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Keys of Candor: The Red Deaths (Keys of Candor, Book 1) by Seth Ervin and Casey Eanes

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian
Format: eBook, print
Number of Pages: 321
Publication Date: February 7, 2015
Source: I received a free e-copy in exchange for an honest review


The story begins in the countryside outside of the small village of Cotswold where our protagonist, Kull Shepherd, is waiting for his father, Grift, to return from war in the Groganlands. While waiting for signs of his father's railcar, Kull recalls a time when he trained with his father in the hopes of being accepted into the Academy and his mind wanders to the series of events that compelled his father to leave.

His ruminations are disturbed when he sees a railcar approaching, and he races to greet his father; however, the joyous reunion with his father is marred by the sight of holes in the railcar's engine. As wounded passengers pour out of the railcar, Grift rushes to the scene in a smaller service car and orders citizens to seek shelter in the nearby woods. Shortly after Grift gives the order, Grogans fly towards them and open fire.

The citizens of Cotswold flee as Grift and the remaining soldiers struggle to protect them. Kull manages to reach safety, only to watch helplessly as his father is captured by Grogan forces. Promising his mother that he will bring Grift back home, Kull begins a journey that will teach him that some legends are true.


My first impression of The Red Deaths is that it has a steampunk feel to it; however, some societies have more advanced technology at their disposal. I did not find this confusing as I assumed that these advances were indicative of a society's economics and caste system, or of past and present wars between societies. My assumptions were not proven false as the authors provided an explanation of this discrepancy later on in the book.

Readers will find themselves "dropped into" the plot without any back history or introduction, but it becomes clear by the third page that the protagonist is recalling a memory. I personally do not mind this technique because I find it easier to be drawn into the story, and it makes me want to keep reading to find out more about what is going on.

The characters in the story are detailed and pretty transparent; readers are able to discern the characters' motives, and are provided with enough history to see why the characters have these motives. I found myself frustrated by one character's single-mindedness, and sincerely wished that I could reach inside the book to whack her upside the head. This is by no means the fault of the authors; it merely indicates my level of engagement in the plot and the characters.

I enjoyed the setting; it is detailed, but not so much that it would detract from the plot and characters. There is some political intrigue involved, but the plot did not focus on many of the political and socioeconomic aspects of the world. I would have enjoyed a more thorough investigation of these aspects, but adding them might have slowed the story's pace. 

Later on in the book, the authors added a fantasy element which defies the book's science fiction categorization. This may irk some science fiction fans; however, I found the addition of these elements unique and enjoyable. 

All in all, I found Keys of Candor: The Red Deaths an absorbing read; the plot, characters, and setting came together to form a vivid and interesting world that I easily lost myself in. If you are looking for an engaging science fiction/fantasy to read in one day, I recommend that you give The Red Deaths a try.

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Seth Ervin and Casey Eanes, authors

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