Hunt for Valamon by D. K. Mok

Published: 7th April 2015Goodreads badge
 Spence City
Pages: 400
Format: Ebook
Genre: Fantasy
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

When Prince Valamon is impossibly taken from the heart of Algaris Castle, the only clue as to motive or culprit is the use of unknown sorcery.
Reclusive cleric Seris is happily tending to his book-infested temple when he finds himself recruited to the politically compromised rescue mission. His sole companion on the journey is Elhan, a cheerfully disturbed vagrant girl with terrifying combat skills and her own enigmatic reasons for seeking the prince.
Venturing into the wild, unconquered lands, Seris has no fighting prowess, no survival skills, and no charisma, as Elhan keeps pointing out. Armed only with a stubborn streak and creative diplomacy, he must find a way to survive outlaw towns, enchanted tropical isles, and incendiary masquerades, all without breaking his vow to do no harm.
Chasing rumours of rising warlords and the return of the vanished sorcerers, Seris and Elhan soon discover a web of treachery and long-buried secrets that go far beyond a kidnapped prince.
As enemies rise from beyond the empire and within it, Seris and Elhan realise that the key to saving Valamon and averting a war may lie in their own bloody pasts, and the fate of their fragile friendship.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the publisher for review.

Mok starts the story with the drama of abduction and proceeds with a story filled with the threat of war and a complex web of armies, revenge, ancient curses, and a fight for a kingdom. With varying points of views each character’s voice can be heard, which is a great opportunity to see things from multiple sides and makes for a more rounded story. There is humour in the story, it is never over the top and it is sprinkled throughout to make it seem natural, always managing to bring a slight smile to your face.

When Valamon is abducted, a cleric called Seris and tournament champion the feared Kali-Adelsa are sent to discover who has taken him and bring him back. It’s an unlikely pairing with Seris and the Kali-Adelsa, named Elhan, but it works, and they both bring something to their mission. Seris is inexperienced but he has compassion and a useful skill set, and his honesty and nature is rather charming. He is a likeable character and while there is no one character that you noticeably dislike more than others, Seris was one who is hard not to enjoy. Elhan, on the other hand, is tough and skilled in fighting, but she is also weighed down by having to deal with the curse placed upon her and having death and destruction follow her around. She is not dislikeable though she does take a while to grow on you, but once you understand her more she is much more appealing. The curse makes her fierce and feared but teamed with Seris she learns to control herself and realises she is not the monster she has always thought herself to be.

During their search for Valamon the pair gets caught up in a whole manner of things and each of their skills come to their aide and makes their journey that little bit more adventurous. The curse itself is quite interesting and Mok uses it in the narrative cleverly. It is explained and demonstrated at various times but there is still an air of mystery in it that needs to be uncovered. The struggle Elhan has trying to deal with it is touching and it adds another dimension to her character and brings something extra to the story.

Valamon himself is intriguing because other characters mention numerous times that he isn’t the brightest and he is not leadership material, but he seems smarter than people give him credit for and it makes an interesting side to the story. He is different and therefore mocked, and while not smart in the sense others want him to be, he is still intelligent and observant, which he uses to his advantage.

Mok’s writing captures the sense of a quest and the world she’s created is intriguing and detailed. Seris and Elhan meet a range of characters on their hunt for Valamon and their journey covers much of the land which allows a great sense of the world to be discovered. This also introduces a range of characters and Mok makes an effort to ensure their voices are distinguishable and unique. Each character has their own voice and the dialogue suits them well, aiding their representation and helps understand who they are.

The story has nice surprises that are unexpected and helpful without being too grand. These little surprises perk up the story without being large twists and shocking revelations but still work extremely well and fit naturally into the narrative. There is also a political nature to this story but the fantasy component and clever writing balances this well and while it is a major feature it doesn’t feel too heavy handed.

As you read there is not a feeling of build up or anticipation per se, but the journey and quest to find Valamon is enjoyable and the looming threat of war ends with an action-packed conclusion. Mok does not rush the ending but brings it steadily to a close, making sure everything is explained adequately and the novel ends nicely leaving no questions unanswered. Overall this is an interesting story set in an intriguing world and one that is humorous, well thought out, and enjoyable.

You can purchase Hunt for Valamon via the following


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | QBD


Amazon | Nook | Amazon Au

Cover Reveal: Hunt for Valamon by D. K. Mok





 Deep in the heart of the Talgaran Empire, Algaris Castle has been breached. No one knows how, why, or by whom. The only thing taken is twenty-eight year old Crown Prince Valamon.

