Kacen Callender’s highly anticipated second book in their Islands of Blood and Storm duology is an incredible ride. King of the Rising summons us once again to the Caribbean-inspired isles of Hans Lollik, which are as flawlessly picturesque as they are fatal. Elskerinde Sigourney Rose’s actions in the first book, Queen of the Conquered, have rendered the islands and their people a chaotic, revolutionary mess.
King of the Rising presents readers with a fresh voice via the perspective of Løren Jannik, who was once one of Sigourney’s enslaved personal guards. We learn that, like Sigourney, Løren is also gifted with the supernatural psychic abilities called kraft. His connection to his former mistress is further complicated by the mysterious ways their powers interact, as well as the constant fluctuation of his moral compass as the rebel tyrant Malthe and his followers demand the head of imprisoned Sigourney alongside that of their colonizers, the Fjerns. But while Sigourney is of royal lineage and wields her kraft as a mind-control weapon, Løren prides himself on being an empath and using his kraft for good—or for relative good, at least.
Callender skillfully portrays raw human emotion and psychology as devious, power-hungry leaders pit islanders against one another and Løren must decide if he should be the one to lead the islanders to true liberty, not just temporary freedom as a result of a disorganized rebellion. The urgency and stakes increase when the islanders learn of a traitor in their midst, and Callender’s penchant for crafting unconventional, fantastical mysteries shines as Løren, Sigourney and the other rebel leaders must choose where their loyalties lie. We also glean enticing and horrifying clues, as well as insight into deep personal and intergenerational trauma, through Callender’s implementation of flashbacks.
When he saves Sigourney from execution for reasons that escape even his own understanding, Løren finds himself the unlikely leader of an island revolution, much to the chagrin of the Fjern and some rival islanders, who fear the power of his unique kraft. As the surviving Fjern return to claim Hans Lollik Helle for themselves, Løren and Sigourney must work together, journeying to the other islands and beyond to try to rally the forces they'll need to make their final stand. King of the Rising puts readers firmly into the minds of Callender’s unforgettable characters as it answers a spine-tingling set of questions: At the end of the war, who will survive and who will rule?