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Darklands (The Rhenwars Saga Book 3) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 351 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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In this continuation of the Rhenwars saga, we’re reunited with some of the characters we’ve grown to love (or loathe) within DarkStorm and DarkMage. M.L. Spencer’s characterization and conflicts reaches new heights as Azár unseals the gateway to the Well of Tears, raising the Eight. With that summoning, the peace of the Rhen is threatened by enlisting their former savior to become their fiercest adversary.
Darien struggles to complete the tasks assigned to him by the dark lord (Xerys) that he’s obligated to obey, while remembering the love and life he led in the Rhen. Conflicted by memories of a life that no longer belongs to him; he strives to gain the honor of peoples that he nearly destroyed.
After messengers are dispatched to the Rhen, this epic tale unfolds in a masterful way. My favorite character, Quin, plays a major role in assisting Darien and protecting (the Prime Warden) Meiran on a perilous journey to the Dark Lands. That assistance is not without a hefty price and sacrifices to both human and demon alike. Through their journey, you learn more of the complexity of Quin, as well as the true nature and elitism of Meiran.
Darian’s conflicts dominate Darklands, and his tormentor (Nashir) twists the proverbial knife at every turn. As he travels with a woman who loathes him, to free a people who want him dead, he’s haunted by a love forever lost. Can he overcome the abuses and demonic hordes to reclaim what’s been taken, or succumb to the brutalities of a world where he no longer belongs?
Darklands is an exceptional continuation in the Rhenwars Saga, and I’m looking forward to the next novel. The decisions made in Darklands will have detrimental consequences for both worlds, separated by darkness and light.
Set two years after Darkmage, Darklands continues the story by having Darien brought back, but this time in service to the very people he had spent his life training to fight. Given the task of leading the people of the Darklands into the lands of the Rhen to escape a potential cataclysm, he is forced to re-evaluate everything he believed. The more he learns about the Darklands and it’s people, the more he is driven to question his previous perspective on them. At the same time, he is continually confronted by people, particularly his guide, who fear and hate him for the destruction he wrought against the last army to approach the Rhen.
Darien’s conflicts are the core of the book but the supporting characters have their own crises as well. Some are still adjusting to their new abilities, while Meiran, Darien’s former love has to deal with the knowledge that he sacrificed himself to save her and his apparent betrayal of their cause. Their reunion/confrontation towards the end of the book is definitely wrenching for both of them and brilliantly written.
What Darklands does most successfully is challenge the beliefs (and assumptions) of the main characters, by painting the other side of the conflict we saw in Darkmage. But there is still plenty of action and intrigue, as well as an expansion of the world, both by exploring the Enemy and introducing (or re-introducing) some new players in the conflict.
My main problem with the book was where it ended. It was an appropriate place to stop but I couldn’t help wishing there was more. That aside, I really enjoyed coming back to this world as well as the complete subversion of my expectations for it.
Book 4 can’t come soon enough.
Being "she who must have the entire set" can seem like a nonsense compulsion, but getting more books isn't really a bad thing at all, right?
So when M.L. Spencer offered ARCs of Darklands, I readied myself to burn through the first two.
When she said I wouldn't have to read the first two in order to have a good grasp of the goings on in book three, I decided the only way to know for sure was to hold back my inner collector and start reading.
First, I was super happy to see Darklands was edited by the fantastic Morgan Smith, writer of solid, honest heroines and immersively tactile fantasy worlds.
Though loaded with repercussions, heartache and grief from the previous two books in the series, Darklands opens with its own ominously laden action. The line between life and the afterlife quickly blurs and left me with the feeling of straddling both sides of the conflict filled streams winding through the book.
I also loved the balance of voice between the various characters. To me, none stood out over the others and each clearly availed me of the differences in the way they see each other. Each change in point of view made a point of pushing the plot further or pivoting it around in a new direction while maintaining a great feel of being its own small story.
I also felt a good sense of The Rhen and The Black Lands though I suspect much of the setting for book three is in areas not yet explored in books one and two. Though there are a good part of the lands I didn't get to by jumping in to book three, they have the solid feel of the place where your best friend, mage mentor, etc. grew up and gave them life through their first-hand telling.
Darklands is a complete, dark, anything goes fantasy that brings together one of the ultimate challenges in fiction, the balance between life and death, and with it what happens when the very balance of light and dark is thrown awry. Find room for Darklands on your bookshelf and in your escape time. At night. Outside.
So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Virgo my way through Darkstorm and Darkmage.
I received an advanced review copy from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.