 Seris—a young cleric caring for the ramshackle and happily book-infested Temple of Eliantora—finds himself unexpectedly recruited to the rescue mission. His sole companion is Elhan, a cheerfully disturbed vagrant girl with terrifying combat skills, who is rumoured to be under a dangerous curse.

 Far out of his depth, Seris has no fighting ability, no survival skills, and no charisma, as Elhan keeps pointing out. All he has are a stubborn streak and the conviction that unless he returns with Valamon, dire consequences await his foster family.

 Chasing rumours of rebel camps and rising warlords, cursed fates and the return of the vanished sorcerers, Seris and Elhan discover a web of treachery and long-buried secrets that go far beyond a kidnapped prince.

 As enemies rise from both beyond the empire and within it, Seris and Elhan must confront their own bloody pasts, and rescue Valamon, before simmering tensions in the empire erupt into war.



Tomorrow, everything would change.
Valamon, crown prince of the Talgaran Empire, stared at the crisp speech in his hand. The rest of the castle lay deep in slumber, but in Valamon’s bedchamber, the candle had burned down to a crater of wax.
There was nothing extraordinary about the speech, aside from the fact he’d finally been entrusted to deliver one. It was covered in copious notes from the royal speechwriter, including “remember not to smile” and “look regal”.
Valamon glanced at his reflection in the mirror. His dark hair kept falling into his eyes, and while he was reasonably tall, he had the inconspicuous build of a worried philosopher. Judging by the portraits in the banquet hall, “looking regal” involved brandishing a bloodied sword while crushing a corpse beneath your boot, which Valamon had always hoped was artistic embellishment.
Valamon wondered what would happen if he deviated from the script and told the crowd what he really thought of his father’s expansionist policies. It would probably involve a very high, very cramped tower with a deficiency in doors.
Still, Valamon was twenty-eight this summer, and something had to be done. He folded the speech into a small, intricate lotus and left it beside the dying candle.
When he looked up again, there was a contorted shape in his bedroom window, pressed against the glass. By the time Valamon lunged for his sword, it was already too late.


Author bio:

DK Mok lives in Sydney, Australia, and writes fantasy, science fiction and urban fantasy novels and short stories. DK’s debut urban fantasy novel, The Other Tree, was released in 2014 by Spence City (an imprint of Spencer Hill Press), and her short story ‘Morning Star’ (One Small Step, FableCroft) was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award.

DK grew up in libraries, immersed in lost cities and fantastic worlds, populated by quirky bandits and giant squid. She graduated from UNSW with a degree in Psychology, pursuing her interest in both social justice and scientist humour.

She’s fond of cephalopods, androids, global politics, rugged horizons, science and technology podcasts, and she wishes someone would build a labyrinthine library garden so she can hang out there. Her favourite fossil deposit is the Burgess Shale.


Hunt for Valamon will be out April 7, 2015

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The Other Tree by D.K. Mok

Today I have a review for The Other Tree by D. K. Mok as part of her blog tour thanks to Spence City!

Published: 28th January 2014
Goodreads badgePublisher: Spence City
Pages: 400
Format: ebook via Edelweiss
Genre: Fantasy
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

It’s been four years since Chris Arlin graduated with a degree that most people think she made up, and she’s still no closer to scraping up funding for her research into rare plants. Instead, she’s stacking shelves at the campus library, until a suspiciously well-dressed man offers her a lucrative position on a scientific expedition.

For Chris, the problem isn’t the fact that they’re searching for the Biblical Tree of Life. Nor is it the fact that most of the individuals on the expedition seem to be fashionably lethal mercenaries. The problem is that the mission is being backed by SinaCorp, the corporation responsible for a similar, failed expedition on which her mother died eleven years ago. However, when Chris’s father is unexpectedly diagnosed with inoperable cancer, Chris sees only one solution.

Vowing to find the Tree of Life before SinaCorp’s mercenaries, Chris recruits Luke, an antisocial campus priest undergoing a crisis of faith. Together, they embark on a desperate race to find Eden. However, as the hunt intensifies, Chris discovers growing evidence of her mother’s strange behaviour before her death, and she begins to realise that SinaCorp isn’t the only one with secrets they want to stay buried.

The Other Tree is a story that is clever, secretive, and mysterious. It is about two regular people trying to do something extraordinary, driven by determination and personal motives, all the while having a dangerous enemy biting at their heels who is also after the same prize: the Tree of Life. Both parties are after the Tree for very different reasons and we watch as Chris and Luke race against SinaCorp to decipher ancient texts and solve riddles to find the location of the other mystical tree from the Garden of Eden.

