Tuesday, May 18, 2010

By Darkness Hid (Reposting)

Title: By Darkness Hid

Series: Blood of Kings #1

Genre: YA (14-18) / Adult epic fantasy

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of By Darkness Hid:

Achan stumbled through the darkness toward the barn. The morning cold sent shivers through his threadbare orange tunic. He clutched a wooden milking pail at his side and held a flickering torch in front to light his way.

He wove between dark cottages in the outer bailey of the castle, mindful to keep his torch clear of the thatched roofs. Most of the residents of Sitna still slept. Only a few of the twenty-some peasants, slaves, and strays serving Lord Nathak and Prince Gidon stirred at this hour.

Sitna Manor sat on the north side of the Sideros River. A brownstone curtain wall, four levels high, enclosed the stronghold. A second wall sectioned off the outer bailey from the inner bailey, temple, and keep. Achan wasn’t allowed to enter the inner bailey but occasionally snuck inside when he felt compelled to leave an offering at Cetheria’s temple.

The barn loomed ahead of him in the darkness. It was one of the largest structures in Sitna Manor. It was long and narrow, with a high, thatched gable roof. Achan shifted the pail to his torch hand and tugged the heavy door open. It scraped over the frosty dirt. He darted inside and pulled it closed.
A teenaged slave discovers a gift of telepathy, threatening the secrets of many.

The Craft: Okay. I admit it. I am an absolute, complete sucker for the underdog story, especially for the variation provided in By Darkness Hid.

Most of my favorite books and movies fall into this style—a hero pitted against impossible odds—and my love for these stories is one of the reasons I was attracted to the speculative genre in the first place. In fact, I will endure pretty bad writing just to enjoy such a story.

No such endurance, however, was needed with By Darkness Hid.

While it perhaps does not possess the top of the line writing—that spark of a great books was yet missing—By Darkness Hid is strong writing in which I can find few things to complain about. The craft was clean and stays out of the reader’s way for the most part. The protagonists are introduced in a way that you immediately connect with them, ready to root for them all the way through the next 400-some pages. They are complex, each with their own flaws and virtues and senses of humor. I did find the fickle affections a little annoying and occasionally out-of-joint with the rest of the story, but they were also understandable, especially since the two protagonists are both in the tumultuous teenage years.

I also felt some of the descriptions were over the top and long (e.g. paragraph three in excerpt), providing more information needed that was necessary at the moment, and the opening chapter could be disorienting with so many unfamiliar names and places being thrown at you.

But these “flaws” are largely a personal preference: I like small chunks of description interwoven with the text through a character’s eyes. However, those who read speculative fiction on even a semi-regular basis will not find these elements to be a problem.

Finally, I want to commend Ms. Williamson’s work on the timeline. Jumping between two points of view concurring in different locations can make it hard to track the relationship of the events. However, Ms. Williamson handles these jumps so well, that the sequence is always clear in my mind.

The Content: Like in the writing, the content is pretty typical—large scale battle of good and evil with normal levels of violence and usual parallels to God and Christianity. Nothing specific good or bad pops out at me. The telepathy is portrayed as a genetic trait, and any other magical elements hinted at carry evil connotations, unless it refers to a historical act clearly performed by God.

Summary: By Darkness Hid isn’t probably the best place for a reader new to the genre to begin. Otherwise it is fun story, worthwhile for teens and adults alike and a must-read for those who like a good underdog story.

Rating: Craft—4, Content—4, Overall—4.0 stars out of 5

Have a look at book two, To Darkness Fled, or order from Words of Whimsy now!


Jill Williamson said...

Thanks for touring the book, Chawna! I'm going to my first homeschool convention as a MLP representative June 4-5 in Idaho. I'm excited. Jeff has a new homeschool curriculum workbook coming out that goes with his Art & Craft book.

R. L. Copple said...

Great review. I can see we're of like mind on some things. :)

Phyllis Wheeler said...

Great insights, as usual, Chawna!

KM Wilsher said...

Yep, great insights as usual, Chawna :0). . .

Chawna Schroeder said...

R.L., Phillis, and KM~ thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you found something worth stopping by for.

Have fun at the conference, Jill! They are equal parts exhausting, deflating, and exhilerating. Enjoy the interactions. Some great conversations take place at them.