I’ve enjoyed some great reads this year, but I can honestly say none of them were quite as pleasant a surprise as The Misadventures of Ka-Ron the Knight. This was a book I had on my radar for a while, attracted solely by the gender-bending premise, but it wasn’t until Donald got in touch that I decided to make room for it in my towering to-be-read pile.
I’m so glad I did.
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 or so has definitely towards towering works of epic fantasy, this is a return to old-fashioned sword & sorcery fantasy. If I had to compare it to anything contemporary, it would likely be David Drake’s Lord of the Isles saga (which, as a result, I find myself in a mood to revisit).
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’s done in a very clever and amusing way. Yes, Ka-Ron awakes from his 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 his situation reveal a hidden depth of maturity and sophistication that you simply won’t find in a strictly erotic tale.
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.
The story does get a little 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’ve formed strong bonds with all the characters, and their parting from us is indeed sweet sorrow . . . although I suspect we’ll see them again.
And, should that be the case, I will be there at the head of the line to welcome Ka-Ron, Jatel, Keeth, Molly, Rohan, and Dorian (especially Dorian!) back into my head and my heart all over again.