Earlier this year I read the anthology Day of Demons, published by Anachron Press, and one of the highlights was The Deal by K T Davies. It was a fun fantasy tale and it left me keen to read more of the author's work. The good news is that recently I got the chance.
When I read fantasy I expect more than my fair share of battles, magic, and if there is a bit of betrayal and the occasional traitor as well, that’s all good. The Red Knight offers that and more. We get all the fantasy standards, but the author also scatters the plot with some insightful social commentary regarding the politics of gender. It’s never shoe horned into the plot, it feels natural and occurs in a very organic fashion. In Antia, your role is not defined by your gender. Both men and women are trained as knights and treated equally on the battlefield.
There are some great characters in the novel and I'm sure that Garian and Alyda are bound to be popular. Both are put through the physical and emotional ringer. It would never do to allow heroes and heroines an easy ride now would it? Alyda has a particularly hard time but it gives Davies the opportunity to explore her hidden strengths. The scenes toward the novels end get pretty brutal and the outcome of events leave Alyda changed on many levels.
If I have to be one hundred percent honest though, there was another character that was my out and out favourite. I was totally caught up by the lusty antics of Lady Iris 'Bear' Berwick. It’s great to discover a character that not only turns conventions on their head but also then throws them firmly out the window. Bear is the antithesis of the genteel ladies that pop up in other fantasy novels. She loves a drink, the odd recreational drug or two, dabbles in any romantic tryst she is offered and loves nothing better than a good fight. Add into the mix a secret that is revealed about her around half way through and you can no doubt understand why I was immediately and utterly smitten. I think this is the closest I have ever come to encountering a literary equivalent of Mrs Cheesecake.
Davies displays a natural talent when it comes to dialogue and this creates some memorable moments. Even discussions between supporting characters raise a smile.
Bah!” Skani thumped his stomach. “‘Tis pure muscle! My Gardu says I have the body of a god.” “A slightly chubby, past his prime god, maybe.
Having the body of a slightly chubby god myself I couldn't help but be amused.
When reading an author’s first novel I think the thing I look for most is a sense of potential. I’m glad to report that The Red Knight delivers on its initial promise, there is a confidence in the writing and I was drawn in from the first page.
How best to sum up this debut novel then? I think I'll paraphrase liberally the tagline from The Princess Bride - Heroes. Villains. Violence. Magic. - Not just your basic, average, everyday, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum fantasy tale. If you like you're fantasy with a cheeky dash of adult content then you could do far worse. Recommended reading, I look forward to more.