A feud between Gods.
A nation besieged by armies of man, and demon.
A man seeking redemption, and peace.
Kalfinar is a grieving addict. Once a decorated and respected soldier, he has been demoted and disgraced. The relative peace of his half-life is shattered by the onset of chaos and war. Tormented by visions, he is marked for possession, and hunted by demons.
Amidst the all-consuming ruin of a war between Gods, Kalfinar must lead the fight to defend a faith he has abandoned, and a nation that has disowned him.
Red Season Rising is an exciting debut novel that combines aspects of both high and low fantasy in an intriguing way. By this, I mean that we experience the events of the book from the very grounded perspective of the main character, Kalfinar. There may be a lot of magic flying around, and even gods, but this has the feel of a low fantasy novel, if not the content.
Kalfinar is a veteran warrior, one of the only atheists in a very religious country and a man haunted by the demons of his past (as well as literal demons, but I’ll get to that later). He mourns the loss of his wife and daughter, and while a few readers might take issue with the “wife used as motivation” part of this story, Murray handles this trope far better than many other authors.
The book begins in an isolated military post, which is attacked in the night by seemingly inhuman creatures. Amidst fears of a full-scale invasion, Kalfinar is given orders to warn the rest of the country of the threat. From here everything descends into delicious chaos. Somewhere along the way, Kalfinar picks up a demonic spirit that follows him wherever he goes and is capable of possessing anyone it needs to in order to kill him or his companions. In the meantime, Kalfinar is dragged into a war between two gods.
Kalfinar himself is a very gruff and serious character, though it is quite easy to root for him given the relatively simplistic “Good vs. Evil” nature of the plot. His bromance with Broden (a fellow warrior) is one of the highlights of the book, though it has to be said that there isn’t too much variety with regards to the personalities of the characters. Everyone is very serious, which makes sense considering the threats they face, but it does mean that sections of the story can feel a little monotonous.
Despite this, the story is very engaging. The overall tone may be a little bleak, but that suits the subject matter. I found the opening few chapters to be fantastic, giving off a very “Song of Ice and Fire” feel, and they really got me excited to read on. There were a few unfortunately muddy passages in the middle, but the book recovers for a great action- and emotionally-heavy conclusion. I did have a few issues with heavy immersion-breaking info-dumps, but my overall enjoyment outweighs that minor annoyance.
All things considered, I think that any criticism I have of Red Season Rising can be chalked down to the fact that this is a debut novel. It’s clear that D.M. Murray is a very talented and promising writer, with a wonderful talent for writing exciting and chaotic battle scenes, and I look forward to picking up the sequel, Too Cold To Bleed, in the near future.
I have to pick it up, really… this book ends on a bastard of a cliffhanger.