Since my buddy had dropped off a couple of Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane books and I wanted to make sure I returned them in a timely manner (unusual for me) so I read a second one, Darkness Weaves over the weekend. I have seen this book listed as one of five that Wagner wrote, and also as book #7 in the Kane Series, so not really sure which.
It is one of the two full length Kane novels that Wagner wrote, the other being Bloodstones. It is centered on Efrel, a princess from Pellin, one of the many kingdoms that comprise the extensive Thovnosian island empire (think hundreds of islands) and who is plotting a revolt against the ruler.
The story follows Kane as he flees to Pellin, where Efrel is believed to be dead after being tortured by the emperor. She is a sorceress and consorts with dark powers and elder beings who are believed to be gone or not remembered. Kane has a past history with the empire, including evil actions that led to its formation.
The books has what you would expect, magic, warfare, betrayal, naval and land combat, insanity, strange animals, occult rites, elder races, submarines and lasers. Well I really did not expect the last two but they were present. It has touches of a Lovecraft feel but seems to miss the dread and darkness that Lovecraft has in his stories, and Wagner has in later tales
From the start there is an air of inevitability to the story. Kane is hiding out due to some unmentioned evil, but he escapes. He flees by ship followed by faster ships, but escapes. He faces far superior odds in battles and prevails. He betrays his employer and escapes. There are also a few unexplained items that I wish were clearer. A god appears very briefly, makes a few comments and disappears for the rest of the book. Kane is pursued by authorities of the Lartroxian Combine, it would have been nice to know what he did to have it so dedicated to his capture- all of the roads have been blocked for months and it sent two of its biggest and fastest ships in pursuit.
I found it to be nowhere as inventive or original as the short stories but it seems that it is the first book that he wrote on Kane and it is pretty good. It moves smoothly and the characters are well defined and believable. Arabas the Assassin, Imel, Kane, Efrel and others all have real motives for their actions, which I like.
Going forward I will probably move away from Sword and Sorcery for a bit, a term I found that Wagner hated, but seems to have been coined specifically for his writing and revival of Robert E Howard. I do expect to read the others in this series at some time to see how they progress.