SPFBO 9 Finalist review: The Last Fang of God by Ryan Kirk

 

Book links: AmazonGoodreads

AUTHOR INFO: Ryan Kirk is an author and entrepreneur based out of Minnesota. When he isn’t writing, he can usually be found getting lost in the woods.

Visit his website at https://ryankirkauthor.com/
Publisher: Waterstone Media (April 26, 2023) Page Count: 252 (Kindle edition) Cover art: 100covers

ESMAY

The Last Fang of God might be short for a fantasy novel, but it certainly doesn’t forget to pack a punch. Filled with meddling gods, warring tribes, complex father/daughter dynamics, powerful rune magic, and visits to mystical realms, this standalone epic fantasy is a wild ride from start to finish.

What starts out as a familiar and comfortable epic fantasy story quickly takes a darker and more chaotic turn as the past comes calling. Kalen’s daughter, Sascha, has been called by Kalen’s old master. And not just any master, but none other than the God of his old clan himself. Father and daughter will have to leave their peaceful life behind, whether they like it or not, and before long they find themselves at the centre of a catastrophic war led by the whims of the gods.

The complex yet strong father/daughter dynamic is without a doubt the highlight of the story here, and I really loved getting to read from both of their perspectives. The contrast between the way they view themselves versus how the other perceives them and their actions was extremely fascinating to see and added so much nuance and depth to the story. The themes of parenthood and familial love are so incredibly strong, which is exactly what gives this story so much heart.

I also really enjoyed that Kalen’s past is so shrouded in mystery, with the layers slowly being peeled back throughout the story as old acquaintances make him reminisce about his life. There’s quite a bit of intro- and retrospection woven into his storyline, and the high levels of intrigue just kept me turning the pages.

The young Sascha also really gets her time to shine, though at times I felt like the author almost did too good of a job in writing a frustratingly realistic 16-year-old girl. Though, as much as I wanted to smack her over the head sometimes, I really enjoyed her character arc and was blown away by her resilience and strength in the end.

Now, for such a short novel, there is quite an astonishing amount of world building jam packed into these pages. I am always a sucker for the ‘gods walking among us’ trope, and it was executed brilliantly here. Fickle gods are meddling in human lives without remorse, steering the feuding clans they lord over back into war; safe to say, the stakes are high. And then there are also some very mystical and entrancing displays of the powerful rune magic, which only added to the sense of wonder.

All that said, I personally think this story could have benefited from some extra pages to give it all a bit more ‘oomph’, if that makes sense. The story moves along at breakneck speed, with some major life-changing events happening within the blink of an eye and lacking emotional impact. To me, everything felt a bit surface level and all the quick changes in setting due to the frequent travelling made it hard for me to really get settled into the story.

Still, the approachable yet eloquent prose helped me breeze through this book, and I was ultimately quite pleasantly surprised by how much the ending touched me.
If you are looking for a fast-paced story that contains all the best elements of epic fantasy without it being a complete door stopper, then The Last Fang of God is the perfect book to pick up.

ŁUKASZ

“The Last Fang of God” follows Kalen, a former warrior, and his daughter Sascha. Their once-simple life takes a tumultuous turn as Kalen’s past resurfaces. Kalen decides to save Sascha’s life from the meddling of his old god. The catch? Kalen can’t communicate. Ugh. Parents. Sascha, being young and inexperienced, experiences lots of emotional turmoil. And emotional turmoil leads to BAD THINGS. We all know this trope. 


Ryan Kirk finds a balance between the father’s determination to protect his daughter and the challenges posed by Sascha’s angst. That said, a simple act of communication could have made things easier for them and alleviated their struggles.


The narrative propels the duo through hostile lands, pitting them against Kalen’s former adversaries, allies, and even gods. Yet, even if they get to their destination, Sascha’s fate remains uncertain and potentially short.


While I appreciated the dynamics of the father-daughter relationship, the recurrent lack of communication became an inexplicable plot device for me. I found the explanations provided for Kalen’s behavior and choices unconvincing. Although I enjoyed concise writing, the journeying part felt repetitive for me. And rather tiring. 


In summary, it’s a solid read, but not the one I connected with in any meaningful way.


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