Skip to main content

If you are new to the works of Kaden Love, also check out my spoiler-free review of his first novel, Elegy of a Fragmented Vineyard, and my interview with the author!

 

Kaden Love is back with another entry in his “Paladins of the Harvest” series, this time with prequel novella Beastcall. This novella can be read either before or after Elegy of a Fragmented Vineyard, but overall I think you’ll be better off starting with Elegy unless you are committed to just tipping your toes in these epic fantasy waters. Beastcall is a fun and engaging story with a ton of emotional depth, but I found that the constraints of the novella format boxed Love in a bit too much. Therefore, Beastcall doesn’t quite convey all of Love’s strengths as a writer and storyteller (which are all on full display in Elegy of a Fragmented Vineyard).

Beastcall is set a few years before the events of Elegy and follows Runith, a beast hunter who Elegy fans will already be familiar with. Runith is selected by the government to recieve a magical organ transplant – a controversial procedure that involves killing a baby born with magical powers and transferring the magical organ to the adult. This transplant gives Runith the ability to speak to animals, taming and controlling the most powerful ones.

If you are new to this world, Love quickly catches readers up on the magical organ transplants and some of the political controversies, debates, and intrigue that surround the procedure. The world of “Paladins of the Harvest” is quite large, with many competing polities vying for moral and political supremacy, and you’ll get a nice tease of those politics in Beastcall without being thrust into the deep end. If your reading time is tight and you are looking for the very quick version of Love’s story (to see whether it is worth your time), then Beastcall will throw you into an action-packed story full of magic and lore. However, Love’s writing and story is a bit stilted by the novella format. The first 25% of the book has numerous  info dumps where characters narrate at each other, sometimes making awkward jokes and conversational asides to convey information expdiently. I get why Love had to do this, but it made for a stiff reading experience where I kept being pulled out of the story because it was more than obvious that I was reading a story.

Once you get past the exposition-heavy conversations, the novella really comes into its own. Runith is a new favorite character of mine; he is both gruff and quirky, hardened and emotional. He understands the depth and severity of the events unfolding around him, and yet never forgets that there are always opportunities for levity and fun. We also get a handful of fun characters surrounding Runith on his quests, including a mysterious magic user and the rough-and-tumble muscle. For those characters that we didn’t get to see in Elegy, I hope that they get a chance to shine elsewhere in the series because Love introduces us to some great characters that deserve more pages to shine!

These characters form a party to go on an epic quest, and in these ~80 pages Love sends us off an adventure that has a suprising level of heart. I wasn’t expecting to be so emotional with some of the payoffs at the end of the novella. Love nicely balances the old-school fantasy adventuring vibes while a retaining a focus on the characters and their feelings.

Overall, if you find the concept of this series interesting, you are better off just jumping directly into Elegy of a Fragmented Vineyard, which will give you all of the character development, magical organs, international politics, and impending warfare that you could want out of an epic fantasy series. If you are a bit unsure, Beastcall is not a terrible place to start either – just be aware that some of the awkward writing and character interactions in the first 1/3 of the novella are not indicative of Love’s writing or storytelling abilities or style.

Nathan

Nathan is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology where he specializes in death rituals of the Ice Age in Europe and queer theory. Originally from Ohio, he currently lives in Kansas where he teaches college anthropology, watches too much TV, and attempts to make the perfect macarons in a humid climate. He is also the co-host of The Dragonfire podcast with James Lloyd Dulin. He reads widely in fantasy and sci-fi and is always looking for new favorites!

Leave a Reply