Media Reviews

Media Reviews of The Jakirian Cycle — 2006

Something for the lover of swashbuckling heroes.

Think Kill Bill meets Dune. In The Calvanni, knife-fighter Cedrin is called by the Brotherhood of the Night; what he learns in their secret caverns shocks Cedrin. How did he end up in a rebellion against the rulers of his native Athria? And who’s his enemy? The fiercely independent Ellen, now officially ruler of her country, has to battle to keep her heritage; but she has a weapon that no one can match. Action, sword fights, conflicts, adventures, and romance all clash in the land where everything metal is magic. McMahon offers a contemporary updating of a popular genre; The Calvanni reflects his (self-confessed) addiction to all things film. Here’s something for the lover of swashbuckling heroes and sword play and toe curling tension. The Calvanni is the first book in the Jakirian Cycle series and has been published in Australia by Sid Harta Publications.

Mark Deniz, Australian Specfic in focus — June 2007

I initially delayed my reading of The Calvanni by Chris McMahon, falling foul and ignoring the old adage of not judging the book by its cover, before deciding that many books I have enjoyed have also suffered from a cover that neither inspires the reader nor stirs the imagination.

As is the case so often, I was rewarded with not only an interesting read but in fact an excellent start to a cycle of books, which promises to reward its readers with an epic tale.
The planet of Yos is currently preparing for its storm season, a time where the citizens stay indoors, fearing the wrath of the goddess Uros. Cedrin is a knife-fighter (a calvanni), who, with the others in his brotherhood, is summoned to a meeting in which the members of the brotherhood are forced to take a mission to remove the leaders from the continent of Athria. The mission goes awry and Cedrin and his closest friend Marken are forced to flee, lest they are hunted down by their own kind.

Parallel to this, Ellen Cintros is sworn in as heir of Athria after her father is assassinated. Although this is a shock to Ellen, and several members of the court, she rises to the task. Unfortunately for her, sorcery is forbidden on Athria and even though she uses it to save the kingdom from the brotherhood, the result is anything but desirable.

But why did her father want her to search out the Scion, why did he believe this would unite the kingdom?

Book One of the Jakirian Cycle focuses on several characters and their plot lines which interweave and lead to typical fantasy trilogy excitement and build-up. When I say typical, I mean this in no derogatory sense, as I found the first book in the cycle excellent and am very much looking forward to reading book two, immersed as I am in the story of the Scion and Ellen Cintros, heir to the throne of Athria, Cedrin and Marken, and their small band of renegade calvanni, trying to keep out of the range of the new lords of the brotherhood.

McMahon has written an extremely interesting novel here, both in terms of plot and of character development. The writing is engaging and the pace is at that perfect level, and I found myself reading that ‘extra’ chapter after I had decided to finish my reading for the day.

I found the novel an easy read, yet not in terms of the language but more in the excellent way that the author paced the chapters and described each character, scene and battle. I am not a lover of extensive scene descriptions nor lengthy battle scenes, believing that much is best left to the reader’s imagination. McMahon fulfils that desire and, as such, reading the book is anything but a chore.
McMahon blurs the line between good and evil. His work is not simply a case of the evil characters wearing black, their adversaries wearing white and all the clichés in between. Here we have a thieves guild containing some of the most honourable men of the land, a holy organisation whose methods are questionable at the least, an evil sorcerer who has many justifiable reasons for his actions and the nobility which weaves an interesting web of morals, the more members we meet.
After reading several fantasy novels or series recently, I have been disappointed with the progression of the story or the characterisation within and it was refreshing to pick McMahon’s novel up as an antidote to those recent disappointments, to read something of real quality that promises much, and, which I believe, will deliver in the future instalments.

Jason Nahrung — The Courier Mail April 2006

Ellen’s father is dying, poisoned by an assassin as the opening gambit of a plan to overthrow the island nation of Athria. He names her ruler in his stead, the first of surprises in Brisbane writer Chris McMahon’s debut novel, The Calvanni.

