SPFBO: Kalanon’s Rising by Darian Smith

Series: Agents of Kalanon #1Rating: 8/10
Date of Publishing: October 15th 2016Genre: fantasy
Publisher: self-publishedNumber of pages: 424

 

Blurb

Solve the murder. Stop the war. Save the world. Sir Brannon Kesh spent years building a new life as a physician, leaving the name Bloodhawk and the war that spawned it behind. But when the King’s cousin is murdered, duty calls him back. The crime scene suggests dark magic and the evidence points to the ambassador of Nilar, an alluring woman with secrets of her own, who sees Bloodhawk as little more than a war criminal. As bodies pile up and political ramifications escalate, Brannon must join forces with a vain mage, a socially awkward priest, and a corpse animating shaman to solve the murders and prevent another war. But who can he trust when the phases of a bigger plan take shape?

The Risen are the greatest danger Brannon has ever faced. If he and his team cannot stop the killer then all of Kalanon – and the world – will descend into darkness.

Belle’s Review – 8/10

Murder mystery fantasy! Grumpy old man just trying to live his life! Weird little priest dude! It’s like Darian Smith plucked a whole bunch of my favourite things out of my brain and shoved them into this book.

I really enjoyed this book. While not super complicated, it kept me guessing as the plot unfolded. If you have ready any historical mysteries such as CJ Samson‘s Shardlake series, the general structure of the story will be familiar to you. There are a lot more dead things walking in this though.

The characters were interesting, and each brought unique skills and knowledge to the group. I quite liked them all, and I am very much looking forward to them solving more mysteries in future books. I absolutely need to know more about Taran’s background – he was probably my favourite of the secondary characters.

While this book isn’t really doing anything new, there is a great comfort to that, especially in these end times. Highly recommend settling in with your hot beverage of choice and reading this book.

Jen’s Review – 8/10

When the King’s nephew is killed the unusual ritualistic aspect of his death and implications of a political connection have Sir Brannon and his team working with the enemy to find the answers they need.

***

I really enjoyed this one. Steady-pace, neat world, and a nice collection of fascinating characters. I especially enjoyed the women who were all capable and interesting.

Our head investigator Sir Brannon (aka Bloodhawk) is a war hero turned physician. He’s seen enough death from the war and doesn’t want to deal in it anymore (ironically the job hasn’t changed much when it come to that). I liked him, he has an easy likeable personality. He’s loyal and tough when he needs to be but also compassionate.

His newly appointed and not exactly wanted, assistant Jessamine, is young, eager and quick to learn.

Ambassador Ylani Shaylar of Nilar –  I loved her. I don’t know if it was the tiny hats (I loved the bits of culture that are shown through her wardrobe) or her dealings with almost everyone because she’s strong and clever and looking out for what’s best for her people. She has the Instinct which is like a feeling to let her know when something’s not quite right or a lie. She was one of my favourites and I am hoping she is part of the team in book two.

Prioress Ula – A memorable character (being purple does that for a person) and I liked the glimpses of her darker sense of humour. She is sent as a representative after a request for advice and help is made from the king.
She’s like a Shaman of sorts. The Kaluki (who are similar to demons), bring power to the world when they enter, Ula’s people (the Djin) put them into the dead calling them The Risen (basically a zombie) to use up some of that power so they don’t get too strong.
I also loved how Ula’s Djin culture played into the plot giving this a supernatural flair.

Laticia – Keldon’s widow. I really liked her. Another strong woman in a different way. She lost everything with her husband’s death and has nothing without Keldon. Her father in-law the Duke Royden, doesn’t like her and everything she has, was through her husband’s family. Her battle is trying to keep and protect her young son.

There were other great characters too. Draeson – the mage who has found a way to bring his body back to youth. I didn’t particularly like him and his bad personality at first but he grew on me.

Taron – monk and poison specialist with a past. I am interested to see where his character goes from here.

I thought the women characters were more remarkable than the men.

***

The mystery was multi-layered enough to give several possible options for suspects – all with strong motives as the clues are revealed. I liked that about it, though none of the background plots were very in-depth so we get one of those ‘villain speeches’ at the end to tie-up anything that we could have missed or had to be glanced over to keep the pace from dragging down to a crawl.

***

There was a sufficient amount of death and fighting gore, coupled with betrayals and ulterior motives, to give this that sense of darkness that makes the end feel earned and satisfying. I admit I really like the fighting gore and I love criminology stuff so this played into my tastes a lot.

I did feel after the one big scene (trying to stay vague here) that the final big scene was a little lackluster in comparison, but the first was more action-packed and the later had that bad guy speech, and I like the action and was expecting the second. I just wasn’t sure of the reasons, until the speech.

For me, that did give the ending a bit of looser feel than the rest of the story, as we scrambled to stuff all the important pieces in so everything is tied up- which it was, outside of a few character things that can be built on in the next book.

Other notes

I liked that the war which was less than a decade ago was still very present in the mindsets of the people and added tension and prejudices to the atmosphere and the investigation.

