Literature / Kane

The Kane series is a Heroic Fantasy series by Karl Edward Wagner, about a Barbarian Anti-Hero or Villain Protagonist who has been cursed by a Mad God to an eternal life of wandering.

The main series consists of three novels, Bloodstone, Dark Crusade, and Darkness Weaves. There are also many short stories, which have been collected in several different volumes. The character Kane also makes some guest appearances in other Wagner stories. Dark Crusade was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 1977.

Not to be confused with Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane. Or Charles Foster Kane. Or the WWE's Kane. Or the Messiah. Or Rick Riordan's Kane Family.


  • 0% Approval Rating: If Kane spends sufficient time in a region, he will become hated by everyone there as a consequence of his own actions, necessitating that he flee to some distant land. How long it takes depends on the scope and magnitude of his activities.
  • Action Girl: Teres in Bloodstone.
  • Adventures in Comaland: Anyone who invokes the power of the Dark Muse gets to have one in a random dream. Unfortunately the Dark Muse doesn't care whether she puts you in a nice dream or a nightmare.
  • Ancient Tomb: In Darkness Weaves Kane hides in an old burial cavern on the side of a mountain full of such tombs. These became abandoned because of a new religion that has introduced cremation and since they are believed to be ghoul-infested (not without reason), it is a perfect hiding place.
  • Anti-Hero: Kane and some of his companions.
  • Artifact of Doom: In Bloodstone, Kane wants to use the eponymous device, an ancient, sentient, evil construct of alien origin and potentially limitless power, to achieve his aims. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
  • Asshole Victim: Ionor in "Raven's Eyrie" (in an attempt to mitigate a Moral Event Horizon by Kane).
  • Author Avatar: Cody Lennox in "At First Just Ghostly". He's an American writer invited to a London s-f/fantasy convention. He is also burnt out, drinks much too much and cannot come to grips with the loss of his wife - just like Wagner in real life.
  • Badass Biker: In "Deep in the Depths of the Acme Warehouse", set in modern New Orleans, Kane and his sidekick Blacklight ride Harleys. Probably because they are the closest equivalent to a horse.
  • Badass in Distress: Kane himself at the beginning of "Raven's Eyrie". He's badly wounded (even for his immense healing skills), carried by his few faithful men into an inn run by his victim bent on Revenge, he is pursued by a ruthless bounty hunter, not to mention the Demon Lord himself. And the only person that seems to want to help him is his daughter Klesst.
  • Bizarre Alien Psychology: In "Cold Light", Rehhaile's psychic abilities reveal Kane's emotions to be frightening and alien, which leads her to be cautious when tending to him.
  • Black and Gray Morality.
  • Cain and Abel: Kane is based on Cain from The Bible. He was one of the first humans, created by a Mad God. Kane was cursed for disobeying the god and killing his brother Abel, in this way bringing violence to newly-born humanity.
  • The Chick: M'Cori in Darkness Weaves. She even brings imprisoned Lages flowers to cheer him up.
  • Child by Rape: Kane's daughter Klesst. Her mother Ionor was kidnapped and repeatedly raped by Kane and when she ran away, she was already pregnant. Klesst grows up knowing perfectly well who her father was, since she shares his characteristic looks.
  • Creepy Blue Eyes/Icy Blue Eyes: Most people don't like looking Kane straight in the eyes, which burn with inhuman hatred and bloodlust.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Kane is "cursed" with immortality and the ability to heal all wounds. Fortunately, he rarely angsts. He mostly just kicks butt.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: In "The Dark Muse", Opyros is a somewhat well known poet, but not very popular because of the morbid tone of his works. In subsequent stories, long after his death, every literate character seems to know who he is and he is considered a genius.
  • The Devil: Appears himself in "At First Just Ghostly" as Kane's antagonist.
  • Disability Superpower: Rehhaile from "Cold Light" is blind from birth. However, she can look into other people's minds to look through their eyes, she can also perceive their feelings and in some cases influence them.
  • Elder Gods: Gods of Chaos in '"Sing the Last Song of Valdese".
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Scylredi in Darkness Weaves, the titular Bloodstone and others.
  • Evil Albino: Evingolis form "Reflections on the Winter of my Soul". White hair, pale skin, pink eyes, highly talented musician and a vicious werewolf who likes to bite a woman and then rape her, while she is still warm and blood is still flowing from the wound.
  • Evil Redhead or at least very shady redhead.
  • Evil Tainted the Place: In Dark Crusade, Kane tells Erill that any place containing a portal to one of the demon worlds, such as the Lair of Yslsl, will "soon become ill-omened and shunned by the wise."
  • Evil Versus Evil: Kane is often pitted against villains even worse than him.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: The setting of "Lynortis Reprise" is Western front of World War I, complete with trench warfare, poisonous gases and tragic fate of young men who were wounded in combat.
  • Genius Bruiser: Kane himself. Described as "a bit over six feet and carrying past three hundred pounds of bone, sinew, and muscle", he is surprisingly fast for his bulk and can use his sword of Carsultyal steel proficiently. However, he also used to be a sorcerer, can speak several languages including the Old Tongue, knows history and literature (and often also knew the authors personally). And he once performed an emergency tracheotomy.
