Thursday, December 8, 2011
Enjoying the Unique Character of Karl Edward Wagner’s Dark Crusade
During a recent reading of the late Karl Edward Wagner’s Dark Crusade (1976) a potential answer coalesced: Many readers want and expect deep characterization in their fiction, and it’s simply not a particularly strong suit of the swords and sorcery genre (or at least of classic swords and sorcery, circa 1930 through the early 1980s). Wagner is one of a handful of classic swords and sorcery authors to whom history has not been particularly kind*. His dark, God-accursed hero-villain Kane deserves a place alongside Conan or Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in the roll of great genre heroes, but is sadly left off many “best of” swords and sorcery lists. Relegated to the status of cult figure, Kane is the darling of heroic fantasy connoisseurs but unread of by many casual genre fans, and unheard of by most of the larger fantasy fan base.
Kane and many of his swords and sorcery ilk are not what most modern readers would consider fully realized characters. You just don’t get anything close to the same level of introspection and cradle to the grave development of Kane in Dark Crusade as you do of, say, Kvothe in Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind.
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