On one of the many planes of the Pentagonal Dominion, priestess Calinthe trades in information, collecting valuable secrets for her demonic employer. Calinthe has a secret of her own: she’s intersex, making her a target for the matriarchal slavers of the Ophidian Plane whose territory she must cross in her search for hidden knowledge. But thanks to her friend Zakuro’s illusions, Calinthe presents as a woman- a comfortable, if furtive, existence in a world determined to bring her to heel.
But when, instead of a mere secret, the priestess uncovers an incalculably powerful artifact, Calinthe finds herself in a high-stakes negotiation with the same matriarchs who sought to enslave her. On the table: Calinthe’s discovery, a charm powerful enough to transform a mortal into a god… against a secret so deadly it could quell all life on every plane of the dominion. If Calinthe plays her cards perfectly, she and Zakuro could escape Ophidia wealthier than either of them ever dreamed possible.
But if she plays them wrong…
…she’ll learn slavery in her pursuers’ hands is a fate far worse than death.
Today I’m bringing you guys something a little non-traditional. I want to highlight the work of an author (that I think the world of), but who’s book ultimately wasn’t for me.
That’s the thing about reading. It’s so subjective. I know a lot of people really love the work of Erika McCorkle, and my personal hang-ups aren’t going to be the same as everyone’s.
So who is this book for?
I’m glad you asked because I think there is a lot to love for the right reader.
Merchants of Knowledge and Magic is a unique work that traces the journey of Calinthe, a titular merchant of Knowledge, and her companion Zakuro. The story is mainly told through the first person narration of Calinthe and I really enjoyed her narrative voice. As an intersex character, she provided a unique perspective that really made the first chapter a joy.
When it comes to worldbuilding, no one does it quite like McCorkle. You will be treated to all sorts of creatures in every variety. There were all amounts of limbs and sentience represented that really made each page turn feel like I was diving deeper into something well-crafted and unique.
This is also a pitfall for me personally. While the world was interesting and unique, exploring it came first. I tend to be a character/plot-driven guy, and I wish I had more patience for brilliant worldbuilding. If you want a unique and interesting world to explore, this for you with all its glorious footnotes and species.
My favorite bit of worldbuilding was the game of questions that Calinthe play as a means of uncovering more information. The religious aspects to her profession also were really neat.
Now next is a big thing for me and the main reason I stopped (though I suspected before I picked it up that it might end this way).
Merchants of Knowledge and Magic has an EXTENSIVE trigger/content warning list.
I recommend you look at it here: https://www.authormccorkle.com/mokam-content-warnings
Many of these things are prominent in the story. I’m not decrying this or saying it’s wrong, but it did contribute to me realizing that while this book is gonna be great for a lot of people, it won’t be for me.
The sex in Merchants is detailed and often non-consensual. That can be a dealbreaker for me. Honestly, I’m a little bit of a prude. I’m not going to yuck a yum, but it isn’t something I personally will enjoy.
I think there are a lot of complex and interesting social dynamics here and often times those themes were explored through sexuality, but it got to be a bit much for my tastes.
Now here is the thing. I think a lot of you could enjoy this book, and I hope you do. I don’t regret buying it. I’m happy I was able to support a friend and fellow author. Erika (Kira) is a great supporter of the indies, a talented writer, and maybe the most unique storyteller I’ve ever encountered. I will be rooting her on as she continues her journey!