  • God Is Dead: According to Kane in "At First Just Ghostly": "There was a god. I killed him."
  • Green Eyes: A lot of women from the stories: Teres from Bloodstone, Erill from Dark Crusade, Dessylyn from "Undertow".
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Efrel from Darkness Weaves. Her mother was raped by Scylredi and lost her mind. Efrel's mixed bloods explains why she could survive so much, her talent for dark arts and ability to communicate with Scylredi.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: In "The Gothic Touch", Kane teams up with Elric.
  • Kill 'em All: In some stories, almost all named characters die and only Kane survives.
  • Knight Templar: Gaethaa from "Cold Light", devoted to fighting evil - up to and including evil's unwilling servants and slaves.
  • The Lad-ette: Teres from Bloodstone. She wants to be her father's successor in a warrior culture, so she drinks, fights and hunts like other men - she even gets into a knife-throwing contest over who will spend the night with her father's female slave.
    She was a strange creature, Teres, who had devoted most of her 25 years to denying her femininity, and with startling success. Her features were heavily drawn, though not masculine, and might have been called pretty, but for the thin scar crossing one cheek and a nose twice broken and never perfectly set.
  • Left for Dead: Lages in Darkness Weaves, Jarvo in Dark Crusade
  • Lightning Reveal: In Darkness Weaves It was a dark and stormy night when Arbas the Killer and young Imel were waiting for Kane in an old tomb... extended burst of chain lightning split the midnight skies and threw a flickering bluish light on the figure just entering the crypt. Startled, Imel was unable to suppress a gasp at the sight of the looming cloaked figure silhouetted darkly against the lightning-blasted torrent.
  • Lost Technology: The Scylredi technology in Darkness Weaves, the Bloodstone from Bloodstone.
  • Mad Artist: Opyros from "Dark Muse". He is a young poet obsessed with the idea of writing a perfect poem about Gods of Darkness. To this end he befriends shady characters (like Kane himself), takes dangerous drugs and finally uses the titular Dark Muse, a dangerous artifact of old times. The experience drives him insane but helps him write his perfect poem which drives all listeners insane or kills them.
  • Mad God: The creator of humankind. And since he created humans in his own image, they inherited his madness.
  • Made of Iron: Kane can take immense amounts of punishment and still fight on.
    • And Efrel, considering what she survived.
  • Magic from Technology: It is suggested that all magic is like this.
  • Mayfly-December Romance: Basically, every woman Kane is with, with the sole exception of Naichoryss. Especially Sesi from "Lynortis Reprise", who is a teen. He did try to make one of his lovers immortal. It did not go well.
  • Mind Rape: When Kane uses the Lair of Yslsl to escape from Ceddi, Yslsl hits him hard with this in order to feed off of his emotions. Unfortunately for Yslsl, Kane hits back.
  • Opportunistic Bastard: Esketra from Black Crusade. She uses her good looks to her advantage, first seducing aspiring general Javro and then living in comfort as Orted Ak-Ceddi's lover. And she would betray anyone if she thought it would help her. Unfortunately for her, women are immune to her charms and Erill really wants to get her Revenge and rightly suspects that Esketra would be able to convince Javro to forgive her.
  • The Plague: What happened to the land of Demornte in the Back Story to "Cold Light". When Kane arrives, the whole rich country has been turned into the land of the dead, with few survivors living their desolate lives in the capital Sebbei. It was also what granted Rehhaile her mystical powers.
    Dead Demornte. Demornte whose towns lie empty, whose farms are slowly returning to forest. Demornte where death has lain and life will no more linger. Land of death where only shadows move in empty cities, where the living are but a handful to the countless dead.
  • Portal Door: Yslsl's lair in Dark Crusade. However, it is very heavily guarded.
  • Precursors: The Scylredi, Krelran and other unnamed "elder races" in Darkness Weaves and Bloodstone. Also Dwassllir, the last king of giants, in "Two Suns Setting".
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Subverted in Darkness Weaves: Roget, Lages and M'Cori each have their fortunes told. Roget's prophecy comes true, but the other two do not.
  • Religion of Evil: The cult of Sataki in Dark Crusade.
  • Revenge: A lot. Three of Gaethaa's men in "Cold Light", Jarvo in Dark Crusade, Efrel in Darkness Weaves, Sataki cultists in "Reflections on the Winter of my Soul", Ionor in "Raven's Eyrie". Apart from Efrel, everyone seems to want revenge on Kane himself.
    • "Sing the Last Song of Valdese" is about cultist Korjonos's revenge on men who raped and killed his lover and mutilated him. It took him seven times seven years to achieve his goal.
  • Shrouded in Myth: People who encounter Kane often become uneasy at his uncanny resemblance to an evil "Kane" from myth and legend. Probably because he's the same Kane.
  • Sinister Subway: In "At First Just Ghostly" an abandoned tunnel of London underground is the place where burnt-out writer Cody Lennox meets Satan himself. As well as Kane and Klesst.
  • Time Abyss: Kane has been around at least since the end of the "Golden Age" of mankind's creation. Necessarily so, since he caused the end of that age.
  • Villain Protagonist: Kane.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Kane has a moment of this in "Cold Light". He gets over it when Lord Gaethaa's men come to kill him.