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The Darkening by Sunya Mara
- Publisher: Clarion Books < HMH Books
- Genre: Low Fantasy
- Audience: Young Adult
- Pages: 400 (hardcover)
- Trigger Warnings: death/murder, violence/gore
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.
“Maybe I am selfish — too in love with the idea that I can do something, be someone“the darkening
Like many YA fantasy releases this year, The Darkening has a wildly intriguing and enchantingly unique premise.
Unfortunately, also like many YA fantasy releases this year, The Darkening fails todeliver the story as so amazingly promised.
I have complex feelings about this book, if only because I am torn between begrudgingly liking it and begrudgingly disliking it. Because here’s the deal: on one hand, the magic system is different, and new, and the plot premise is something refreshing that hasn’t been done before but is still familiar; on the other hand, the characters lack depth, the romance lacks chemistry, and the plot lacks pacing and fails to pack a punch.
Simply put: though unique, the execution fell flat.
The plot premise of a kingdom in the eye of a deadly storm that’s closing in around it, killing or cursing every citizen it touches, is incredibly intriguing. Even the plot of Vesper’s father being captured and her having to infiltrate the prince’s private ranks in order to save him was interesting
However, the execution was poor in that many of Vesper’s father’s motivations did not make sense, and neither did many of the things that occurred. The characters were not given enough depth to form the required relationships, or to push the plot int the right direction quickly enough.
Additionally, after having finished the book, I still know very little about the magic system, this kingdom, this world, the government, the characters, or the storm. While in a series, it’s not required to have deep world building all thrown into book one, there should at least be a substantial amount of it. In fact, I think a good portion of the world building should be done in the first installment. but The Darkening didn’t provide that, so I’m left wondering if I’ll get that in book two. But at the same time, I’m worried that if we get that world-building in book two, it’ll take needed time and attention away from the additional plot, romance, and character development that’s required.
And speaking of romance and character development…
Personally, even though a relationship between Vesper and Dalca is prefaced in the synopsis, and written out on the page, I felt as though there was more tension and romantic chemistry between Vesper and Casvian, and it would have been more exciting to see where the story might have gone if it had followed that route.
Should you still give it a read? I definitely think so.
I liked the book, I really did. And though it wasn’t totally for me, I can see how certain readers might really love it! Strangely, I believe that even though the romance was not done well, the enemies to lovers was somehow done really well, especially during the latter half of the novel.
Overall, though I didn’t love The Darkening, I liked it enough to read further installments. I still see potential in the story, and in the relationships started during this novel. I look forward to seeing how it progresses
TROPES worth mentioning (because sometimes, enjoyment is all about the tropes)
- Enemies to lovers
- Secret identity
- Royal love interest
- Found family
The Darkening by Sunya MaraThe Darkening by Sunya Mara
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Let’s Chat in the Comments!
Have you read The Darkening? If so, what did you think of it? If not, are there any other new YA releases you think have unique premises?