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By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1) Paperback – April 1, 2009
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From School Library Journal
In this medieval fantasy debut, idealistic servant Achan Cham dreams of becoming a Kingsguard Knight, while Vrell Sparrow disguises herself as a boy to escape an arranged marriage. She has a supernatural gift of being able to communicate to Achan without words. This thoroughly entertaining and smart tale will appeal to fans of Donita K. Paul and J.R.R. Tolkien. Highly recommended for CF and fantasy collections.
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From Voice of Youth Advocates
"Wonderfully written with a superb plot, this book is a sure-fire hit with almost any reader. An adventure tale with a touch of romance and enough intrigue to keep the pages turning practically by themselves."
"This thoroughly entertaining and smart tale will appeal to fans of Donita K. Paul and J.R.R. Tolkien. Highly recommended for CF and fantasy collections." --Library Journal
"In this medieval fantasy debut, idealistic servant Achan Cham dreams of becoming a Kingsguard Knight, while Vrell Sparrow disguises herself as a boy to escape an arranged marriage. She has a supernatural gift of being able to communicate to Achan without words. This thoroughly entertaining and smart tale will appeal to fans of Donita K. Paul and J.R.R. Tolkien. Highly recommended for CF and fantasy collections." --Library Journal ----Library Journal, April 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
WARNING: Very vague spoilers. Likely won't ruin the read, they are general in nature, but will touch on the plot structure.Read more