Title: The War Hound and the World's Pain
Author: Michael Moorcock
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Pocket Books, 1982
Series: Stand Alone
Synopsis: The time is The Thirty Years War, and the whole of Europe is in devastation, Graf Ulrich von Bek, killer, survivor and mercenary captain of fearful repute, deserts his soldiers after an outbreak of plague and finds himself traveling through a dense forest, at the heart of which there stands an empty but unplundered castle. He takes refuge there.
But this is no shelter, for the lord of the castle is Satan himself. Von Bek has been granted entrance so that the Devil may offer him a most unusual bargain. Lucifer will relinquish his claim on von Bek's lost soul, but the price is success in a quest that Lucifer himself cannot undertake. The Devil wishes to be reconciled with God, and to prove his sincerity to Heaven needs the Cure for the World's Pain.
But even among the damned there are those who fear change. And even as von Bek accepts his quest, Hell raises in rebellion to stop him.
Review: This book opens in the year 1631 in Germany. It is a bloody, horrible time. Ulrich is not much of a hero, being neither especially good or honest, but he has to complete the quest for the Holy Grail. Lucifer has promised he will release Ulrich's soul in exchange for the successful completion of the quest.
Between the mages and demons and Lucifer himself, this is one of the oddest historical fantasy books I've ever read. That doesn't mean I didn't like it. I did. It was a fast-paced read with plenty of action and even a little romance.
Unfortunately, it's sequel (The City in the Autumn Stars) could not hold up. I ended up giving up on that one in less than 30 pages. Since the sequel is actually about Ulrich's ancestors, this is really a stand-alone story and, in my opinion, should be read as such. While it is not this author's best work, it's quite good and easily finished in a day.
Rating: 5 / 10