Publisher: Macmillan Audio (Audiobook – 29 November 2022)
Series: Kagen the Damned – Book 1.5
Length: 1 hours and 20 minutes
My Rating: 4.5. of 5 stars
Get ready to dive back into the crazy world of Jonathan Maberry’s epic Kagen the Damned series with the intriguing and fun novella, I Say Your Name in the Dark Nights.
Readers of this blog will know that I am a pretty big fan of acclaimed thriller/horror author Jonathan Maberry, and my experiences getting into his books are well documented across The Unseen Library. I have been a particular fan of his impressive Joe Ledger science fiction thriller books (which includes books like Patient Zero, The Dragon Factory, Code Zero, and Dogs of War), his sequel Rogue Team International series (made up of Rage and Relentless), as well as his standalone horror read Ink. These excellent thrillers cleverly feature science heavy villains or reimagined supernatural foes to great effect, and I love the dark and elaborate stories they contain.
Maberry changed his game around last year when he presented his very first pure fantasy novel, Kagen the Damned. An extremely dark and shocking read set in a new fantasy realm, Kagen the Damned follows Kagen Vale, a former hero and royal protector who loses everything in a single night when the force of the Witch-king of Hakkia suddenly invade, destroying his home, family and the children he was sworn to defend. Traumatised by the carnage he witnesses and forsaken by his gods, Kagen believes himself truly damned and walks around the country in a daze before managing to pull himself together to launch a counterattack. I had an outstanding amount of fun with Kagen the Damned, especially as Maberry made great use of his trademark writing style and successfully combined it with a fantasy setting and narrative. Kagen the Damned ended up being one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2022, and I have been very keen to continue the series. While I haven’t had a chance to listen to the recently released sequel, Son of the Poison Rose (one of my most anticipated fantasy novels of 2023) yet, I did manage to quickly listen to the connected novella, I Say Your Name in the Dark Nights, which proved to be a lot of fun.
I Say Your Name in the Dark Nights is a short and sweet novella that showcases a quick and brutal adventure around Kagen during the period where he drunkenly wanders around the lands. Featuring an intriguing new enemy, this is a very typical Maberry read, with a ton of violence, sex and some impressive horror iconography.
Kagen Vale—disgraced former palace guard, damned by his own gods, on the run from bounty hunters and assassins—discovers that no matter where you try to hide, evil can find you. In this standalone short story, Kagen the Damned squares off against a clan of ferocious supernatural predators in service to the Witch-king.
I Say Your Name in the Dark Nights was an excellent read that is guaranteed to whet reader’s appetites between Kagen the Damned and Son of the Poison Rose. The plot itself is fast-paced and action packed as Kagen, drunk and depressed in the woods, comes across a young woman being chased by a pack of deadly wolves and rushes to her defence. However, Kagen soon finds himself at the mercy of his supposed damsel as she is revealed to be a deranged werewolf hired by the Witch-king to kill him. Maberry tells an effective and exciting story around this concept, which doesn’t take long to unfold. For example, the audiobook version I listened to was only an hour and 20 minutes long, which I finished in a single setting. As such, you really breeze through I Say Your Name in the Dark Nights, since Maberry ensures that it has a very concise and comprehensive story to it.
I really liked how this entire narrative came together, and it was fun to see Maberry’s typical writing style compacted down into novella form. The action is brutal and bloody, the characters are very over the top, and it serves as an interesting continuation of the previous narrative from Kagen the Damned. The plot itself is very self-contained, and at times it felt more like an extended interlude from the first book. As such, fans of the first novel will have the most fun with I Say Your Name in the Dark Nights, although anyone familiar with Maberry and his horror-based books will know what they are in for. The author has a lot of experience writing werewolf fiction, and the brutal transformations, excessive violence and inhuman nature of the characters, which really freak the protagonist out, make for some striking and compelling scenes. Due to the length, there isn’t a great deal of universe expansion here, which isn’t too surprising, as the author focuses more on the story. However, there are a few hints at the changing world, such as Kagen being forced to deal with more and more supernatural monsters, and he luckily comes across a useful weapon that may aid him in the future. Plus, Maberry really showcases the continued assistance/stalking that Kagen receives from the mysterious nightbirds, which hints at things to come while also increasing the Lovecraftian feel of the entire story.
A good deal of the focus of I Say Your Name in the Dark Nights is once again on the depressed and broken Kagen Vale. Just like with Kagen the Damned, Kagen is severely damaged and drunk, having still not recovered from the devastating events of the first book. While the action and events of the story briefly recover his wits, he is still forced to again deal with horrors outside his understanding and watching him try and overcome the odds whilst being severely outclassed is a fantastic part of this outstanding story. Kagen of course reverts to his more bloodthirsty and deadly persona to survive, but it takes every aspect of his being to get there, and you really feel his pain, both physical and emotional. The audiobook version really encapsulate this, especially with the always impressive narration of Ray Porter, who is such an expert at diving into Maberry’s complex and brooding protagonists. I deeply enjoyed seeing a struggling Kagen through Porter’s narration again, and it adds some great layers and impact to the overall experience.
Unsurprisingly, I loved my latest Jonathan Maberry experience, and I Say Your Name in the Dark Nights is an impactful and captivating read. Serving as an electrifying and compelling companion novella to the wider Kagen the Damned series, I Say Your Name in the Dark Nights provides a fun and brutal new adventure for fans to sink their teeth into, and anyone who loved Kagen the Damned will have an epic time here. I highly enjoyed this cool novella, especially in its audiobook format, and it has got me particularly excited for the next entry in the series. I am planning to start listening to Son of the Poison Rose this week, and I know I am going to have an exceptional time doing so.