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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Kind of Fantasy
The Story. Achan Cham wears the orange shirt that marks him as a stray, as does the brand he bears on his back. For as long as he can remember he's worked in Lord Nathak's kitchen under the watchful eye and heavy hand of the cook, but all that changes when Sir Gavin chooses to elevate the boy and make him his squire.

Vrell also wears the orange, but she does so...
Published on April 25, 2009 by Becky

versus
28 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read, flat characters
I'm an ex-Christian and a reader of more hard-boiled fantasy, and I got By Darkness Hid randomly based on the reviews without knowing it's Christian YA fantasy. But I have to admit, it's a solid page-turner of the good vs. evil kind, and I enjoyed it. However, just one gripe about the characters and the choices they face.

The good characters aren't just good,...
Published on February 2, 2010 by Timothy Himes


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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Kind of Fantasy, April 25, 2009
By 
Becky (Southern California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1) (Paperback)
The Story. Achan Cham wears the orange shirt that marks him as a stray, as does the brand he bears on his back. For as long as he can remember he's worked in Lord Nathak's kitchen under the watchful eye and heavy hand of the cook, but all that changes when Sir Gavin chooses to elevate the boy and make him his squire.

Vrell also wears the orange, but she does so of her own choosing and in the guise of a young boy because she has gone into hiding in order to avoid a marriage neither she nor her duchess mother wishes for her.

Through an unlikely turn of events, Achan's and Vrell's paths cross, and they become the targets of greedy, power-hungry men who wish to kidnap and exploit them.

Strengths. By Darkness Hid is a fresh old-style fantasy. The story is captivating and unpredictable, with numerous well-foreshadowed twists. The characters are likable. Their motivations are clear and believable which makes them all the more realistic. I especially thought Jill hit a homerun creating Vrell, a girl masquerading as a boy. The things Vrell did to protect herself, the conscious ways she tried to mimic male behavior and to check her own natural actions and reactions made the character quite engaging.

The fantasy world of Er'Rets comes to life, including the innovative concept of a land divided between light and darkness, literally.

Williamson's writing is strong. She paints scenes using vivid prose so that a reader is transported into the barn of Lord Nathak's manor or onto the trail through Nahar Forest. She provides lots of tension and suspense, so the story's pace is fairly fast. There is a good amount of internal as well as external conflict, which makes the story more intriguing.

Recommendation. I just may have a new favorite fantasy series. This is my kind of story. For those who are drawn to epic fantasy or classic fantasy, this is a must read. For everyone else, I highly recommend By Darkness Hid.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a phenomenal book!, May 22, 2009
By 
John Otte (South St. Paul, MN United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1) (Paperback)
Holy cow! I am in awe right now of Jill Williamson's phenomenal book, By Darkness Hid. Let me put it to you this way. I'm a fast reader. I always have been. And how fast I read is directly proportional to how much I enjoy what I'm reading. I do believe I devoured this 490 page book in approximately 24 hours.

The story centers around two young people. One is Achan Cham. Achan is a stray, worse than a slave, forced to work in the kitchens of a spoiled crown prince. The other is Vrell Sparrow, supposedly another stray but really a young woman in hiding because she doesn't want to marry the aforementioned spoiled crown prince. Both Achan and Vrell are adept at bloodvoicing. They can read other people's thoughts. They can project their own to others. And Achan is probably the most powerful bloodvoicer to come along in a generation.

Yet there's a fair bit of intrigue that both must face. Achan is selected by a knight named Sir Gavin to train as his squire (although it's illegal for strays to do so). And Vrell is taken from her hiding place to be the apprentice of a man named Macoun Hadar. While you know that these two will eventually cross paths, the how and why is simply breathtaking.

Can you tell I loved this book? Absolutely adored it. Williamson's characterizations are incredible. Your heart simply goes out to Achan as he is abused as a stray. You want Vrell to be able to go home to be with her family and marry the man she truly loves. Personally, I want to punch spoiled Prince Gidon in the face. Repeatedly.

The world Williamson created is vibrant and fun. The bloodvoicing is fantastic as well, especially as Achan discovers his talent for it. And the plot was great. I did see the surprise coming ... well, kind of. I had a sneaking suspicion what Sir Gavin was up to, but I didn't realize the full extent until the trap was sprung.

