Reviewed by Allen Stroud
The first book in K. T. Davies’ Chronicles of Breed, Dangerous to Know, is a first-person narrative that follows the titular character Breed’s attempts to pay off debts to various underworld organisations and ends up caught by the law and subject to the geas of Priest Magician, Brother Tobias.
After an altercation or two that suggests Tobias has problems of his own, Breed accompanies her new master as he leaves Appleton for Valen. Unfortunately, the trip doesn’t allow either of them to leave their troubles behind.
In Dangerous to Know, Davies has written a grim and gritty fantasy, very much in vogue with the grimdark movement. At times, like some other grimdark fiction, the narrative feels a little too modern and quippish for the setting, with Breed’s inner monologue a little too closely conversational to be believed. The result is a Dungeons and Dragons style that encourages you to admire the set pieces, but not look around too much and examine the detail. This cinematic experience is certainly fine and much welcomed for those who enjoy this style of novel. There are echoes of Raymond Feist and Margaret Weis in the locations and a little bit of Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat in the narration.
Davies’ protagonist, Breed is intentionally gender ambiguous and cynical. The flawed narration does continually stress a negative and adversarial position, reinforcing the kind of loner anti-hero made popular in the 1990s. This coupled with the collection of flawed characters that Davies’ assembles around her main character does give it a particularly vivid edge. When put together with the aforementioned gender ambiguity of Breed, the story starts to show its own unique qualities. Many of the elements of this story are familiar fantasy tropes, but they have been applied to a set of unfamiliar and unusual characters. This brings new life to these ideas.
Davies also brings a little comedy to the proceedings, with Breed’s assessment of others a continual source of disparaging amusement.
Dangerous to Know is not a weighty tome, looking to make a pithy moral point with its plot or its social context, but it manages to make an equally important impression through its cast of characters. These adventures might be familiar to us, but we do need to see a wider selection of people taking part in them.
All three books of the Chronicles of Breed are now available and on sale.