Showing posts with label Kane. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kane. Show all posts

Friday, December 8, 2023

Kane - Darkness Weaves

In 1970, Knoxville, TN native Karl Edward Wagner authored a short novel titled Darkness Weaves with Many Shades. It was published by Powell as a “gothic fantasy” with cover art by Bill Hughes. By 1978, Wagner had revised the book as Darkness Weaves. It was published by Coronet in Europe with a cover by Chris Achilleos. It was also published in a more popular edition the same year by Warner Books with an equally great cover by Frank Frazetta. That version was reprinted again in 1983. The ebook version was published by Gateway in 2014. The novel is also included in a large omnibus titled Gods in Darkness, which was published in 2002 by Night Shade Books with a cover by Ken Kelly.

Darkness Weaves introduces a character named Kane, who is best described by some fans as the very best elements of Robert E. Howard’s Conan and Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melnibone. On page 163 of this 292-page paperback, Kane’s murky origin tale is told.

“Kane was one of the first true men - born into a hostile world of strange ancient beings. In this dawn world of humanity, Kane defied the insane god who had created his race – an experiment that had turned out far from the creator’s expectations. This demented elder god dabbled at creating a race of mindless creatures whose only existence would be to amuse and delight him. He almost succeeded, until Kane rebelled against this stifling paradise and spurred the young race to independent will. He killed his own brother, who sought to oppose his heresy, thus bringing violent death as well as rebellion to the infant mankind. Disgusted at the failure of his depraved design, the god abandoned his creation. And for his act of defiance, Kane was cursed with immortality – doomed to roam this world under the shadow of violence and death.”

Wagner’s villain protagonist (yes Kane is an evil guy) is born out of the combination of Biblical prophecy found in the book of Genesis – that of Satan rebelling against God and falling from grace to a cursed oblivion and that of Cain, who committed the first sin in the Bible by murdering his brother Abel. Readers learn that Kane never ages and has a fast-healing factor that is like Marvel’s Wolverine. His wounds heal at a remarkably fast pace. While Kane can surely die (we think), his skill in combat is unprecedented. No one can best him in battle, so the fatal blow to head or heart never seems to occur. In one vivid series of images presented to an evil priestess (more on her later), readers see Kane battling through toppled towers, fire-scarred cities and engaged in combat with giant demons or running up castle stairways fleeing from werewolves. It is easy to gain this feeling of epic greatness associated with the character. There is a lot to unpack here, but the author brilliantly shields the reader from Kane’s detailed past. Instead, only one tale is to be told, and Darkness Weaves presents that story – two empires colliding as Kane wrestle’s control of a navy fleet.

Without giving too much of the story away, the general premise is that two men track down Kane in a coffin-filled, rain-drenched cave to make a proposal. An island federation known as the Thovnosian Empire is ruled by a monarch named Maril. There’s a backstory of family relations and betrayal that led to Maril torturing and supposedly killing his wife Effrel after she had an affair with his nephew. But the horribly mutilated wife secretly survived and is now preparing an awesome military campaign to crush Maril and take over the empire.

Kane has a connection to this empire because they formed the federation to defeat him. In his early buccaneering days, Kane ravished these island coasts with his army of cutthroat pirates. So, who better to lead Effrel’s navy fleet than Kane? If Kane accepts the job, his reward will be a hand in the spoils of war – his own island kingdom. But, Kane secretly is planning on helping Effrel win the war so he can eventually overthrow her.

This is an epic book despite its rather short length of less than 400-pages. Wagner sets the table with some world building while also presenting histories for the major characters that make up the two warring factions. While there is plenty of action, readers do need to exercise patience while the author builds to the grand finale. There are numerous side-plots featuring characters involved with each other, fighting with one another, spying on the campaigns, and ultimately betraying family and friends in a quest for greed. The violence is gore-soaked and barbaric, but nothing extremely graphic or disturbing.

Additionally, Wagner’s writing is a mix of fantasy and sword-and-sorcery. There’s a Lovecraft-like dark fiction etched into the finer details of the plot, mainly how Effrel has a secret alliance with an other-worldly cosmic horror. This part of the story involves sacrifices, pentagrams, body-swapping, and tentacles – lots of tentacles.

Darkness Weaves is one of the very best sword-and-sorcery novels I’ve read. While soaked in all of the 1970s weirdness, it still has a unique literary escapism that reaches Shakespeare-styled revenge-drama. Wagner is an incredible writer that doesn’t give too much away with his style and presentation. I can’t wait to read even more of these Kane novels and short stories.

Buy a copy of this book HERE.