Probably the only gripe I have is that the sequel isn't in my hands already so I can read it. In the final author's note, Williamson reveals that she's working on it, To Darkness Fled. All I can say is, Jill Williamson, get cracking!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This novel makes fantasy appealing to this non-fantasy reader., April 21, 2009
By Darkness Hid is a compelling debut fantasy novel which beautifully illustrates the battle between good and evil as well as the challenges faced by the faithful. The world Williamson creates is well crafted and so believable that at times it made me cringe. While reading this novel I was living in the land of Er'Rets and experiencing the peril she puts her characters through. For someone who is not normally a fantasy reader, this story not only kept me riveted to the pages, but anxious about the outcome as well. Oftentimes fantasy novels are hard for me to follow, but that was not the case with By Darkness Hid. Ms. Williamson really knows how to keep a reader's attention by putting her characters into impossible situations. Just when things look like they can't get any worse, they worsen further. I am anxiously awaiting the next installment in this series. The only fantasy author besides Williamson who can hold my attention and keep it for the duration of the story is Stephen Lawhead.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mature, Dynamic Fantasy Without the Needless Swearing, Sex, and Gore, March 3, 2013
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Recently on the web site Speculative Faith, there was a debate about the tone of fantasy and other "speculative" Christian fiction, and how "gritty" or "realistic" it should be. This debate can apply to secular speculative fiction, as well. It was basically the debate over whether something had to be "darker and edgier" to be real and true to life. I took up the argument that, sometimes, yes it did. I was wrong. I see that now after reading By Darkness Hid, the first book of The Blood of Kings series by author Jill Williamson.

Williamson tells a story that is believable and has a sense of authenticity, despite it's fantasy elements; and she also makes no use of pointless swearing, sexual innuendo, gory violence, or scatological references to do so. There are some darker elements, but they are presented tastefully, and not in a gratuitous manner. More on this in a few moments.

The basic story, without giving too much away, is that a "stray" (an orphaned boy or girl who are banished into a status of slavery even lower than that of other slaves), named Achan Cham, yearns for a better life so he can marry the peasant girl he desperately loves. Yet this is impossible, he knows, for strays can never be anything more than what they are, especially since some of them were implicated in the murder of the king nearly two decades earlier.

As he goes about his horrible life, enduring constant menial tasks and endless beatings that seem to be done just for sake of beating him, he is surprised when he is chosen for squire training by perhaps the most renowned knight of all of Er'rets (the country where this takes place), Sir Gavin Lukos, called the "Great White Wolf". He wonders why Gavin would risk the trouble of breaking the law (against training strays for knighthood), and if Gavin truly can pull him out of his bad situation.

In another place in Er'rets, a young woman named Avarella is pretending to be a boy named Vrell Sparrow. The current Crown Prince wants to marry her, but not out of love. Instead, he wants the power of her mother's land and money. If this were not bad enough, the Crown Prince is a cruel and heartless young man, who mistreats and abuses all those around him. Vrell and Achan are about to meet as a story begins that will change both their lives, and the lives of everyone else in their land, forever.

This was a terrific, incredible read. As I said, the content is quite mature and contains much "realism" that everyone is so obsessed with these days, but not with anything gratuitous. For this, Williamson deserves high praise. She can pull the reader in without having to use childish gimmicks or devices. To put it in perspective by comparison to secular writers, she is probably closer to writers like Brandon Sanderson than Terry Goodkind. In fact, that was my error in my earlier-mentioned debate, in that I seemed to have forgotten that Sanderson never uses these "darker and edgier" devices, and he is a brilliant author; while Terry Goodkind, who has gratuitous scenes sometimes, is.... not.

Not to give too much away, but Vrell is basically terrorized, and Achan undergoes much suffering, but neither are shown in graphic detail, and the reader does not find himself needlessly "shocked" by the author, as happens too often in literature, or rather, what passes for literature these days.

It is largely this series that has reminded me that, yes, an author really, truly can be realistic without tons of sex, swearing, and what not. They can reference, but need not be referenced in graphic detail. The trick is to do this without it seeming like a "cop-out" or somehow being "prudish". Williamson exhibits the writing chops to pull this off. "Real" doesn't have to mean darker and edgier when you have a talented author such as Jill Williamson.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Christian Fantasy Read, April 24, 2010
This review is from: By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1) (Paperback)
I'm an avid fan of fantasy, and a Christian, but I'm typically put off by the vast majority of Christian fantasy. Most of the authors simply try too hard.

