REVIEW: Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry

Last Updated on July 3, 2024

Son of the Poison Rose is the second instalment of Maberry’s epic dark fantasy series Kagen the Damned. However, Maberry is a prolific writer, with accolades such as numerous Bram Stoker Awards and being a New York Times bestselling author. If the Kagen series leaves you wanting more, picking up some of Maberry’s back catalogue may scratch the itch while we wait for the next book in this series. In particular, his horror and science fiction works will probably appeal if you have enjoyed these fantasy novels. There is also a Kagen novella called I Say Your Name in the Dark Nights, which is available as an eBook.

Son of the Poison RoseSon of the Poison Rose picks up almost immediately as the first novel, Kagen the Damned, finishes. That is essential reading; this is not a series where you can pick and choose where to start. The world-building and knowledge of the first book are vital as Maberry continues to have a fast-paced narrative. This meant that the novel itself felt like a much quicker read than one could have expected, given its size. I made swift progress but did not feel like the plot was rushed. The narrative again follows multiple perspectives, the majority being Kagen, but others are familiar from the first book and new to this one. Sometimes the chapter perspectives run concurrently, especially with critical parts of the novel, which helps to emphasise the importance of that particular event. The chapters vary between short and very short, but Maberry’s writing is immersive and entertaining, so this did not feel pithy or clunky.

Although the pacing began very similarly to the first novel, Son of the Poison Rose, it is not quite as action-packed from the get-go right up to the finale. There are peaks and troughs of action here, with skirmishes and smaller-scale battles teamed with covert movements from place to place, which matches the political situation at this point in the series. The invasion is over, and now it is more about maintaining control or forming a rebellion, depending upon which side you fall. However, this gives Maberry’s characters a chance to develop and for us as a reader to strengthen our bond with them. The camaraderie between Kagen, Tuke, and Filia is shown more as they travel through the empire. We see more of the politicking of Mother Frey, and even characters who, after the last book, I could have sworn were irredeemable, have moments that earn them flashes of sympathy.

This is still a dark and gritty novel. In particular, I found the chapters of the Witch King’s “children” harrowing to read. The battle scenes are well-written and engaging on both small and large scales. The final battle, in particular stands out to me as one of my favourite parts of Son of the Poison Rose. There are a lot of fantastical references in this series that readers will enjoy, for example, Maberry’s use of Lovecraftian tradition and the range of magical monsters that are either referred to or appear in Son of the Poison Rose. I would have loved to have spent more time with the Unbladed or seen more marauding across the empire with the Bloody Bastards, but I am hoping this will happen in the next novel or be explored more in other short fiction.

Maberry ties up some loose ends, but Son of the Poison Rose does end on a cliffhanger, so I hope the next novel in the series will pick up where this one has left off. Many avenues are left to explore, so I am excited about whatever Maberry writes next. Son of the Poison Rose is a worthwhile investment in your reading time. If you loved Kagen the Damned you would enjoy this. If you like dark epic fantasy with magic, scheming, and a fair chunk of violence, then this series is one to pick up. Thank you very much to Jonathan Maberry and the St. Martin’s Press team for sending me a copy of Son of the Poison Rose so I could review it for Grimdark Magazine.

4.5/5

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Fiona Denton

Fiona Denton

Fiona is a former secondary school teacher and current stay at home parent to two very wild and active children. She lives with them and her husband in the UK and can often be found on a beach paddling in the North Sea or stomping through a forest with the sprogs and hounds. She loves to read and has always enjoyed fantasy novels, particularly the very dark and twisty ones with mythical creatures.

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