Kalanon’s Rising, by Darian Smith
Book One in the Agents of Kalanon Series
Ever since Darian Smith won the SpecFicNZ/Steam Press Manuscript Award, many of us have been waiting less than patiently for the release of Kalanon’s Rising, the first book in his Agents of Kalanon fantasy mystery series. Let me just say, it’s been worth the wait.
Simply put the story goes like this: when the body of the king’s cousin is found mutilated in a local inn, the king calls in his friend, soldier-turned-surgeon, Sir Brannon Kesh, to solve the murder.
Of course, it is never that simple.
Set in a time of broadswords, amulets and potions, author Smith has made sure the kingdom of Kalanon is rife with all the post-war political, economic, and cultural tension we would expect when one nation lords it over its neighbours. Then he populates that world with vivid believable characters, each with conflicting agendas, and each unique and discernible despite there being thousands of them. Amongst my favourites are Draeson the old mage with his newly youthful body, who is more intent on uncovering his next romantic conquest than the facts of the case, and Ylani, the beautiful Nilar ambassador who appears to have a few special skills up her red velvet sleeves. I rather liked Fressin too, the despicable steward with his smarmy righteousness and knack for getting under your skin.
While we were waiting for the book’s release, Smith’s writing has improved. In fact, I would venture that the fantasy novel is his true form since the narrative in Kalanon’s Rising flows like Nilarian silk and the imagery is as rich Sandilar gold. There’s some rather pithy dialogue in there, too. In terms of theme, Smith refreshes the age-old notions of good versus evil, tolerance, and working together towards a common good. Old themes, but relevant all the same.
I would have loved to see a map of the various kingdoms to help me place the story, so I’m putting it here in the hope one will be included in future volumes ‒ which shouldn’t be too far away, given that an excerpt of Book 2 Starlight’s Children appears the back of the ebook.
With a paranormal romance, a collection of well-crafted short stories, and a psychology workbook for writers already to his name, the addition of this gripping high fantasy mystery only proves Darian Smith’s versatility as a writer. I can only imagine what his next offering will be. I expect it will be worth the wait.
Reviewed by Lee Murray, Jan, 2017
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.