Jill Williamson is different. I knew that right away when she jumped into the middle of her story and kept the pace moving with interesting plot developments. The characters had me a little confused at first, because Williamson switches between two different perspectives, but she keeps the story moving in such a way that one can quicly adapt to the perspective-jumps. Williamson also doesn't stop to explain everything right away in what i like to call extreme "infodumps." When she mentions a name, a place, a person, etc. she doesn't immediately stop to tell you everything about it, a habit most writers develop that can put off a reader. Instead, she continues to move the plot onward, and you can rest assured that anything and everything she mentions she'll get back to and explain for you. And she ends this first book with an excellent cliffhanger that will definitely leave you guessing at what will happen in the books to come.

All in all, I thought this was an excellent read, and I highly reccommend it to anyone, teen or adult, looking for a new fantasy series, or a good Christian fantasy series. Two thumbs up to you, Williamson!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating story, June 25, 2010
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This review is from: By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1) (Paperback)
I am often skeptical of Christian fantasy-- too often the Christian elements seem forced at the expense of the plot. I am happy to say this was not the case with By Darkness Hid. I opened the book, unsure of what to expect, and by the 4th or 5th page had forgotten who I was, where I was, and even that I was reading a book! I was completely engrossed in the story. The primary characters are well-drawn and lifelike, the setting is fascinating, and the pacing is skilfully done. I could not put down the book. I have begun reading the second book in the series and it promises to be equally entrancing. Let's hope Jill Williamson has more novels like this up her sleeve.

Rebecca Kenney
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impossible to put down!, May 5, 2009
By 
Amy A. Meyer (Washington State) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1) (Paperback)
Jill Williamson has crafted a world of amazing deatils, unpredictable twists and turns, and characters that jump off the page and threaten to drink all your coffee. A must-read for fantasy lovers... and others.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top-Notch Fantasy, April 21, 2009
By 
Reminiscent of Shakespeare's romantic method of hiding his heroine in the guise of a man, Jill Williamson has taken her fantasy, In Darkness Hid, and filled it with twists and turns. Both hero and heroine are characters that will remain in my heart for a long time. Having swordplay, mental powers, romance, and a thrilling new take on the term "royal blood", I completely enjoyed this book.

It is rare for me to give five stars for books; this one surprised me.
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28 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read, flat characters, February 2, 2010
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This review is from: By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1) (Paperback)
I'm an ex-Christian and a reader of more hard-boiled fantasy, and I got By Darkness Hid randomly based on the reviews without knowing it's Christian YA fantasy. But I have to admit, it's a solid page-turner of the good vs. evil kind, and I enjoyed it. However, just one gripe about the characters and the choices they face.

The good characters aren't just good, they're saints: just, kind, brave, loyal, determined, humble, beautiful, etc. (and they worship the one true god). The bad characters are the worst sort of villains: vain, lustful, vindictive, cruel, and ugly (and, yes, they worship false idols). There's no nuance, no room for doubt, no internal struggle, no need to question your own motives or those of your opponents. If you are in doubt but are meant to be one of the good guys, don't worry. God will speak to you. Directly. No struggle with faith required.

This Manichean world view makes for rather one-dimensional characters. They tend to be Sunday-school drawings of saints and sinners who never face the internal struggles/doubts/frailties that make us human, which is what fiction should try to get at (like Edmund and Eustace as they struggle to overcome their own nastiness in the Chronicles of Narnia). The struggles in this book come from external sources, the bogeymen out to get you. That can be fun, too, but it's the lesser part of the story.

You could argue that Achan faces such a struggle as he moves from idolatry toward the true god. But he's a paragon of virtue and decency from beginning to end. He's not struggling with himself, just with which god happens to be the right one to worship (a pretty easy choice when god talks to you). He becomes better with a sword, but nothing fundamental about *him* changes. If anything, as he gains surety, he loses his ability to wonder and to doubt, and becomes less interesting as he does. I'd like to see Ms. Williamson add some Edmunds and Eustaces to her lineup, and make them earn whatever grace there is the hard way.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down, May 3, 2009
This review is from: By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1) (Paperback)
By Darkness Hid is a creative and tightly written first novel! I was impressed and can't wait to read book two...Keep them coming!
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By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1)
By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1) by Jill Williamson (Paperback - April 1, 2009)
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