Spectre of the Black Rose (1999)

Where the function of Knight of the Black Rose was to transport Lord Soth from Krynn to Ravenloft, Spectre of the Black Rose was written to remove him from the Demiplane of Dread. It is a labyrinthine novel of plots, with a dizzying number of characters, including a truly bizarre serial killer called the Bloody Cobbler (worst name or best name?).

The plot focuses on an attempted coup against Soth. The narrative seems disjointed from chapter to chapter, thanks to the myriad of character perspectives, but gradually, all is revealed to the reader in a strikingly multifaceted way.

I don’t want to get too far into the weeds of critical theory but Spectre of the Black Rose seems to me to be a literary application of the notion of the grand narrative as described by the French post-modernist philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard. A grand, or meta, narrative is a story about a story, that is, a large event told through many smaller stories and perspectives in an attempt to portray that event in totality. Lyotard was speaking in a socio-political context, using the notion of the grand narrative as a critique of Marxism and its habit of using its tenants to explain every facet of history, but his definition can easily apply to perspective-shifting stories like Rashomon, or Spectre of the Black Rose.

I’m not bringing this up to debate critical theory, but rather to illustrate the intricate construction of Lowder’s work. You can totally read it as just another licensed fantasy novel, if you want! But there’s a lot of other stuff going on in there if you want to dig for it.

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