Review: Knight's Curse by Karen Duvall

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Author: Karen Duvall
Genre: supernatural/fantasy
Series: [Untitled series] #1
Pages: 384 (NetGalley ARC)
Published: August 2011
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

A break-neck romp set in a world populated with gargoyles, nephilim, demons, and angels,  Knight's Curse was a fun diversion for a couple days. An easy read filled with action, different forms of magic/abilities, curses and female knights, this first adventure by Karen Duvall centers around the character of Chalice. Chalice is special, with unique abilities ("Sticks and stones may break my bones, but I'd see them coming before they hurt me. Maybe even smell them," she says in the first chapter) because she is the descendant of a human woman mating with angels. In this world of Duvall's, those women who mated with angels and bore their (apparently only female) offspring were of an order of Knights existing since the Middle Ages. Her mother was deliberately murdered and Chalice kidnapped at thirteen by an evil organization (think the mafia with mojo), she was cursed as a means of control- every three days Chalice must make contact with her gargoyle, Shui, or be turned into a monster like him for all time.

Chalice herself failed to engage me, or make me really care about her story. I wanted to like this character much more than I did. By all means, I should love her: she's smart, snarky, sarcastic, good with a blade, and fierce. Why don't I? She's also demanding, whiny, ruled by her hormones and emotions, and impulsive at the expense of her intelligence. Several times, I wanted to smack her and tell her, "Use your brain!" I liked her abilities, if not her judgment - rather than be magical, Chalice's talents are all about sensory perception and action. She even goes so far to be distrustful of all magic - and as she's enslaved to a gargoyle because of a dark mage, the attitude is understandable - but wears thin after about two hundred pages. I think the author tried a bit too hard to impress Chalice's hard edges upon the reader - a lighter, more subtle approach over the novel would've fleshed out the character more completely. Chalice certainly commands attention when she is on the page (and I have to give kudos where due - Chalice is certainly a very strong character), but her character's foibles grated on my nerves far too often for me to love her.

The other characters in the novel were sadly not as developed as that of Chalice. Aydin, her Moorish love interest and also under the same gargoyle curse, was intriguing and mysterious but without much of an individual personality. I did really love that Aydin wasn't a typical WASPy character, but his story arc felt sadly neglected for much of the story. He's charming but lacks any emotional depth and I never rooted for him the way one ought to for a charming man. I also never bought the love connection between Chalice and Aydin, and as this is a partially driving force for the plot it was a problem for me for much of the story. Aydin is so reserved and withdrawn, all the urges come from Chalice and seem forced and unnatural for the character. Gavin, the villain, has almost no characterization at all. I much prefer morally grey, interesting villains as opposed to the cut-and-dried, starkly evil, with no explanation Force of Evil.

What I did really like: the magic. Creative ideas for aspects of magic are my favorite (i.e. the Abhorsen trilogy, Mistborn series, Spellwright novels, etc. for unique and original magical powers) and this book had varied applications. Besides the super-sense strength of Chalice, there was (among other references) a "Native American relic with the power to  cause cancer instead of cure it" or "[...] a picture frame that told the future by revealing how the subject in the photo would change over the years." Another idea I've yet to see in another novel: Aydin has the power to "lose [his] solid mass" and in effect, become an incorporeal ghost. The differences in abilities for each character hint at a wide variety of strengths and possibilities for this world of the author's. Also, the mythos of the Fallen angels was a nice twist on the current nephilim craze in paranormal/supernatural/urban fantasy fiction; the angel Barachiel is present for very little time but figures into most of my theories. I can appreciate innovation and creativity and Duvall excels in such areas.

The time-limit of 72 hours creates an almost palpable unease in almost any scene with either Aydin or Chalice. The threat hanging over their heads, along with the internal turmoil of being of angel descent "but deviled" with a gargoyle bond are the main sources of tension for the story and of course, Chalice herself. The gargoyles themselves are largely absent for the events of the novel, creating a mysterious and foreboding threat for our two heroes. While the voice can be inconsistent, and details confusing (a lot of location descriptions and/or action sequences can be hard to picture as detailed in the story), but overall this was an easy, fun read. Duvall has talent, promise, strong female heroines, and fresh ideas on magic -- all things I support in the fantasy genre. The ending was surprising and surprisingly melancholy - I can't wait for the second (Darkest Knight is tentative title I've heard bandied about) and have hopes that the series will grow and improve with each novel.


  1. Wow. You've blown me away with this review!! This is precisely the type of review I love to read -- detailed, with a very thorough analysis of the characters and plot elements. KUDOS!!

    Too many bloggers out there just put in one ot two short paragraphs, and I find that very unsatisfying. I want more. I want a meaty review, not something that sounds like a blurb!

    I found you thanks to Book Blogs, and want to follow your blog, but don't see a GFC widget. Is Twitter the only following option? I don't do Twitter; I simply don't have the time.

    Hope you decide to put in a GFC widget! Thanks for a truly GREAT review!! : )

    Maria @ A Night's Dream of Books

  2. Oh, I see the widget now! Must have been a Well, I'm following you!! : )

  3. I think it's a frequent glitch with blogger :(

    and thank you so much! You made my day! I went over and followed you as well - looking forward to discussing books with you!

  4. Hi, again! You're very welcome!! I'm looking forward to the same!!

    But hey, I can't find your icon in my GFC widget...another glitch? GRRRR at Blogger! Could you try again? Thanks, and sorry for any inconvenience! : )

  5. Sure can! I'll head over right now and see what it says.
    And it says I'm Jessie, with the 'Options' pulldown and all. I went back through and re-loaded my icon and I popped up :)

  6. Thank you SO much!! And thanks for leaving a comment on my Blogger Hop post, too! :)

  7. What a great review! So glad I followed the link from the Book Blogs site. Meeting so many great bloggers. :)
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  8. thanks for the follow and the link! I am now following you as well!


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