Kagen the Damned marks the first installment of an exciting new series of dark epic fantasy novels from bestselling author Jonathan Maberry.
Sworn by Oath
Kagen Vale is the trusted and feared captain of the palace guard, charged with protection of the royal children of the Silver Empire. But one night, Kagen is drugged and the entire imperial family is killed, leaving the empire in ruins.
Abandoned by the Gods
Haunted and broken, Kagen is abandoned by his gods and damned forever. He becomes a wanderer, trying to take down as many of his enemies as possible while plotting to assassinate the usurper, the deadly Witch-king of Hakkia. While all around him magic—long banished from the world—returns in strange and terrifying ways.
Fueled by Rage
To exact his vengeance, Kagen must venture into strange lands, battle bizarre and terrifying creatures, and gather allies for a suicide mission into the heart of the Witch-king’s empire.
What’s it about (in a nutshell):
Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry is the start of an epic fantasy journey to overthrow the Witch-King who ruthlessly usurped the Empress of the Silver Empire and brought back the magic to the realm.
Initial Expectations (before beginning the book):
I admit it. The first thing I noticed about Kagen the Damned is that gorgeous cover. It drew my eye and screamed epic fantasy – how could I possibly resist? I understand from the blurb that there is a big battle, a journey, and my favorite component in a fantasy story – magic. If it ends up having dragons, too, I will have found a new favorite fantasy series. I’m a bit worried about the description that it’s a dark fantasy because dark means such a wide range of things. Overall, I feel that this is just the kind of fantasy that I will happily get lost in. The 560 pages will just fly by, leaving me waiting for book 2.
Actual Reading Experience:
Everything I thought about this book before I started it was absolutely correct. I have found my newest favorite epic fantasy. It has all of the elements that I adore in the genre, maybe even a dragon…shhh…that’s between you and me.
I loved the world-building. It is pure perfection. It drew me in and transported me to a new world, where I happily stayed as the story developed and eagerly sought to get back to when I had to put it down. I can’t say enough about how well-developed this world is and how completely immersive I found it.
The story is so complex but easy to follow and so full of metaphors that I’m still processing them. Magic has been made evil in the Silver Empire, and magic-wielders suppressed. So I knew the people would come back in a big bloody way – our own history tells us that people tend to revolt whenever a way of life is forcibly stopped.
There is a significant amount of death and killing, which constitutes the dark fantasy description. Still, I felt that those events are handled in a non-gratuitous manner, so I was easily able to take them. Sexual encounters are treated the same way. They are part of the story but are never written graphically, so I never had reason to skim over a scene. I appreciated this very much, and it kept me firmly in the book’s world with my disbelief suspended at all times.
At the start of the novel, Kagen Vale is the sworn protector of the royal children. When the empire is usurped in a deadly battle, all the children are lost, and Kagen blames himself even though he is off-duty. The self-flagellation (metaphorically) he puts himself through can get tiring. Sometimes I just wanted to slap him and tell him to find the courage and reconnect with those hero qualities that caused him to be made the children’s sworn protector. He has a whole empire to save from the Witch-King, so there is no time to lose himself in self-pity and a bottle. This flawed hero is frustrating and intriguing, and I can’t wait until he thoroughly reconnects with all those hero qualities that peek out from time to time.
Miri and Ryssa lead a side story to a different land in the empire and another plot to stop the Witch-King. It feels like Ryssa, in particular, has a much more significant role in the story and perhaps in Kagen’s life, but that remains to be seen in future novels. These characters are enigmatic, but I look forward to learning more about them and their side plot.
Reminds Me Of:
Terry Goodkind Sword of Truth and related series. And somewhat like Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fires series) by George R.R. Martin but with more magic and not quite as dark. Also, the Witcher series.
To Read or Not to Read:
Since the world lost Terry Goodkind, I lost a series of fantasy stories that were always guaranteed to draw me in and take me away. Thanks to Jonathan Maberry and his Kagen the Damned series, that void in my life has been filled. If you love epic fantasy filled with a personal journey, magic, and madness, you will love Kagen the Damned.