Caine Black Knife

Caine Black Knife

by Matthew Stover

NOOK Book(eBook)

View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


In Heroes Die and Blade of Tyshalle, Matthew Stover created a new kind of fantasy novel, and a new kind of hero to go with it: Caine, a street thug turned superstar, battling in a future where reality shows take place in another dimension, on a world where magic exists and gods are up close and personal. In that beautiful, savage land, Caine is an assassin without peer, a living legend born from one of the highest-rated reality shows ever made. That season, Caine almost single-handedly defeated–and all but exterminated–the fiercest of all tribes: the Black Knives. But the shocking truth of what really took place during that blood-drenched adventure has never been revealed . . . until now.

Thirty years later, Caine returns to the scene of his greatest triumph–some would say greatest crime–at the request of his adopted brother Orbek, the last of the true Black Knives. But where Caine goes, danger follows, and he soon finds himself back in familiar territory: fighting for his life against impossible odds, with the fate of two worlds hanging in the balance.

Just the way Caine likes it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345509710
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/14/2008
Series: The Acts of Caine , #3
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 372
Sales rank: 438,582
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Matthew Stover is perhaps best known for his four Star Wars novels, Star Wars: The New Jedi Order: Traitor; Star Wars: Shatterpoint; Star Wars: Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor; and the novelization of the movie Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith. He has also written several fantasy novels, including Iron Dawn and Jericho Moon, and four science fiction/fantasy stories featuring a hero named Caine.

Read an Excerpt


You are CAINE (featured Actor: Pfnl. Hari Michaelson)
MASTER: NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION, UNDER PENALTY OF LAW. © 2187 Adventures Unlimited Inc. All rights reserved.

The dirt-colored cloud spreads wide, hugging the horizon, draining into hollows of the distant hills. “That’s them,” I say to no one in particular. The bloody sun behind my left shoulder stains cloud and hills together, and the shadow of the escarpment overhead spreads like oil across the badlands. Tizarre stares. Her face goes pinched, and her knuckles whiten on the scabbard of her broadsword. “You’re sure? How can you be sure?” I could quote Sun Tzu at her: Dust high and sharp will be chariots. Dust low and wide is infantry, but instead I shrug and hand her the monocular. If Sun Tzu had ever seen infantry like this, he would’ve crapped his silk fucking pajamas. Tizarre puts the monocular to her eye, and what’s left of her color drains out of her cheeks. “Shapes in the cloud...” A whisper. “A lot of them.” I nod at Rababˆl. “Maybe you want to have a look, huh?” Platinum flashes in the flick-flick-flick of the coin-size disk that appears, disappears, and appears again between Rababˆl’s stubby fingers: this is what he does instead of thinking. His jowls, gone slack and sweat-streaked through the grey-coating dust, belie his carelessly nimble hands. “We have only a tendays’ supplies. We cannot afford any delay; our backers–” “Aren’t about to get assboned by a couple hundred ogrilloi. Unlike, say, us.” I lean on the parapet and look down into the rumpled badlands. “If that band weren’t coming here, we could have maybe broken camp and scattered into the wadis. Maybe.”

“Get away? You mean retreat? Run? Flee?” Marade gives me a reproachful stare I can see upside down in her impressively curved cuirass. Must have caught her at prayer: she’s in full armor, and I can’t pretend I don’t like the look. She gives whole new meaning to the word breastplate. The twist of scorn on her face favors her–S&M cheesecake on steroids. “I would dislike to use the C-word–”

“My name’s a C-word.”

Her sudden booming laugh spills blond hair down her back. The hair’s almost as shiny as her armor, and I can’t help thinking one more time that I could really kinda get into her if she ever gave me look one. Those thighs... man. She could crush my pelvis like a biscuit. “But we cannot let them simply drive us like woodcocks, can we? Without a single engagement?”

“You’d know more than me about wood cocks.” Her smile slips a little. Sure: dyke jokes. Brilliant. That’ll make her like me. “One engagement is all we’ll get.”

“We have more than two dozen men under arms–”

“Porters with swords.”

Pretornio, fumbling within his cassock: “With the Skills of Dal’kannith Wargod, those porters–”

“Sure. Those porters.” I make a face. “You think they’re looking to fight ogrilloi on five royals a month? They’re just hired labor.”

The platinum disk suddenly stills. “Need I point out–” Rababˆl’s scowl probably used to really impress teenage apprentice necromancers. “–that you, Caine, are yourself ‘just hired labor’?”

“Shit, no. You remind me twelve times a fucking day.” This work-for-hire stuff sucks dogshit. The best boss in the world is still only a butt-whisker this side of a collar and a whip. “So if you ignore my advice, you’re not exactly getting your money’s worth, huh?”

“Perhaps–” Pretornio coughs a wad of dust out of his throat, and wipes sand from his lips with the back of one bloodstained sacramental glove. “Perhaps we should, um, pray. For guidance–?”

