Kalanon’s Rising (Agents of Kalanon #1) by Darian Smith

KalanonKalanon’s Rising is my seventh SPFBO book (or eighth if you include my own entry) and leaves me with just two books to read and review before the conclusion of the contest.

This is something of a mixed bag for me.  I really like the idea of a murder mystery in a fantasy setting, I think the writing was good and this definitely sets out the stall for future books in the series.  But, I found the beginning very slow, I’m not entirely convinced that the multiple povs worked (although I can see why the author chose this route) and it didn’t quite deliver the tension I would expect in order to be fully invested in solving the mystery.

The world here is easy to imagine.  It has a mediaeval feel to it and is easy to picture.  Information is forthcoming in a natural way without the need for massive info dumps.  As the story begins we learn that the King’s nephew has been murdered, in a rather grisly fashion and the Champion, Sir Brannon Kesh (also known as the Bloodhawk for the role he played in the fairly recent war between Kalanon and Nilar) is called to investigate.  Brannon is either a war hero or a war criminal – depending on what side of the fence you’re sitting on and in more recent times has poured his energy into learning how to heal people in an attempt at redemption.

In terms of the characters.  I quite liked Brannon.  I liked that he struggles to come to terms with his own past actions and wants redemption of a sort.  I also really liked one of the other pov characters, a Nilarian Ambassador called Ylani.  I could seriously get on board with future stories revolving around the two of them becoming involved in solving mysteries.  They both bring different elements to the story with Brannon’s down to earth, no nonsense attitude and Ylani’s intelligence and wit, plus  being from different countries with their own individual cultures it would help things to become more balanced and there is a certain chemistry between the two that I enjoyed (for clarity there is no romance involved). I did mention above that there are a number of povs involved in this but I’m not going to describe them all here.  I’m not entirely certain that this head hopping works for a murder mystery type story because at the same time that the author is trying to throw red herrings around and create multiple suspects, being inside people’s head actually allows you a certain insight that makes it difficult to believe they really are the baddie of the piece, at least that’s the way I felt.  Like I said, I do like multiple povs, and I think the author did a good job of creating distinct characters, plus this does allow the reader a more balanced picture, I just don’t think it’s the best way forward for this type of story.  I would have preferred my insights to come from one, maybe two, characters at most and I would have liked to spend more time with Brannon.

The plot is quite interesting.  We have the history of war between Kalanon and Nilar which helps to throw other threads into the mix such as the mistrust that very firmly exists between the two countries and this is countered by their need to develop trade agreements.  There are political aspects at play here and also the inclusion of characters from different cultures such as a Djin shaman named Ula who is brought in to examine whether the dead body was a failed attempt to create a ‘Risen’.

In terms of criticisms.  My main issue is that the beginning is too drawn out.  I found the first 40-50% of the story really slow going and not even the explosive ending managed to totally eliminate that feeling.  On top of that I didn’t really feel any tension but I’m putting that down to too many povs and this lack of tension sort of bled into the overall solving of the murder mystery.  I guess I felt a sort of ambivalence to the victim of the crime, which is understandable, I didn’t know the guy and he died at the start of the story – but, I didn’t really get any emotion about his death, it felt underplayed somehow, where was the anger or upset (or horror) at his loss.  And there is a definite feel that the author was trying to pull together a bunch of people who were all experts in their field.  There’s the immortal mage, the monk who is a chemistry expert, the shaman who deals with dark magic, a young female medicine apprentice and an older femme fatale/spy type character.  Like I said above I can see a partnership between two of these working well going forward and maybe the others being called on every now and again for their expertise but I didn’t find the grouping here to be totally necessary in fact it was a little messy.  There was also a little bit of bungling going on which seemed little more than a device to prevent the mystery from being solved earlier, for example, the scene on the boat where everything goes to hell in a handcart and yet the mage, who could certainly have helped, is mysteriously absent – and this happened more than once.

Overall, I think this is a good idea and a series that I could enjoy.  However, I think this book suffers a little by being the first in series, it’s a little bit ambitious in terms of plot and there are too many characters involved in helping  to solve the mystery.  I also think the pacing issue is an area that needs addressing as the slow burn start really affected me to an extent that I wasn’t committed to the read until at least halfway through.

My rating 7 out of 10




12 Responses to “Kalanon’s Rising (Agents of Kalanon #1) by Darian Smith”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    I think that ‘ambitious’ sounds like the perfect definition for a debut story based on the difficulty of handling too many POVs, which might also explain the slowness you mentioned. Still, I like the concept of a murder mystery in a medieval-like background and will keep an eye on this one for… future reference 😉
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I mean I love a good murder mystery so this is a good idea but I really don’t think you can have too much head hopping – it is a little spoilery imo.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Tammy

    “Too ambitious” is often the downfall of books for me personally, not that I don’t like a good challenge, but you have to be skilled enough to wrangle all those ideas together. Looking forward to the rest of your reviews😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, definitely. I hope the second manages to sort a few things out – there is a lot of potential here just too many ideas all fighting for page time.
      Lynn 😀

  3. sjhigbee

    It sounds to me as if the author had a brilliant idea – but technically made some wrong decisions which compromised the effectiveness of the book. As Tammy said, it takes skill, as well as talent, to deliver the sort of read he is going for. Thank you for a thorough, fair-minded review, Lynn:)

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was a slow start but an interesting idea and I always tend to be a bit more forgiving with first in series – it will be interesting to see how No.2 comes along.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        I do like how kind you are to authors, Lynn. Your tolerance and patience as a reader is always reflected in your courteous reviews – no wonder you are such an outstanding judge…

      • @lynnsbooks

        Thank you – that’s so kind. I do try to find nice things to say about books even if they don’t quite work for me and I read and review for pleasure so even though a lot of focus these days seems to be on negativity with sarcastic reviews being very popular that’s not for me. I sometimes think my blog is probably perceived as a little one sided because I rarely give low scores but basically if I’m not enjoying a book I don’t feel compelled to finish it – time is precious. I like your blog for this reason, you’re always generous to the books you read and find positive things to say 😀

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I’ve come to accept slow beginnings as par for the course when it comes to epic fantasy…but wow, 40-50%, that does seem a bit excessive. I’m glad to hear the second half got you more committed, but still, kudos to you for your patience 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it was a slow start and there is a bit of setting up but it will be interesting to see how this progresses as a series.
      Lynn 😀

  5. waytoofantasy

    7/10 isn’t bad, but wish this one had been a little more enjoyable for you in the end. I love the concept too! All for combining genres. 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I defo love the concept for this one. It could use a few changes here and there but I would be interested to see how this develops.
      Lynn 😀

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