Kay Kenyon recently got in touch with me to inquire if I'd be interested in a guest review for a soon-to-be-released SFF debut. I was intrigued by Dan Koboldt's The Rogue Retrieval, so I was happy to oblige. As a big fan of Kenyon's The Entire and the Rose, I encourage you to give it a shot ASAP! The series is comprised of Bright of the Sky, A World Too Near, City Without End, and Prince of Storms.
And since Dan Koboldt's The Rogue Retrieval just came out last week, the timing was perfect to post this review.
Here's the blurb:
Sleight of hand…in another land. Stage magician Quinn Bradley has one dream: to headline his own show on the Vegas Strip. And with talent scouts in the audience wowed by his latest performance, he knows he’s about to make the big-time. What he doesn’t expect is an offer to go on a quest to a place where magic is all too real. That's how he finds himself in Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal owned by a powerful corporation. He’s after an employee who has gone rogue, and that’s the least of his problems. Alissia has true magicians…and the penalty for impersonating one is death. In a world where even a twelve-year-old could beat Quinn in a swordfight, it's only a matter of time until the tricks up his sleeves run out. Scientist and blogger Dan Koboldt weaves wonder, humor, and heart into this debut novel, The Rogue Retrieval. Fans of Terry Brooks and Terry Pratchett will find this a thrilling read.
An appealing mix of fantasy and science fiction, The Rogue Retrieval offers up a Las Vegas magician, corporate power brokers, and a high-tech team trying to pass as indigenous wayfarers on a world where magic is real.
One night on the Las Vegas strip, showman Quinn Bradley receives an offer he can't refuse from a CIA-like duo: a hard-nosed woman named Kiara, and her sizable partner, Logan, a big man with obvious military chops. Lured by an extravagant fee, Quinn learns they work for CASE Global, a company preparing a mission to extract a rogue executive from an area they consider their private domain. That real estate happens to be another world accessed through a portal that only the company knows about and commands.
CASE wants Quinn because he has a skill that will round out the mission in a way only a seasoned magician can--with slight-of-hand expertise and an instinct for dramatic magic tricks. Once the team is assembled on a secret island in the Pacific-- where the portal (somehow) exists--Quinn is trained in hand-to-hand fighting and tech-enhanced magic displays. There he learns that the mission's goal is to exfiltrate from CASE's private reserve--a land called Alissia--a researcher who went rogue, crossing through the portal. Quinn's role is to bolster a three-person team and its cover as they penetrate potentially hostile territory and bring the employee back.
First time novelist Dan Koboldt shows us a Star Gate-type portal and the land beyond. Worldbuilding is not a strength of this story, with its generic medieval culture of rival feudal kingdoms. The most interesting feature of the world is that here, magic is real. Thus The Rogue Retrieval straddles the land between science fiction and fantasy in a quirky, pleasing blend that freshens the milieu. Koboldt obviously is having fun exposing the likable team--especially Quinn--curious, ironic and determined to put on a good show--and the sarcastic, likable Logan. The fun of this story is watching the team dodge, lie and fight their way across a medieval world where their charade could cost them their lives.
We suspect that a Las Vegas showman will chafe at military and corporate protocols, and it's exactly the case. Bradley Quinn is used to running his own show, and true to form, he rankles authority, takes unauthorized risks, and begins to put together an agenda of his own. His main strength is his instinct for gullible marks, and he uses this talent to hoodwink the locals and hold his own on the covert mission--all enjoyably tongue-in-cheek, as he's clearly saving his own hide as well. Even as he earns the team's grudging respect, he knows there's plenty he's not being told. What exactly does CASE have to fear from Richard Holt? What are CASE's plans for the new world, and how far are they willing to go to achieve it? And perhaps the most interesting question, one that Quinn alone can explore: Can a knack for illusion deepen into true magic?
Obvious set ups signal that a sequel is coming. One could hope that future installments will answer the larger questions such as what is this world, and what is the implication for other worlds, portals, and inter-dimensional travel? For now, these issues are airily ignored, as is the question of how the Alisians happen to be human. A few clues to these mysteries would have made the story more memorable, but Koboldt has chosen to defer them. With his science background, this author might have some intriguing answers in store.
As it stands, The Rogue Retrieval is a fast-paced, engaging read with an appealing hero and a solid ensemble cast that grows deeper with every challenge.
I don't know for how long, but right now you can download the digital edition for only 2.99$ here!
Kay Kenyon is the author of twelve science fiction and fantasy novels. Her latest novels are the fantasies Queen of the Deep, about an enchanted ship, both a colossal steam vessel and a Renaissance kingdom; and A Thousand Perfect Things, about a Victorian woman's bid for forbidden powers in an altered India of magic. She is currently working on a paranormal espionage novel.