“Maybe he’s right.” Dark swipes underline Tizarre’s eyes when she lowers the monocular. She’s talking about me, not the Lipkan priest. Out of all of them, she’s probably the only one who buys what I’ve told them. A close-up view–courtesy of Mr. Zeiss–of a few hundred ogrilloi converging on you in that twenty-mile-an-hour grizzly-bear lope can make a believer out of anybody. “Maybe we need to run. Right now.”

That gets the partners squabbling again. Everybody’s worried about their fucking money.


I let them argue for a little, then I break it up with a sharp “Hey. Nobody said run now. We can’t run. They’re coming here.”

They stop and stare at me like I just blew tentacles out my nose. I swing an arm over the parapet at the fever-tossed bedsheet of the Boedecken badlands. Wadis spray out from the base of the city in a sagebrush tangle that used to drain off whatever dead river once fed this hellhole. Though a thousand folds cover you from pursuers at ground level, from this high up the cliff wall you can see the bottom of every twist. Probably why those millennium-dead elves built a city here in the first place. “Once they hit these ruins, where are we gonna hide?”

Rababˆl’s gallowglass Stalton nods toward the dusk-shadowed lip of the plateau that eclipses half our sky. “What about upland?”

“You’ve seen it. A tabletop for five days’ ride. Rising to the mountains. We can’t even hide over the horizon.”

He nods, understanding. Grim. “At least we’d have a head start.”

I could get to like him. We working stiffs oughta stick together. Except I keep wanting to smack the crap out of Rababˆl, and if I try it Stalton’ll stomp me into a Caine-shaped grease stain. Not personal. Just his job. But it puts a cramp in our friendship.

I give him a shrug. “Nothing outpaces a hunting ogrillo. Especially not us.”

“A Cloak.” Tizarre’s looking a little wild around the eyes. “I can do a Cloak–”

“No, you can’t.”

“It’s just grassland, right? Right? Grassland’s easy. It all looks alike anyway. Easy. Even all of us. Even the horses. I could–I really could–

“–waste your time,” I finish for her. “Ogrilloi are scent hunters. How good’s your nose?”

“How do you know they’re coming here?” The platinum disk vanishes again, and Rababˆl heaves himself off the stone-cut bench. He joins me at the parapet. “They could just be–I don’t know, following a herd of bison. Migrating. Something.”

I open my hand toward Tizarre. She puts the monocular in it, and I pass it to Rababˆl. He hefts it appreciatively. “Nice metalwork. Dwarven?”

“Yeah. Dwarven.” Like I’d tell you even if I could. “Pick up the vanguard just below that double notch.”

He puts the monocular to his eye. He flinches, and has to swallow twice before he can say, “Yes.”

I don’t blame him for the flinch. “Now track straight down, about halfway from them to here. See the two riders?”

He smothers an indistinct curse. “They look human.”


That’s what the ogrilloi are chasing–?”


“They’re leading them straight here!”

I spread my hands silently: quod erat demonstrandum.

Everybody goes quiet, and their gazes all turn inward while they calculate what that might mean. I flash my teeth at Pretornio. “You want to pray? Pray the grills catch those guys.”

He stiffens, and color flares high on his cheekbones. “I will not! We should be trying to find a way to help them–”

“I’d help them, if I could. I’d help them to a couple arrows through their skulls.” I get the monocular back from Rababˆl and squint through it again. “But my bow doesn’t have the range. And anyhow I’m a crappy shot.”

Thunder gathers on Marade’s face, and her eyes go colder than her Ice Queen cheekbones. “Caine–” She leans toward me. “I shall decide that was a joke.

The chill in her eyes reminds me that for all her bluff good-natured piety, you don’t get ordained a Knight of Khryl unless you really kinda enjoy killing people.

“Decide whatever you want.” I can do that I like to kill look too. “If those guys make it here, the grills’ll come after them. Here. Looking around. Searching. Sniffing. Hunting humans.”

I let them roll this around their mouths for a second or two. They seem to find the flavor bitter.

“There’s two of those guys. There’s thirty-eight of us. There’s a couple hundred ogrilloi. At least. Do the fucking math.”

They turn on each other and everybody starts to talk at once. I shouldn’t have mentioned math: they’re arguing about their sonofabitching money again.

Ever wonder what the gods think of money? Just look at the people they give it to.

