This is the first book of a classic fantasy series with an iconic anti-hero. From what I understand the author tried to create something different from [b:The Lord of the Rings|33|The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)|J.R.R. Tolkien|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347257199s/33.jpg|3462456]; at the time this book was published the majority of fantasy genre consisted of The Lord of the Rings clones. Considering that the series now has a status of genre classics, the author succeeded.
The main hero Elric is an albino who happened to be the Emperor of Melniboné and who must use potions to maintain his strength. He is cursed with intelligence and curiosity, something his subjects lack. For this reason he is not liked much and the majority of his people believe his cousin Yyrkoon would make a better (read - more traditional) Emperor. Yyrkoon is a very ambitious man who would make everything in his power to put himself on the throne.
I already said everything about this book: this is a classic, and it is different kind of fantasy. My only complaint about this book (and only this book, the rest of the series do not have this kind of silliness): one particular act of Elric in the end of this book can easily qualify for The Guinness World Record as the most boneheaded act of a character in any fantasy novel - I really cannot think of any rivals in this category. I will not give any spoilers, but the people who read the book know exactly what I am talking about. The final rating is 4 very solid stars.