Kel Kade is an up-and-coming author in the epic fantasy genre. TOR picked her up for her newest novel for release on November 5th, 2019, so I figured this was a good time to talk about her debut: Free The Darkness, book 1 in the King’s Dark Tidings series.
Free The Darkness primarily follows its anti-hero protagonist Rezkin. Trained from a young age to be the ultimate human weapon, he’s thrust into the real world with little instruction or objectives. Rezkin’s training is based on a large set of rules that keep him safe in any dangerous situation. Unfortunately, his training is so focused on making him a weapon that he is ill-prepared to function in normal society.
The primary success of Free The Darkness is creating a protagonist that is both competent yet incompetent in very different ways. His misunderstanding about how the common people of his world interact is the source of a lot of interpersonal conflicts, confusion, and humor. The omniscient narration choice made it easy to see just how much Rezkin didn’t understand. It creates a sense of dramatic irony and feels fresh. Most novels get their narrative drive from mystery and suspense, but Kade has crafted a story that uses a technique of narrative drive that is under-used.
The fight scenes in this book are also a lot of fun. It left me with the feeling that I was reading a novelized version of the video game Assassin’s Creed. I know that there are actual Assassin’s Creed novels, but I haven’t read them. I’m sure they’re more like the game than this book, but absent that experience this is what I feel is the best comparison.
I have a few problems with the story that I should mention before you go pick it up. Despite Rezkin’s incredible flaw of not understanding complex social interactions and subtext, Rezkin is still a bit too perfect. Every woman wants him and he’s overpowered with no sense of supernatural aid. If you’re okay with that, this story will be fun and hard to put down.
Like many modern fantasy novels, this one doesn’t have as conclusive an ending as I’d like. It feels as though the story stops before it should. It’s part of a series that has multiple installments, and the narrative leaves the reader hanging off of a low cliff. And as of the day, I’m writing this, there is no print version. I’m not sure why, but it seems like a missed opportunity for those of us who enjoy reading that way. There is an audiobook version. I haven’t listened to it, but if that’s your preferred medium, you’re in luck.
While I’m left feeling lukewarm on Free The Darkness, There are many people (as evidenced by many positive reviews) that would absolutely love this story. Give it a shot if this is the kind of story you’ve been looking for.