‘The Black Crusade’ by Richard Harland is an example of ‘Speculative Fiction’ and small press publication at its very best. Written as a prequel to the cult classic ‘The Vicar of Morbing Vyle’ it purports to be a memoir of a reluctant follower of the ‘The Black Crusade’, a Gothic satirical quest across Eastern Europe. It reads a lot easier than Morbing Vile, as the Crusade is a lot more relaxed style of story telling.
In the hands of a bog standard fantasy writer, the story of the Black Crusade could probably be dragged out into a trilogy. Stylistically, Richard Harland’s book is very much an enthusiastic and exuberant treatment that is (as a prequel to Morbing Vile) sufficiently confident to be free to play with its subject material and its narrative format in a manner that is both fun and horrifying. It leaves no trope unturned. It is a book of Pratchet level ingenuity and moments of Milliganesque observation and pythonesque humour (almost as funny as Chuck McKenzie) and it deserves re-printing and a wider audience.
This book is one of the few I have read recently that left me thinking about the world left behind at the turn of the final page. I was left thinking, how did the Black Crusaders get together? Exactly what had the Marquis of Morbon Villica been getting up to before his execution? I think there are sufficient unanswered questions to suggest that still more prequels should follow.
Book reviews are always welcome. If you have an opinion on a book you have read, email us a review and share your thoughts with others in the reading community. View our review guildlines.