I bring up the monocular. One horse is down, struggling, vomiting bloody foam. The other rider has turned back, whipping his horse to reach his partner, but his own horse is stumbling already, barely even carrying itself–it’ll never manage a gallop with them riding double–then the horse stumbles again and pitches into a face-first roll, the rider sprawling from the cliff shadow into the bloody sunset, and he comes up limping but still humping ass for his partner who’s pinned under his dying horse, and maybe they might get him free before the ogrilloi get there, but even if they do they’re on foot now and they don’t have a chance of reaching even the scrub-covered fold of dirt that was once the city’s ringwall. They don’t have anything like a chance, and I have this sinking knot at the bottom of my throat and a cold twist in my guts and I–

I lower the spyglass and stare at it in the palm of my hand: an abstract shape of brushed steel that no longer makes sense to my eye. I looked into the distance and got a twenty-power view of myself. What a sick, sick sonofabitch I am.

I hate that those guys are on foot now...

Not that I was rooting for them. No. Not even that I don’t really want to see what the ogrilloi will do to them. If I don’t want to see it, all I have to do is put away the Zeiss.


I’m disappointed...

What the fuck is wrong with me?

In some shit-rotten depth of my cesspit heart, I want the ogrilloi to trap us here.

I want them to hunt us through the ruins. To catch and kill and eat these men and women with whom I have eaten and drunk and joked and slept. To catch and kill and eat even me.

In this stark mirror, I finally recognize my face.

Things just aren’t ugly enough yet.

I want this to get all the way worse. To go so dark it erases the memory of day.

It’s got nothing to do with balancing on the bubble between Hot Prospect and Never-Was. Nothing to do with slipping backward into the second half of my twenties, trailing three years of hit-challenged Adventures. Those are only surface images. Reflections on a black pool.

A deep one.

I put the monocular to my eye again, unable to believe I actually want to see what I want to see–but I do. I do. God help me.

I want maximum bad.

The guy’s out from under his dying horse. He’s got a rotten leg, limping raggedly, leaning on his partner, shin pouring blood: compound fracture. Poor bastard doesn’t have a chance. Now it’s just a question of whether the grills’ll take them before they can kill themselves.

That sick greasy slime is back in the bottom of my throat, though I am relieved. I really am. I know too well what’ll happen to us if we’re taken by ogrilloi.

But at the same time, y’know...

“It’s over,” I say, glass still to my eye. “This has all become academic.”

The discussion behind me breaks off and Rababˆl’s breath starts to warm the back of my right ear. “They’re caught? Let me see.”

I don’t move. “You really want to?”

I can’t help thinking of Dad: he used to tell me praying is only talking to yourself. A useful form of meditation, nothing more. But that was back home. Things are different, here.

So if my prayer is to be granted, I should probably figure out what the hell I’m asking for.

Tyshalle? You listening?

The humans crest a spine in the badlands and go skidding down the slope into a wadi. They sprawl on the sand-dusted rocks; the uninjured one manages to sit by pulling himself up a scrub joshua hand-over-hand. He leans on it for a second or two, watching his friend’s blood soak into the thirsty earth. He says something, and his partner casts his arm across his eyes, lies there like he’s not going to answer–and a strange light kindles between them, an insubstantial liquid iridescence scattering prismatic splinters that spreads to touch them both, crawling their bodies in a halo of rainbow–

And they are gone.

In the dusty creekbed, only scuffs in the dirt and a black splotch of drying blood shows they were ever there.


I hear my own voice, dry as that empty creek. “How about that.”

“What? What’s happening?” Now they all cluster around me, demanding answers that my conditioning won’t let me give. Those guys were in my line of work.

They got pulled home.

Funny. I should tell Pretornio: the trick to getting your prayers granted is to ask for something that’s gonna happen anyway.

Okay. Not funny.

The ogrilloi are still coming at a gallop, following a trail they’re going to lose...on a straight line with the ruined city where we’re standing right now, which kindles a strange hot black anticipation down somewhere around my balls.
They’re coming. Here. They really are.

Hunting humans. Humans they’ll never find. Humans who no longer exist in this universe.

They’ll have to settle for us.

I raise the lens to take another look at their approach.

On they come: part bear, part gorilla, all predatory leather-skinned dinosaur with warthog tusks and fighting claws as long as the knives in my rib sheaths. They run with spear and shield and bow strapped across their hogshead-size backs, their long gnarled arms becoming front legs for that ground-eating lope. It’s almost enough to raise a smile.
For a second or two.

Then one big bastard pauses for a second to rear up on his haunches for a better view of the land ahead, and I get a good look at the blazon, the clan sign, painted on his chest, and all at once that anticipation in my balls goes ice cold and my scrotum’s clenching hard enough to squeeze tears from my eyes. Because the blazon’s a single swipe of obsidian angled from left shoulder to right rib, gleaming as though the paint’s still wet, curved and wickedly pointed in the shape of an ogrillo’s fighting claw.

I know that design. Everybody knows that design.

Okay. I take it back. I take it all back. Fuck all the way worse.

