Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight by Donald Allen Kirch (#trans #fantasy)

My introduction to the "Nown" World Chronicles came about 6 years ago, when I did a lovely little interview with Donald Allen Kirch. I had the opportunity to review the adventures of Ka-Ron and Jatel as they were released over the next two years, and still count the books among my favorite fantasy trilogies.

Now, as the rights to each book revert back to him, Donald is releasing them with a few minor tweaks and some gorgeous new covers. First up, of course, is The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight . . . which I am pleased to say has stood the test of time, and is still an epic, gender-bending read.

This is the kind of book that takes me back to the classic, pulp fantasy novels that I so fondly remember from my high school years. From the plot, to the characters, to the narrative voice, it reminds me at times of authors like Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, and Michael Moorcock. Whereas the trend over the past decade has been towards sad and painful works of grimdark fantasy, this is a return to old-fashioned sword & sorcery fun.

As you might expect from a book about a legendary warrior cursed to live out his life as a beautiful woman, this is also a story with a fair bit of sex (and sexual innuendo), but it is done in a very clever and amusing way. Yes, Ka-Ron awakes from her transformation as an incredibly beautiful, sexually insatiable woman, but there are magical reasons for it . . . and very real consequences because of it. Aside from the sex, there are also some interesting explorations of gender here. Alternately comic and tragic, Ka-Ron’s efforts to adapt to her new situation reveal a hidden depth of maturity and sophistication that you rarely find in erotica.

Readers who find the initial sexual explorations to be a bit too much are strongly advised to stick with it, as there is a wonderfully exciting fantasy tale to follow. As they battle their way through pirates, hungry sea-dragons, a coven of vampires, an undersea realm, and an insane elven king, our heroes find new companions in the form of a wizard, a dwarf, an elf, a vampire, and a man-child upon whom both the curse and the story eventually turn. Ka-Ron and Jatel are the primary POV characters here, but Keeth, Molly, Rohan, and Dorian (especially Dorian!) round out the story perfectly.

The story does turn from comic to dark in the latter chapters, especially with the threat of an elven civil war, but Donald paces it well, knowing just when a bit of humour or sexual adventure is needed. At the same time, he resists the temptation to spice things up just for the sake of spicing things up, allowing the story to carry us along. By the end, we have formed strong bonds with all the characters, and their parting from us is indeed sweet sorrow . . . although we will see them again.

Like I said at the beginning, six years later the story still stands up, and it is just as much of a delight as I remember. In the end, Ka-Ron is far more than just a gender-swapped heroine, and her story works on all levels.

Donald Allen Kirch lives in The United States of America. He is an avid reader of history, Sherlock Holmes Mysteries, the paranormal, and is a "hardcore" Doctor Who fan. After spending two weekends in the famous "Sallie House," a "haunted house" in Atchison, Kansas, he is one of the only authors of his craft who can claim to have been attacked by a ghost!


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