AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://darian-smith.com/
SERIES: Agents of Kalanon (#1)
PUBLISHED: October 15, 2016 (Self-published)
GENRE: Fantasy, Mystery
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.
Kalanon’s Rising by Darian Smith is a gripping and unique whodunit murder mystery laced with the arcane and political intrigue. At its heart, it highlights the ideal that in order to build a brighter future one must let go of the dark pain of the past, and that people can, in fact, change for the better. Within its pages we investigate a string of perplexing murders, following a grisly trail of blood that leads to several truly shattering truths. While the answers to the mysteries are a bit predictable, the twists and turns to get there are both unexpected and executed exceptionally well. I thoroughly enjoyed following the path of breadcrumbs Smith carefully placed on my journey for truth.
Readers are immediately dropped into a world on the mend from devastating war, where relationships between nations are tenuous and strained, and simmering prejudices are very prominent. Smith offers just enough to immerse without overwhelming with copious amounts of unnecessary details; the subtlety of the worldbuilding is both excellent and engaging. There are hints of dangerous factions working from the shadows, back alley deals for international trade, and strange magics that bring the dead back to life as “Risen”, which all left me curious for more as I made my way through this engrossing story.
Smith uses his delicately crafted characters to narrate this tale through an almost visual storytelling by jumping from point-of-view to point-of-view, showcasing every side of the story. At the lead of the cast is Sir Brannon Kesh, a former soldier and current King’s Champion, who is deeply haunted by his past. By his side is Magus Draeson, a crotchety, old mage, embracing and enjoying his newly acquired young body. They’re joined by Ula, a powerful Djin shaman, Brother Taran, a priest with an unusual aptitude for poisons, Jessamine, a young and eager physician’s apprentice, and Ylani, a charismatic ambassador from an enemy nation. A well-rounded party, each individual with their designated role, with their own distinct voice creates stunning dynamics as they venture to find solve the multiple mysteries presented to them.
Simple prose and steady pacing create highly effective suspense and tension in this generally intimate and cozy tale. Choosing to focus more on the potentially catastrophic effects of the multiple mysteries weaved throughout its pages, rather than forcing superfluous action was a brilliant decision, which again added to the sincerity of the book. Smith does, however, use some questionable mechanics to move this story along; the most jarring being the conclusion itself, which I felt was terribly rushed and carried out in an unappealing way. I hit the final chapter expecting one of the plot lines to carry over to the next book, but was wrapped up in a matter of pages, unpolished unlike the rest of the book.
Kalanon’s Rising is entertaining read of puzzling and thrilling riddles with the lives of all hanging in the balance. With a perfect balance of striking intrigue and gruesome action, it’s easy to understand how it secured its place in the SPFBO finals. While this particular story concludes, there’s a nice segue into the potential future adventures of Sir Brannon, and I’m excited to see where Smith takes us next. If you’re looking for a more personal murder mystery steeped in the fantastical, I suggest you give this one a try. I highly recommend.
Note: A complementary copy of this title was provided to be reviewed for the SPFBO 2019 finals.
I’m a writer and reader of fiction and live in Auckland, New Zealand. While I have dabbled in non-fiction, my true love is crafting exciting stories that interest and move me – and hopefully my readers! I mainly write fantasy. I’m a member of SpecFicNZ, an organisation for writers of speculative fiction here in New Zealand, and also of RWNZ. I’ve won the Koru award and the Sir Julius Vogel award. My literary agent is Word|Link. In my day job, I’m a Fieldworker for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I’m also a counsellor/family therapist. I live with my beautiful partner, who is also a writer, and two naughty black cats named Apollo and Athena. The cats don’t write.