One of my weaknesses in reading is being given questions early on that don’t get answered; it will pretty much guarantee I will keep reading just to find out the answer, and find out why I wasn’t told the answer at the time. Mok implements this technique from the start. Asking questions at the beginning of a story that go unanswered for a little bit gets you interested and it keeps you reading because even if nothing has actually happened yet plot wise, you still are left with a question that is dangling in front of you. You want to know why this character thought that the perfect stranger standing in a courtyard was peculiar even if you know nothing else.

Admittedly even with these questions the story started off slowly but it was not without some interest. It picks up in the middle and as the story progressed it gradually became more engaging, as all good adventure stories should. This has been catagorised as a fantasy but surprisingly I kept thinking of it not just as an adventure style story, but one that actually seemed quite realistic. I know that sounds strange considering it is a story about the hunt for the Tree of Life and the Garden of Eden, but so much of this novel made me happy because it played out like reality would. Chris and Luke are not professionals, they aren’t even part of an organisation, they are a botanist and a priest trying to beat a massive corporation, a corporation who have access to the latest technologies, unlimited funding, and specially trained mercenaries, and Mok doesn’t forget that. It’s slowness in part makes it realistic, being untrained and slightly unskilled, the way Chris and Luke tackle the adventure is believable, as another character mentions, they keep stopping regularly for food, they also sleep in motels, have to drive long distances and catch commercial flights to other countries. There is no fast solution, and how they gain their information differs from SinaCorp because it cannot just be bought or analysed with equipment. However, being unskilled doesn’t make them unprepared and a lot of their own unique skills come in handy during their search.

Another great part of the story is the relationship between Chris and Luke. Their friendship is enjoyable and as a result makes the story enjoyable to read. The realism in their relationship becomes more profound as the book continues and the banter, dialogue and support between them are what make it special; it’s natural and reflects how people behave with one another. This realism is also shown with other character relationships. While Chris often jokes to herself about making grand declarations liked heroes do against their foe, she knows it doesn’t happen in reality and while you are making sweeping statements they will most likely turn and shoot you without a second thought. People get hurt, money buys power, and there isn’t always justice.

This doesn’t mean there is no fun in this book. There is a lot of great humour, jokes between friends, great banter between characters and a great mix of sarcasm and fear that makes for an interesting read. Throughout this story Mok balances the seriousness, humour, religion, mystery, and adventure elements perfectly meaning each aspect is evident at the appropriate time and nothing is too overbearing. Mok also includes some great profound statements, not just by characters but also in the narrative, each time never feeling out of place or unwelcome, and offering that serious nature amongst what could be mistaken as a jovial quest in parts.

I am not a religious person, I don’t know much about it and what I do know comes from multiple and various pop culture references and general exposure that occurs from daily life. Having said that, I liked the approach Mok takes with this story and how religion is dealt with. And while it does centre on these religious elements, The Other Tree is more action based story involving religion rather than solely an in-depth religious analysis in itself. What religious aspects that are present are presented in a way that is respectful yet basic, while also being realistic, well placed, and properly used. This presentation is helped a lot by the characters, something that not only brought out the story and the themes really well, but got you to know who these characters were.

Both Chris and Luke are people with something in their past and through their ordeal we slowly see this come to light and see them face what they have been hiding from and who they are a people. But while they are a lot of the main focus, all of Mok’s characters are highly unique, and in their own way they are quite observant and profound, and many have secrets of their own. As you read, and as you see what each character does and what they think, you are able to gain a great sense of who they are as people, sometimes even a simple observation from a third party gives you invaluable insight into who they are and what drives them.

With no spoilers I will say I liked the way Mok ends the book. While I had a few theories running on how it would pan out I think how it was concluded leaves you satisfied. Mok has rounded off this mass adventure and ordeal with respect not just to the characters, but to the reader; it is done without rushing, without being unrealistic for the reality it has created, and it also stays true to the characters and what we’ve come to expect from them. Overall The Other Tree is an adventurous and enjoyable story that gives you the unexpected, the unique, and the unusual all in an interesting story about faith, humanity, and botany.


About the Author

DK Mok lives in Sydney, Australia, and writes fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories. DK’s urban fantasy novel, The Other Tree, was released in 2014 by Spence City, and her short story ‘Morning Star‘ was shortlisted for an Aurealis Awards. DK’s new epic fantasy novel, Hunt for Valamon, is scheduled for release in January 2015 by Spence City.

DK grew up in libraries, immersed in lost cities and fantastic worlds, populated by quirky bandits and giant squid. She graduated from UNSW with a degree in Psychology, pursuing her interest in both social justice and scientist humour.

She’s fond of cephalopods, androids, global politics, rugged horizons, science and technology podcasts, and she wishes someone would build a labyrinthine library garden so she could hang out there. Her favourite fossil deposit is the Burgess Shale.

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