Review: Kalanon’s Rising
So it’s been a minute since we were involved with the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off run by Mark Lawrence, and I constantly find myself torn over the fact that we aren’t involved anymore. This annual contest is doing sooooo much good in finding some really good authors that have taken the self-publication route. Whether they plan on sticking to their guns for the long term or are hoping to gain the attention of a traditional publication house, you can’t deny the fact that the efforts Mark Lawrence (and all of the online review houses involved) is making for these authors is nothing but pure gold. Recently, we were approached by the author of a finalist in the current incarnation of the contest for a review, and I couldn’t help but accept.
KALANON’S RISING (Amazon) is the first book in the Agent’s of Kalanon series and was first published a few years ago. For the most part, the story revolves around the character of Sir Brannon Kesh. He is a champion of war and has killed many within his violent past, but has now turned his life to the preservation of life instead. He has chosen to become a Physician and in the opening gambit of this novel is given an apprentice to train and then is asked by the King to solve a murder. The individual that has been killed is the King’s very own nephew. The scene is covered in blood and it is immediately apparent to these intrepid investigators that there is an aspect of ritualism to the violence. These details flesh out their first hints as to who the perpetrators might be, and then they’re off and running with their investigation.
I don’t remember ever coming across a book that had been included in the Finalists list of the SPFBO that was written poorly, and this novel definitely keeps that trend going strong. It’s a fairly easy task to follow the plot and understand the setting and each of the individual set-pieces. The prose is clean and clear and easy to read. Development of the several characters of interest is pretty well-done. Secondary characters are easy to distinguish from one another, and all have a pretty straight-forward role to play within the story. I wasn’t as enamored with the POV character(s). Although there is some characterization for these individuals, I never really felt like any of them ever gelled very well or had solid motivations/direction other than Brannon. The largest difficulty I had by far though was that there were so many POV characters. At least eight, by my count. Granted, the most prominent of them all was arguably Brannon. Even with him driving the plot, the focus of the story became very diluted as it was split between so many characters. The amount of characterization for these POV characters, as a general rule, was on par with what I’d expect for secondary characters. When it comes to POV characters though, I expect more. This timid level of characterization made the main “voice” of the story pretty weak and not as engaging than it might have otherwise been.
It becomes apparent early on that that this story is a detective story, which was easily one of the most frustrating aspects of the novel for me because it was VERY MUCH a detective story. The use of words like “clues” and “suspects” and even “red herrings” kept pulling me out of the story because it felt so much like a modern mystery instead of a fantasy. Not that solid fantasy books can’t feel modern, or that they can’t have a basic mystery plot. They can and they do. It’s just that the drive and focus and tone of this book never felt like a fantasy story to me. And I like to read fantasy, yeah? One rule of thumb that I usually apply in these instances is to attempt to take all of the fantasy elements out of the story and ask myself if the story could still be told, by-and-large, in the same way. And for this story, the answer is “absolutely yes”. Can that comparison always be made? No. I mean, how much actual fantastical stuff is there in A Game of Thrones? Hardly anything. But that one is written so freaking well that I’m never even tempted to ask this question.
More a murder mystery from an inexperienced PI, KALANON'S RISING is a mediocre offering that doesn't quite convinces you it wants to be a fantasy novel.
KALANON’S RISING is by no means a bad novel. It does what it sets out to do pretty well. There’s a murder, and an investigation, and twists and turns to that investigation. There are some reveals that I didn’t see coming. It’s a pretty solid detective novel. It’s just not what I like to find when I go looking for a great fantasy story, and it’s not what I’ve come to expect from the best in the genre either. Mr. Smith does a good job of telling the story that he wants to tell though. He should absolutely keep writing and work to get better at his craft. There aren’t very many people, realistically speaking, that make it anywhere near as far as he has.
So my hat’s off to him for the attempt. Keep at it, sir.
- Recommended Age: 16+ for violence
- Language: Very infrequent and moderately strong
- Violence: The perpetrated murder is very grisly and bloody
- Sex: Some innuendo and frequent references