One thing I am curious to see if there are any possible consequences for Draeson in the future to do with the King’s line, or if it will matter much.

I’d definitely come back for book two if I was looking for another mystery.

Nick’s Review – 8/10

This book was in the top half of my favorite SPFBO finalist reads. I knew that I would enjoy it when I read in the summary that not only was there magic and cool fantasy stuff, but also a central mystery to the story. Personally I’m a sucker for a bit of mystery in my reads and always have been. And as I began to settle into the story my inkling that this would be an enjoyable read was more than confirmed.

Kalanon’s Rising takes place in, well, the kingdom of Kalanon as the title of the book states. Sir Brannon is the King of Kalanon’s champion and a somewhat reluctant hero to be honest. What he really is most satisfied doing is being the doctor of the realm.  However his natural skills as a warrior are unquestioned and so his role must remain a dual one for the foreseeable future.  

When the King’s cousin is murdered in cold blood, Brannon is tasked to use all of his forensic know-how to determine the cause and maybe even the possible motivation behind the killing. As he begins to piece many of the clues found at the crime scene together, it is obvious that a significant amount of dark magic was at play. And when it is further suspected that the ambassador of a rival nation may be to blame, there are definite hints that more is behind this than just a simple assassination. When bodies start falling one by one, Brannon must team up with some unsavory characters before war overtakes his land in earnest and the King may be next on the target list.

This was a really interesting read and quite a unique variation on the usual fantasy tale.  There are a ton of scifi-noir books out there but when it comes to fantasy-noir? Well they are few and far between in my estimation and so when I come across one like this it definitely captures my attention. Darian Smith has achieved something special with this first book in his Agents of Kalanon series.  Blistering scenes of magic coupled with an intense murder-mystery investigation mke this book a double threat that is utteryly compelling.  

In the end I was left wanting very much more of this story, so I am very happy that there are more books waiting for me.  If you are looking for a story that you just don’t get a lot in fantasy these days and characters who behave in ways that you don’t always expect, then the twists and turns of Kalanon’s Rising will be right up your alley.  This is a very worthy finalist in my opinion and a book that stayed with me long after I finished it.

Timy’s Review – 8/10

Kalanon’s Rising was probably my most anticipated read for the finals. Scratch that. It definitely was my most anticipated read, that’s why I left it for last. I figured it would be good to finish SPFBO5 on a high note. I mean, a murder mystery in a fantasy setting? Sign me up! Of course there was the possibility of this plan backfiring, but thankfully that was not the case.

Kalanon’s Rising has a pretty strong start which instantly sucks you in: a member of the royal family is brutally murdered and the evidence can point to many ways, depending on what one thinks might be the motive. Was it a personal? Political? Business related? Brannon, the king’s champion, formerly known as Bloodhawk gets the job of finding out what happened, before Kalanon once again found itself on the brink of war with the neighbouring country, Nilar. He collects a team of professionals to his cause: Jessamine who is her apprentice healer, Draeson the mage, Ula a Djin Prioretess, Taran a monk with knowledge about poisons and a pretty interesting background I can’t wait to learn more about.

Except Brannon, everyone seems to have their own agenda in the plot, which really left me wishing there was more focus on Brannon, who was supposed to be the main protagonist. I liked him, but couldn’t really connect with him – or anyone else for that matter – because there was just not enough time to do that. Kalanon’s Rising had several other POV chapters, some of which were quite unnecessary as they pulled me out of the story and and just served as forshadowing more than anything else. Less might have been more in this case.

I really enjoyed Kalanon’s Rising until a point, where things started to fall apart a bit plot-wise. Characters popping up conveniently out of the blue, characters not acting like you’d expect them – which is not always a bad thing -, some decisions not making sense. I think Darian Smith might have bit a bit more than it was able to chew with Kalanon’s Rising. It’s definitely an egaging story and it keeps some neat twists until the end, but that end feels a bit rushed nonetheless. We don’t really have the time to process what really happened and the monologue does not really help. I would have preferred if the plot took up less time in the village of Sandilar and more time in the capital and learning more about the cultures, the gods – to whom there are a lot of references. On the other hand, Kalanon’s Rising offers three different cultures, giving us glimpses into all of them, so I probably really should cut it some slack. That’s a lot to handle within one book and I guess it’s definitely a good sign I wanted more, as I found them pretty intriguing.

Despite its faults, Kalanon’s Rising still ended up to be among my favourite reads regarding the SPFBO5 finalists. What can I say? I’m a sucker for murder mysteries. Besides, Kalanon’s Rising had a lot of cool ideas and bits – like the dragon tattoo, or the fact that one of the races has dusky puprle skin and black tattoos – with some surprises I didn’t really see coming. The world itself was also interesting and it felt like the author did give it a lot of thought, I just wish we could have see more of it. Luckily, this is only the first book of the series, so I’m pretty sure there is more to learn.

Belle: 8/10   Jen: 8/10   Nick: 8/10   Timy: 8/10

Our official SPFBO 5 rating for Kalanon’s Rising:

8/10

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