True confession, when the first Kane novel I read, Dark Crusade, did not impress me all that much. But I kept hearing from others just how good a writer Karl Edward Wagner was. So I gave it another try. I am glad I did!
Death Angel’s Shadow is some of the most hard-boiled Sword & Sorcery (KEW preferred to call it Epic Fantasy) that I have read. Kane is part Conan, part Elric, and I think part Charles Manson. Death Angel is a collection of three novellas where Kane tangles with cursed families, werewolves, dying cities, and the restless, hungry dead. Kane comes out on top, but only just.
The finest story here is “Cold Light”. A stalwart crusader pursues Kane into a remote wasteland. Kane’s multiple iniquities are never in doubt, but the hunter of monsters have an uncanny resemblance to their prey. KEW may not be a great stylist. I find his prose a bit too close to late-20th c. vernacular, it calls attention to itself when it should be silent and timeless. However, KEW manages a superb exploration of the razor thin line between good and evil that practically grabs the reader and slaps him across the face. I’m going to give Karl Edward Wagner’s stories more attention.