Sunday, January 6, 2019
Book Review: 'Blackest Knights' (Edited by C.T. Phipps)
‘They are both powerful cursed men. Also, now, very angry.’
C.T. Phipps has edited this anthology of dark fantasy/occult stories and has also added a story to the collection. The contributing authors are some of the best authorities of dark fiction around
The concept of the titular Black Knight is well explained in the Foreword – ‘The black knight is an iconic figure in fantasy stories and something that has wormed its way into our collective unconsciousness. Lord Soth, Darth Vader, the Witch King, Mordred, and countless others represent the dark figure who contrasts both a dishonorable rogue with the theoretical embodiment of chivalry. They often possess supernatural powers but sometimes don’t, just being monstrous hypocrites like Jaime Lannister or the Mountain. A few have some semblance of honor left, but this just underscores how far they’ve fallen. The original Black Knight was a minor character in the story of the Red Knight versus Sir Gareth. The Red Knight possessed supernatural strength that allowed him to kill a vast number of knights who had no chance against his sun-derived power (like an evil Superman). Gareth, of course, defeats him because it’s a heroic story but the character of the Red Knight always stuck with me because it turned out he murdered dozens of knights to draw out Sir Lancelot. You see, he wanted to impress his lady love and killing the most famous knight in the world was the best way to do that. In real life, the knights of the world were often the exact opposite of chivalry’s champions. Richard the Lionheart, greatest of all Christian Kings according to popular myth, massacred thousands of surrendered Muslim prisoners for no other reason than it was easier than feeding them. Robert the Bruce, liberator of Scotland from the yoke of the English, stabbed a guy to death in a church during a peace negotiation. Why? Because real life is more complicated than chivalric epics would have you believe. I’ve always had a love for the fallen knights of fiction and the heroes who didn’t prove to be especially good in the end. The desire to see the story from the perspective of Mordor’s champions is what led to the creation of Wraith Knight. Basically, what did the Ringwraiths think of their master and how would they have reacted if they could have escaped Sauron’s yoke? I was not too surprised to find out there were many other authors who shared my desire to write fantasy from the perspective of antiheroes, villains, and rogues. I also had fun with other antiheroes as Lucifer’s Star was a deconstruction of the feudal future which was popularized by Dune. The protagonist fully believed in things like honor, nobility, chivalry, and other things before realizing they were just excuses for his fellow transhumans to oppress others. It ended up turning him into just another wreck trying to put the pieces of his life back together on a pirate vessel. As for my story set in the Bright Falls Mysteries? That’s just a reminder one man’s hero is another man’s villain. Everyone else within had their own wonderful ideas about what happens when an honorable warrior breaks bad. I think you’ll love the work by David Niall Wilson, M.L. Spencer, Ulff Lehmann, James Alderdice, Jesse Teller, Paul Lavender, A.M. Justice, Matthew Johnson, Frank Martin, Allan Batchelder, Martin Owton, Richard Writhen, Matthew Davenport, and Michael Suttkus. Blackest Knights is a collection of more than a dozen stories written by some of my favorite writers. These are about antiheroes, fallen heroes, and champions of justice who aren’t very just. I think you’ll find the stories within to be fascinating. Because I like my fantasy like I like my protagonists’ armor and morals: black as night.’
Settle in for a series of fantasies that will entertain as well as disturb you. A fine collection, this.
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.