The Demonland contingent will not do this, so it is decided that the king will wrestle with Demonland's Lord Goldry Bluszco, and the outcome will decide whether or not the king will have his way. Gorice dies, but unsatisfied, the Witchlanders decide that this is an affront to their honor & make a plot to kill their enemies. The new King, Gorice XII, does a "sending" or magical spell that takes Lord Goldry away to a far-off prison. The rest of the book focuses on the battle between Witchland and Demonland, and the search for Lord Goldry by the two bravest warriors of Demonland. I won't say more because this book is definitely worth reading for yourself. As I noted above, the author's use of very archaic language is a bit off-putting at times, but stick with it -- you will become so engrossed in the story that you will not want to put it down. Also, please note that it seems that although the author tells us that the book takes place on Mercury at the outset, you can tell that this is not to be an interplanetary adventure but a very Earth-based story, set in days of old. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy story. A tough read, but well worth it!
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Let's be perfectly clear, I am not giving this book four stars because it's a great novel. It's not even a good novel. It's a terrible goddamn novel. But sometimes being unique, interesting, weird and precious is more important than actually being any good.Before I read this, I had thought Lord of the Rings was a unique and unprecedented literary event, and the primal fountainhead from which the modern high fantasy genre flowed. Reading Dunsany did not sway me of this opinion, but reading Eddison has. Most of what is special about the Lord of the Rings, in particular the faux-archaic prose style evoking the rhythms of the pagan epics that inspired it, is right here, published over a decade before Tolkien's famous novel was begun.Unlike the Lord of the Rings though, this book is not an exercise in carefully constructed world-building. In fact, it's a goddamn mess - there's some kind of weird frame story about a modern Englishman astrally projecting to the planet Mercury that's summarily discarded and then never mentioned again in the second chapter, all of the people and place names are weird apparently random nonsense strings that the author came up with when he was 10 and refused to change when the story was later committed to novel form, the author can't make up his mind whether the peoples of his world are human or not, everyone worships the Greek pantheon for some reason, and the supposed protagonists are sketched so poorly that Tolkien, of all people, was able to lambast the novel's characterization with no fear of being accused of hypocrisy.What is so lovable about the book is its sheer force of idiosyncrasy. The descriptive prose so rococo you'd swear the author was having you on. The verbatim-reproduced letters of the characters who, in medieval style, lack standardized spelling. Two whole chapters of mountain climbing - not of things happening while ascending a mountain, but about nothing but the mechanics of getting up there. The way the characters will recite 16th century poems and songs that the author meticulously attributes in his end-notes. The way the characters will recite ancient Greek poems that the author meticulously attributes in his end-notes making sure to let you know the translation is his. YOU WILL NEVER FIND ANOTHER HIGH FANTASY NOVEL ANYTHING LIKE THIS ONE.
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These things hath Fate brought to pass, and we be but Fate's whipping-tops bandied what way she will."The Worm Ouroboros" is an epic fantasy written in 1922 (before "Lord of the Rings"). It is set on the planet Mercury, whose main races are Demons, Witches, Goblins, Imps and Pixies. The story features magic, a heroic quest, and many battles between the noble lords of Demonland and King Gorice of Witchland. The Demon lords Lord Juss, Lord Goldry Bluszco and Lord Spitfire and their cousin Lord Brandoch Daha are noble and heroic but never really come to life as characters, and you get to know some of the Witches much better. However my favourite character was the Goblin Lord Gro, a compulsive traitor who now serves King Gorice.It took me ages to read, and there were possibly a few too many battles and too much mountaineering for my tastes, but overall it was very enjoyable and the final chapter is wonderful.
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Odd. Quite good in places but let down by some continuity errors, and some truly confusing writing.The prologue "Introduction" bears no relevance to anything at all of the rest of the book, and it seems to serve merely as a device to introduce the foreign world in which we find ourselves. A world inhabited by demons, goblins, pixies, witchland (humans?) and diverse others, that is not hell - despite the demons. It seems that the king of Witchland deems himself King of all this world, but the King of Demonland acknowledges no overlord, and so the two tribes go to war. Our human/dream observer vanishing without further comment we get to follow the Demon chiefs and various confusingly similarly named Witch-generals over a couple of campaigns. It isn't really clear (at least until more than halfway through) which side if any are supposed to be the 'good' guys, indeed it isn't really clear what the point of the whole thing is - the Worm Ouroboros doesn't make any apperance in the story at any time.The writing is oft-times flowery and full of description - pillared rooms are lavishly described, not only the walls and hangings, but the pillars and carvings and the jewels and gems and the way the light reflects from them. Ad nauseum. I skipped several sentences each time this occurred. Generally though the prose is very readable, the pacing quite well controlled and generally non-intrusive. There are a few jumps in voice, which I always find disconcerting - especially between two uncles and three nephews, all of whose names were similar! - until that is we get to the letters. For some reason three times in the story there appears to be a necessity to quote a letter that various characters have written, verbatim. And those characters, can't spell, or write. And hence, we the reader, can't understand what happened in whatever battle it was that they were reporting on. Almost totally unintelligible, and completely breaks the flow.The good bits? Well there must be some, it's a nicely imagined world, with varied terrain and interesting inhabitants. The battles are well choreographed. The mountain climbing section was superb, unusually sounding like the author actually had experience of being out in the ice and snow. Overall though it's difficult to get into and ultimately un-rewarding when you do so, probably of more account for it's cultural significance than any particular literary merit...........................................................................................................
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It took me a while to read this book, partly because of the flowery Elizabethan language. I understood it, and it was written well, but like rich chocolate it could only be digested in small portions. 'The Worm Ouroboros' is an epic of war, treachery, vengeance and justice set on a fantastic version of Mercury. The main protagonists are the heroes of Witchland and Demonland. These heroes cross the world to do battle with each other. They love fighting and honour and dangerous quests; they resemble the heroes of the Iliad. Unlike that work, this book glorifies war and heroism. The characters are well-written and larger than life. They are heroes and they know it. A good fantasy book which might have been the fantasy prototype which 'The Lord of the Rings' became. It didn't though, probably because the language style would make it inaccessible to many readers.
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Sort of the Ur-novel for 'high' fantasy. The language takes getting used to. But the story has a great hook.
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