November 30, 2022

ARC REVIEW Kagen the Damned (Kagen the Damned #1) by Jonathan Maberry

Kagen the Damned (Kagen the Damned #1) 
by Jonathan Maberry
Rating: 3 Stars
Release Date: May 10, 2022
Format: eARC (Provided through NetGalley)
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin 

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Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry is the first book in a new grimdark horror/fantasy series, and it's a bloody tale. I would recommend it to mature adult readers (probably 21 and over) who are not put off by blood and gore, and who enjoy genre-blending tales.

Worldbuilding is the shining star of the book. The author does a fantastic job of easing the readers into a complex, vast epic fantasy world. His descriptions and imagery are vivid; I never had an issue picturing what was going on (the descriptions were even too vivid at times - I didn’t really need all the pictures of entrails and blood in my head). I was also impressed by the political dynamics that made up the world. Our main character, Kagen, is in physical and emotional agony to learn that he failed his charges. You can’t help but feel for him and what he’s going through. I was confused by Ryssa’s storyline (she seemed way too innocent for such a violent tale) but it made more sense as the book went on.

While the worldbuilding is the highlight of the book, the pacing was a close second. This book is long at more than 500 pages, and books of this size frequently run the risk of feeling even longer and dragging on with lengthy chapters. Thankfully, Mr. Maberry made the choice to shorten the chapters and it worked out well. The short chapters helped keep the pacing up, and I never felt like the action suffered.

This book is bloody, and the author does not shy away from that aspect. Some of the subjects that were covered made this very hard to read (you can check the trigger warnings at the bottom of the review below to get an idea of what I mean). I wish this book had a set of trigger warnings at the beginning (as some authors are starting to do). The action is bloody from almost the first chapter and some readers may struggle as a result. 

Altogether, Kagen the Damned was a fairly entertaining read with some minor issues here and there. I might not have been the intended audience, but I still enjoyed most of the book. Be warned! This book does end on a major cliffhanger, so go in prepared for that. I’m curious about what happens next in the story, but I don’t know if I want to read another bloody book so I’m on the fence about getting the sequel Son of the Poison Rose when it comes out in early 2023. 

Thank you to the author, the publisher St. Martin’s Griffin, and the team at NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary review copy of Kagen the Damned. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review the book immensely! Please note - I voluntarily read and reviewed the book. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and not influenced in any way. 

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Graphic Violence, Adult Language, Adult Content, Blood/Gore, Rape, Attempted Rape, Domestic Abuse, Animal Abuse, Child Abuse, Murder

About the Book

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.

Kings and gods will fear him.

Kagen the Damned

About the Author

JONATHAN MABERRY is a New York Times best-seller and Audible #1 bestseller, five-time Bram Stoker Award-winner, anthology editor, comic book writer, executive producer, magazine feature writer, playwright, and writing teacher/lecturer. He is the editor of WEIRD TALES Magazine and president of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. He is the recipient of the Inkpot Award, three Scribe Awards, and was named one of the Today’s Top Ten Horror Writers. His books have been sold to more than thirty countries. He writes in several genres including thriller, horror, science fiction, epic fantasy, and mystery; and he writes for adults, middle grade, and young adult.

Jonathan is the creator, editor and co-author of V-WARS, a shared-world vampire anthology from IDW Publishing that was adapted into a NETFLIX series starring Ian Somerhalder (LOST, VAMPIRE DIARIES).

His young adult fiction includes ROT & RUIN (2011; was named in Booklist’s Ten Best Horror Novels for Young Adults, an American Library Association Top Pick, a Bram Stoker and Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading winner; winner of several state Teen Book Awards including the Cricket, Nutmeg and MASL; winner of the Cybils Award, the Eva Perry Mock Printz medal, Dead Letter Best Novel Award, and four Melinda Awards); DUST & DECAY (winner of the 2011 Bram Stoker Award; FLESH & BONE (winner of the Bram Stoker Award; 2012; and FIRE & ASH (August 2013). BROKEN LANDS, the first of a new spin-off series, debuted in 2018 and was followed by LOST ROADS in fall 2020. ROT & RUIN is in development for film by ALCON ENTERTAINMENT and was adapted as a WEBTOON (a serialized comic formatted for cell phones), becoming their #1 horror comic.

His novels include the enormously popular Joe Ledger series from St. Martin’s Griffin (PATIENT ZERO, 2009, winner of the Black Quill and a Bram Stoker Award finalist for Best Novel) and eleven other volumes, most recently RELENTLESS. His middle grade novel, THE NIGHTSIDERS BOOK 1: THE ORPHAN ARMY (Simon & Schuster) was named one the 100 Best Books for Children 2015. His standalone novels include MARS ONE, GLIMPSE, INK, GHOSTWALKERS (based on the DEADLANDS role-playing game), X-FILES ORIGINS: DEVIL’S ADVOCATE, and THE WOLFMAN --winner of the Scribe Award for Best Movie Adaptation

His horror novels include The Pine Deep Trilogy from Pinnacle Books (GHOST ROAD BLUES, 2006, winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel and named one of the 25 Best Horror Novels of the New Millennium; DEAD MAN’S SONG, 2007; and BAD MOON RISING, 2008; as well as DEAD OF NIGHT, and its sequels, FALL OF NIGHT, DARK OF NIGHT, and STILL OF NIGHT.

His epic fantasy series, KAGEN THE DAMNED debuts in May 2022. And he just signed to co-author (with Weston Ochse) a new series of military science fiction novels that launches the SLEEPERS series. Jonathan will also be launching a new series of science fiction horror novels for the newly established Weird Tales Presents imprint of Blackstone Publishing.

He is also the editor of three THE X-FILES anthologies; the dark fantasy anthology series, OUT OF TUNE; SCARY OUT THERE, an anthology of horror for teens; and the anthologies ALIENS: BUG HUNT, NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD (with George Romero), JOE LEDGER UNSTOPPABLE (with Bryan Thomas Schmidt); two volumes of mysteries: ALTERNATE SHERLOCKS and THE GAME’S AFOOT (with Michael Ventrella); and ALIENS V PREDATOR: ULTIMATE PREY (with Bryan Thomas Schmidt). He is also the editor of DON’T TURN OUT THE LIGHTS, the official tribute to SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. His next anthology will be ALIENS VS PREDATOR: ULTIMATE PREY (with Bryan Thomas Schmidt), debuting in spring 2022.

Jonathan was an expert on the History Channel documentary series, ZOMBIES: A Living History and TRUE MONSTERS. And he was participated in the commentary track for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: REANIMATED.

His many nonfiction works include VAMPIRE UNIVERSE (Citadel Press, 2006); THE CRYPTOPED.

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