Ellen must face her brother’s ire, priests’ suspicions and her own outlawed gift for magic to see her father’s dying wishes are fulfilled. For not only does he leave her the throne, but also a quest to see a fabled, foretold Scion is elevated to his rightful place as ruler.

Muddying the waters are the plots of numerous forces: the dark sorcerer Raziin, his cruel master Hukum and Cedrin of the knife-wielding criminal calvanni, just for starters.
The plots come to a head during the planet’s storm season, when a biological trigger called the Heat can drive people to violence.

For McMahon, Yos and its complex bureaucracy of politics and religion has been a very real world for quite some time.

“Just out of university, while I was working as a chemical engineer, I wrote a novella called Bloodline,” he says.

“I was dissatisfied with it and wanted to create a truly unique fantasy world.

“I researched evolution and came up with a completely different ecology, one that had to cope with the extreme temperature swings of a system with twin suns.

“That’s how the humans of Yos came to have the Heat — an evolutionary mechanism that allows them to survive the bitter cold, yet at a price.

“But the really unique thing about Yos is that it is a fantasy world without swords.

“All metal is magical on Yos appearing as glowmetal, a combination of metal and energy. All the weapons and armour are constructed of cast ceramics and composites, and the longest blades are the long-knives or calvs. Hence calvanni or ‘knife fighter’.”

The Calvanni is the first book in The Jakirian Cycle, which McMahon plans as a series of six, although the remainder are uncontracted [at that time].

Bloodline became the novella Flight of the Phoenix, which was published in the Fantasy Readers Wanted — Apply Within anthology (Silver Lake Publishing) in 2003.

McMahon, a winner of the One Book, Many Brisbane competition; launches The Calvanni at Conjure the national science fiction convention in Brisbane, on April 15 [2006].

Wendy O’Hanlon, The Noosa Journal — May 2006

A truly imaginative work with strong characters and believable societal laws and legends set in a well-drawn world so far removed from our own. Throughout this major work, written with flair and flourish, there is constant urgency and mystery to maintain a solid pace. My only regret is that The Calvanni is the first book of a series and we have to wait for further books to follow the life of Ellen and her people on the planet Yos.

John Morrow’s Pick Of The Week — April 2006

I’ve often said that I love to discover new fantasy series, especially when they come from a new voice in writing. This book, the first book in a new series from an Australian author, is bound to win a legion of dedicated fantasy fans.

The Storm Season is drawing near in the world of Yos and Ellen’s father, Myan, leader of Athria, dies from a poisoned arrow. There is stunned shock throughout the temple where all the priests and advisors are gathered.

Before he dies, Myan must name the heir to the kingdom and shocks everyone with his decision. He names Ellen as his successor, and ignores her brothers, Torren and Estle’s right to be leader. It is certainly not the custom of Athria to name a woman as the next Sarla.

Only Ellen’s father knows of her magical powers and he has made her vow that she will not reveal them, as it may spell death for her. Just before he dies, Myan also gives Ellen a quest, a quest which he has tried to complete during his rule.

He whispers that “Belin was here”, but Ellen knows that Belin is long dead. Myan also tells her that “Cedrin, Belin’s bastard son, must be found, as he wears Belin’s signet ring”.
Ellen is given the task of finding and protecting Cedrin. Myan’s last words to Ellen are “Remember, the Scion must stand in the Temple of the Iris”.

In another part of the kingdom, Cedrin, a tough knife-fighter (known in Athria as a calvanni), and member of the Brotherhood of the Night, is asked to attend a secret meeting in the underground tunnels.

By evil means, he is forced to join an uprising against the rulers of Athria. He immediately becomes suspicious as to why he is being drawn into this quest. However, he soon swears to protect his friends from death.

So begins Ellen’s quest to track down Cedrin. As the story continues, she soon discovers that she may have to tell someone about her unusual powers, as she is left with little choice.
I hope I have whetted your appetite for this particular fantasy series and know that all diehard fantasy fans will relish this imaginative novel.

“A father’s dying request leads a daughter to embark on an adventure that will have serious consequences for her land – a land that she was unexpectedly left to rule.”