Bloodstone by Karl Edward Wagner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I count myself as a fan of “dark fantasy”, and Bloodstone was an excellent find in the genre. If you enjoy Conan and other grim worlds, the realm of Wagner’s anti-hero Kane should be right up your alley.
I ran across this book while scouring for older fantasy works, since I have been getting a bit bored with a lot of the modern fantasy I’ve been checking out as of late. Plus I have been playing Dark Souls, and it put me in the mood to read something set in a brutal realm. Kane is an interesting character, enigmatic and self-serving, but he’s the type of guy you love to hate. Wagner’s universe is oppressive and unforgiving; full of demons, vicious sword fights, and dark sorcery. His prose is DENSE, and the vocabulary he uses to build his vision demands full attention. I found myself re-reading pages to ensure I knew what was happening.
If I can level a few criticisms, the middle of the book lags a bit, but it’s not so horrible a slog that I became bored. Also, the authors penchant for “SAT words” (he was also a psychologist) ran a little rampant and he picked a select few to overuse. You can only read the word “coruscant” so many times before it becomes irritating. There was also some verbiage that I can only describe as medical terminology that arrived late in the story and felt a bit out of place.
Outside of those minor faults, it’s an excellent story that pulls no punches in creating an intense atmosphere that blends dark fantasy and science fiction. I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a challenging read that is at the opposite end of the spectrum from the “Tolkien-esque” heroic high fantasy.
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