Special thanks to Grace Fell at Spark Point Studio and Clarion Books for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
Goodreads: The Darkening (The Darkening #1)
Publisher: Clarion Books
Published: 05 July 2022
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
In this thrilling and epic YA fantasy debut the only hope for a city trapped in the eye of a cursed storm lies with the daughter of failed revolutionaries and a prince terrified of his throne.
Vesper Vale is the daughter of revolutionaries. Failed revolutionaries. When her mother was caught by the queen’s soldiers, they gave her a choice: death by the hangman’s axe, or death by the Storm that surrounds the city and curses anyone it touches. She chose the Storm. And when the queen’s soldiers—led by a paranoid prince—catch up to Vesper’s father after twelve years on the run, Vesper will do whatever it takes to save him from sharing that fate.
Even arm herself with her father’s book of dangerous experimental magic.
Even infiltrate the prince’s elite squad of soldier-sorcerers.
Even cheat her way into his cold heart.
But when Vesper learns that there’s more to the story of her mother’s death, she’ll have to make a choice if she wants to save her city: trust the devious prince with her family’s secrets, or follow her mother’s footsteps into the Storm.
TL;DR: The Darkening is an awesome fantasy debut that pretty much ticked all the boxes for me! It had a unique magical language, vengeful beings, intriguing curses, angst-filled enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies romance, and a group of unlikely people banding together to save their world. I was immersed in this world consumed by a relentless Storm and was holding onto the edge of my seat for the last 30% as the stakes, tension and action increased. With how the story ended, I need to get my hands on the second book now, pls!
From the moment I saw this cover and read the synopsis, I knew I wanted to read The Darkening ASAP. I’m so glad that I got to buddy read this with Becky because it was so great to have someone to talk to about everything that happened and a lot happens!
Mara created this bleak Storm ravaged world that was slightly reminiscent of the Hunger Games in the way it’s set up. The city is formed in seven rings, only five of which are intact (mostly anyway), and the further out you go from the palace at the centre, the more poverty and desperation you find. The writing was atmospheric, flowed well and was mostly well-paced save for a few meandering moments in the middle. There was a lot that I found interesting—from the magical language called Ikonomancy to the roles of the Regia & Great King to the Storm with its monstrous creatures and curses—but I did find the world-building to be a little haphazard. We’re thrown head first into this cursed world from the start but the explanation only comes as a bit of an info dump towards the end when the action picks up. I’m glad that many of my questions were answered but there were a few inconsistencies which meant more (as yet) unanswered questions that I’m hoping will be clarified in the second book.
The story is told through Vesper’s pov and I thought she was a very compelling MC. She’s the daughter of failed rebel leaders and was raised in a life of secrecy and mild poverty in the fifth circle. She’s smart and tenacious and beyond anything, she’s eager to prove to her father that she’s more than a disappointment. She aspires to be like her mother, fierce, strong and a rebel leader and I loved watching how her character evolved as she learns more about her family history, the Storm and as she learns more about the unlikely people she teams up with to save the place they all call home.
Through her, we meet many characters that were in turn interesting, frustrating and funny. I found the main secondary characters, Dalca, Cas and Iz, to be very interesting and delightfully morally grey. I loved discovering the layers to their characters and seeing where and how the lines between good and evil blurred and how their personal motivations drove them. I never really knew who was trustworthy and it created some great tension and a good dose of angst when it came to the romance. The romance itself was true enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies again that had a forbidden/doomed aspect to it that only served to increase the intensity, especially at the end. That said, I wished we got more time with these secondary characters, especially Cas and Iz,s on-page as they would (dis)appear at random sometimes to the point where it felt like they were forgotten completely only for them to suddenly show p again. Just as with the world-building, I felt there was a slight missed opportunity to dive deeper into these characters and the relationships that were formed.
Overall, I thought this was a really great debut and I’m already looking forward to the second book (it seriously couldn’t come out soon enough)! If you like fast-paced action, unique magic and monsters, complex characters and an interesting adversary, I would recommend checking this out!
Have you read The Darkening or is it on your TBR?