Lev Butts Lists the Best of Self-Publishing III

If you’re just joining us for this latest countdown, I’m listing (in no particular order) the best self-published books I’ve come across.

I’m doing this for two reasons:

  • I want to show that self-publishing, despite the commonly held belief, does not automatically signify a lack of quality.
  • Since the hardest part of self-publishing is finding an audience outside your immediate circle of associations, I am hoping to spread the word about these talented writers to a wider audience.

If you missed my previous posts, you can find them here, here, and here

Okay, let’s get started, shall we?

3.  Dangerous to Know - K. T. Davies (The Chronicles of Breed series)

This is another series that showed up on my Facebook feed, probably because I clicked on last month’s selection, Hero in a Halfling. And if you liked William Tyler Davis’ book, this one will probably appeal to you as well. The humor is drier and less satiric than Davis’ work, but it is genuinely funny. Where Davis’ humor is designed in many ways to break your suspension of disbelief and remind you that you are reading a work of fantasy, Davies’ humor is a natural result of the narrative situation. In short, William Tyler Davis is a genuinely funny author in his Epik Fantasy series while K. T. Davies’ character Breed has a genuinely sardonic sense of humor.

However, The Chronicles of Breed series is a completely different beast than Davis’ Epik Fantasy series. The Chronicles of Breed is marketed as a blend of Deadpool and Game of Thrones, and while I see how that might bring in more readers and I see how such comparisons can be made, I feel that a better comparison can be made to the Thief series of video games, a cult classic series that introduced the first-person sneaker genre, set in a pseudo-Victorian, semi-steampunk world (very much like Neil Gaiman’s London Below in Neverwhere). Like Thief, Dangerous to Know (which is the first volume in the series) follows the adventures of a master thief who finds themself at the center of an Apocalyptic prophecy (or three). What at first seems like a fairly random series of heist jobs ultimately turns into small pieces of larger machinations to end the world, and it is up to our “hero” to put a stop to the plot and save the world.  

While I genuinely like this plot structure (after all, it’s one of the reasons I list Thief as my favorite video game of all time), this is not why I recommend this book. It’s not even in my top three reasons for enjoying it as much as I do. My primary fascination with this novel (and the reason I intend to read the rest of the series) is the character of the protagonist, Breed (which is not the character’s actual name; we never learn the character’s actual given name).

For one thing, Breed is not human. In almost all of the fantasy novels I have read, the main characters are, for all intents and purposes, human, be they elves (tall, overly pompous humans), dwarves (short, vulgar humans), halflings (shorter, timid humans), Men (idealized humans), or sometimes centaurs (I got nothing). If the main characters are not human, they are generally some kind of anthropomorphized mammal. Breed is a halfbreed (hence the name) of a female human and a male thoasa, an anthropomorphized reptilian species, who favors the father more than the mother in looks and personality. 

I find this an inspired choice, as we are not really trained to view reptiles sympathetically. In most fantasy literature, reptilian characters are, nine times out of ten, antagonists, monsters to be feared and avoided. Here, Davies gives us a truly alien viewpoint. Making Breed a reptile allows the reader to have no idea how the character will react to a given situation. It also frees Davies to cast the humans as the true monsters. Breed’s human mother, for instance, is truly one of the most despicable characters in fantasy lit (or any literature for that matter), willing, for example, to murder her only child for “crimes” as petty as arriving later than expected from a successful heist.

This is not to say that Breed is a completely sympathetic character. Breed is not a hero in the classic sense, more antihero, really. The character is as cold-blooded as their species. Breed doesn’t ever (unless this changes in later books) follow the overused trope of jackass-turns-hero. The character begins as an amoral jerk and ends just as badly. The only difference is that we, as the readers, understand the motivations more. If Breed saves someone or helps them, it is because Breed wants to, not because the social order demands such heroism. Even saving the world comes more from self-preservation than altruism: After all, how can a thief steal things, if there isn’t a world to house them in?

The biggest surprise for me as a reader is Breed’s gender. There isn’t one. This may be due to the character’s species, given that some reptiles and amphibians possess the ability to change gender depending on necessity (if Jurassic Park is to be believed, anyway), but I can’t help but think that at least part of it is due to Davies’ desire to allow the readers to determine that gender for themselves. Davies goes out of the way (with much greater success and fluidity than I have in this review) to avoid any references to gender: Breed seems attracted to both genders equally, for instance. Making Breed the narrator also helps avoid the necessity of gendered pronouns.

Even the character’s visual depictions seem fairly androgynous.  
And all of this gives the reader unprecedented freedom to imagine Breed however the reader wishes. Davies allows you to quite literally choose your own protagonist, and that, to me is an amazing accomplishment.  

If this has sparked your interest, Davies has made available two free prequels, a novella and a short story. You simply need to go here and give your email address, and you will receive links to download them within a day or two. I recommend both of these shorter tales as heartily as I do Dangerous to Know. I am looking forward to reading the other two books in the series. 

The entire series so far:
Prequel 1: A Fistful of Rubies (free)
Prequel 2: Something Wicked (free)
Book 1: Dangerous to Know
Book 2: Tooth and Claw
Book 3: The Best Laid Plans


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