Now I’m fucking scared, and I want to go home, and that’s not gonna happen, it’s never gonna happen because those guys got pulled exactly there to do exactly this to exactly us, and my guts dissolve into water chilled by the column of ice that is my spine, and all I can say is–


I shake my head and start to laugh. I can’t help myself. Out of all the clans in the whole fucking Boedecken–

Those are Black Knives.

I never even knew what maximum bad looks like. That’s why I can’t stop laughing.

Because I guess I just found out.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Caine Black Knife 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Rajun008 More than 1 year ago
Caine Blackknife is part of the "Acts of Caine" series, written by Matthew Stover. Before you read this book, you MUST read Heroes Die and Blade of Tyshalle first. Otherwise, you'll be confused about characters, places, events, pretty much the whole book. This book brings up a lot that the author assumes you know by know, so if you haven't gotten into the series yet, this is not a book for you. If you have already read the previous two installments, however, you will fall head over heals for this one. The book begins with Caine travelling to get his adopted ogrillo brother, Orbek Blackknife, out of trouble with a group called the Knights of Khyrl. Sounds simple, but quickly evolves into a labyrinth of confusion, plotting, and chaos. Orbek had been associating with the Smoke Hunt, a clan of orgrillos trying to break free from the oppressive rule of the Knights. Caine is brought in because the Smoke Hunt is using markings similar to that of the Black Knifes, an orgrillo clan that Caine had personally decimated. The Knights want Caine to destroy the Smoke Hunt like he did with the Black Knives. Interwoven in the normal plot are flashbacks that allow the reader to understand the events of the Black Knife massacre and show how Caine was able to rise to the #1 actor in the world. As with the rest of the series, Stover makes sure that all combat and fighting scenes are well described and entirely plausible. The immersion of the book allows the reader to visualize every gunshot, punch, and throw. The characters are still amazingly well writen, with several fan favorites (t'Passe! YEAAAAA!!!!!) making a re-appearance. It's an amazing book, but like all great things, it comes with caveats. First, as I mentioned above, the book is part of a series. It starts off expecting that you know the background, and ends with an obvious, but highly amusing, tie-in to a sequel. If you want stand-alone stories, this is not the book for you. Second, the language and graphic nature of this book is astounding. F-bombs are liberally sprinkled throughout the book, along with s-words and other swears. Also as explicit is the violence. Stover truly tries to create a level of gore in some scenes that sound like a deleted scene from a Hostel movie. For the squemish and easily offended, again, this is not the book, series, or even the AUTHOR for you. But even with all of that, even despite the violence, language, and demand of pre-reading study, the one saving grace of this book is its originality. It is impossible to find any other fantasy book like this, with its brilliant discussions of religion, philosophy, etc. It also takes time to make sure the characters actually seem like real people with gray moral areas, instead of the usual good vs. evil banality that plauges the fantasy genre. So my final verdict: Read this book. Read this series. Embrace one of the greatest authors of the fanasy genre and enjoy his twisted characters and world. You will never, ever, EVER experience anything like it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A bit of a letdown but that's partly because the first 2 books were so good. The constant cussing in the book was distracting in that it didn't add anything.
mtwaldman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Heroes Die is my all time favorite book. Stover knows how to write a compelling novel that is both action packed and a compelling story. I enjoyed this book better than The Blade of Tyshalle (Book 2), but for me, it still was not as good as Heroes Die. I would recommend this read as a good book, but the first book in the CAINE books, for me was the best.
saltmanz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastic. The third Act of Caine contains two intertwining narratives: one replays the events from Retreat From the Boedecken, the Adventure that launched Caine's career 25 years ago and made him a star. The other plotline revolves around Caine returning to the Boedecken, three years after events from the previous book. There's a couple of mysteries rolling around, involving Caine's adopted brother Orbek, something called the Smoke Hunt, and a gate back to Earth. Unlike earlier volumes, this book is told entirely from Caine's perspective, which naturally means the language is even cruder than previous books -- or, perhaps, just as crude, but more concentrated. The other consequence of the limited POV is the fact that when Caine doesn't know what's going on, neither does the reader. This makes for some enjoyable segments of 'unreliable narration', but it also makes understanding the mystery plot more difficult -- especially considering the sometimes-unreliable narrator Caine doesn't always announce to the reader when he's made a connection toward solving the case. Having said all that, despite starting out a bit slowly, the book really picks up in the second half, and is altogether a fantastic addition to the Acts. What's really amazing is how seamlessly the additional backstory provided here fits into that given in the earlier books; one becomes convinced that this character and his history, and that of his two worlds, is real; that Stover figured all of this out years ago, is only slowly letting us peek in on the worlds he's created. One last comment, and that's that book is only part one of two. It doesn't really end on a cliffhanger, per se, but it is a definite To Be Continued moment... I can't wait to read the further Acts of Caine.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This entire series is criminally under rated. If you like sci-fi at all, you owe it to yourself to read these books. This is my favorite series of books. Period.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago