Klara’s Journey is the first title of a planned series called the Kenetlon Sagas and should not be confused with an earlier book with the same title published 10 years ago by a different author. This debut is being released in June 2023. 

*** Sensitive readers should be advised that this novel describes sexual encounters and exploitation, self-harm, murder, drugging people and other acts of violence. ***
A fantasy/romance novel set in an Iron Age world, the story centers around Klara, a young Skoloti woman orphaned when her mother was killed by a conservative religious cult. When offered an opportunity to take a new job as a cook with a traveling company she decides to escape from a life as a prostitute. What ensues is a journey in which she discovers she is there not because of her cooking skills but because she is believed to be part of a prophecy. Klara’s Journey puts the heroine in a constant state of vulnerability, at the mercy of both her company and the brutal world they traverse.
There is a constant level of sexual conflict as characters find Klara very attractive. Klara, is liberally described as a whore and participates in sexual trysts both for pay and pleasure. The fixation on the virgin/whore dichotomy of women’s sexuality is not something I expected in a novel about Goddess worshipers. I would expect it in some romances and in some erotica and I suspect that this is the main reason for the choice of the word. Its use lays a judgmental tone that echoes throughout their travels in foreign lands where women are not free to travel. 
As much as she would like to become just another member of the company, and despite the promises that she is just one of them, every time she thinks she has overcome her past, something happens that brings it to the forefront. As much as Klara is supposed to be freeing herself from her old life in the world’s oldest profession, the morally judgmental view of female sexuality keeps her trapped in a man’s world. 
This book does a good job of building scenes but then stumbles with plot twists that fail to be believable. For instance, when offered a job that she isn’t sure she should trust, she has enough time that she should have packed. Instead, she leaves her old life behind with only one dress. As a result, between repairing her clothing and taking off her clothes to wash and dry, she is in a frequent state of undress. Later in the book, we are to trust that a king would take an herbal concoction from an adviser that is only offered to him and Klara. This is a pivotal plot point but knowing just how much poisoning has been used historically to end lives and reigns, it seems odd that a king would take something he did not order.  
All religious systems -- Goddess-worshiping and pseudo-Christian alike -- are portrayed in a harsh light. The portrayal of sexuality is not for everyone’s taste and relies on old fashioned notions of propriety contrasted with a protagonist who cannot fit into these social boundaries. 

As a debut novel, the author has shown her strength is creating an alternate world. It’s easy enough reading and flows quickly but readers may feel that a more experienced novelist might have accomplished the same in fewer pages. The cliffhanger ending will not be resolved until the second book in the series is released in 2024. The title is Upbreeder
~review by Larissa Carlson

Author: K.S. Wright
Hart & Hind Publishing Company, 2023
392 pages, $21.99