After I finished Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles, I decided that it was time I finally looked at Kurt Edward Wagner’s Kane stories. So, from a young adult series to an immortal, amoral mass murderer. Quite a jump.
I first read about Kane in the 80s in an article in an old Dragon Magazine. However, at the time and for quite a while after that, all of the books were out of print or at least hard to find. Now they are all available as ebooks :D
What I had read about Kane made me assume he was a punk rock Elric. However, after reading Death Angel’s Shadow, I would also describe him as an erudite Conan with absolutely no moral compass. He does have Elric’s brooding self-pity but it isn’t nearly as moving because all of his issues come directly from his own bad decisions.
Kane is a very weird and fascinating protagonist, in no small part because he is not even remotely heroic. He may be the biblical Caine (he certainly claims to be) He has been cursed to only die through violence and he is not going to give the mad god who cursed him or the world the satisfaction of dying. He is also a master warrior, an expert sorcerer, a polyglot and good at just about everything. Which is admittedly justified since he’s spent thousands of years doing stuff but does make him ridiculously powerful. Oh and apparently his goal in life is to be an evil overlord.
Interestingly, all three stories in Death Angel’s Shadow have Kane on the defense and running away from his bad decisions. Which does create conflict but still doesn’t make him sympathetic. At one point, someone accuses a crusader who has pledged to kill Kane to make the world a better place of doing more evil than Kane. The crusader is a total monster but, come on, Kane’s centuries of doing horrible stuff still makes him worse.
If Elric was written to be the anti-Conan, Kane manages to be the anti-Elric while still being an anti-Conan at the same time. He feels like an experiment of bringing pain and sorrow to misanthropic, misogynistic world. I have heard that the later books are better so I will try them. However, after years of wondering about Kane, I did expect more.