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By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, book 1) Paperback – April 1, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 313 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Blood of Kings Series

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Editorial Reviews

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Gilead Publishing (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982104952
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982104958
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (313 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #417,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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".
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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