3 Stars

Katy Rose Pool
Published September 2019

*Review by Alexa*

The Age of Darkness approaches.
Five lives stand in its way.
Who will stop it… or unleash it?

For generations, the Seven Prophets guided humanity. Using their visions of the future, they ended wars and united nations―until the day, one hundred years ago, when the Prophets disappeared.

All they left behind was one final, secret prophecy, foretelling an Age of Darkness and the birth of a new Prophet who could be the world’s salvation . . . or the cause of its destruction. As chaos takes hold, five souls are set on a collision course:

A prince exiled from his kingdom.
A ruthless killer known as the Pale Hand.
A once-faithful leader torn between his duty and his heart.
A reckless gambler with the power to find anything or anyone.
And a dying girl on the verge of giving up.

One of them―or all of them―could break the world. Will they be savior or destroyer?

Let me begin by asking a somewhat theoretical question: is it better to be hated or forgotten?  Would you rather, Dear Reader, inspire emotions—even the unenviable kind—or would you rather be totally unremarkable?  Now, think about the books you read.  We would all, obviously, rather love every single book we read, but that is never going to happen.  So, if you don’t love a book, would you rather it be boring and a drain on your brain cells, or awful, but at least inciting emotion?  I personally would rather have a book be awful than tedious.  After all, one can learn a great deal from something that is badly done, but the same cannot always be said for mediocrity.  Plus, who doesn’t love a good rant when it comes time to review?

It is with great disappoint that I report that There Will Come A Darkness, the YA fantasy debut by Katy Rose Pool, falls into the category of ‘meh.’  I wanted to love this book, and I tried, Dear Reader, oh, how I tried, but it was all to no avail.  No matter how hyped I tried to get, no matter how invested I wanted to be, I just couldn’t summon the emotion I needed to love—or hate—this book.  Was it awful? Nope, and the last third was actually quite good.  Was it interesting…well, that’s another question.  Let’s dig in, shall we?

“The prophecy is unfolding,” Captain Weatherbourne said. “The harbingers are here. The Age of Darkness is almost upon us. If we don’t find the Last Prophet soon…”

Let’s begin with two of Darkness’s chief issues: pacing and format.  The pacing on this book was incredibly slow.  Think molasses-on-a-cold-day slow, especially the first 200 hundred pages.  The middle picked up slightly, but I wasn’t grabbed by anything in the story until the last 150 pages or so, and that’s a big problem.  I don’t mind a high fantasy book that takes its time, in fact, when intricate world building and several character introductions are involved, I usually prefer it; however, slow doesn’t have to mean tedious, and Darkness is overwhelmingly tedious for at least the first half.  In the story’s defense, I really enjoyed the last portion of the book, and I couldn’t read it fast enough…but when a book is nearly 500 pages long, that’s not saying enough.

Part of the reason the book dragged so badly is due to the format.  Multiple POV’s are difficult to pull off for the most seasoned of authors, and Pool definitely doesn’t pull it off here.  The biggest reason it doesn’t work is that each POV chapter is so short.  When a character is trying to be established, 10-15 page segments just aren’t enough for the reader to get invested.  Add to that the issue of too many voices (five aren’t necessary), and that most of the characters don’t meet each other until the end, and you have a recipe for drudgery.  Had there been fewer POV’s that lasted for longer chapters and had those POV’s been together more so that they could play off of each other, and the entire book would have worked much better.

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Photo by Alexa

Speaking of characters, let’s talk about them for a minute, shall we? As I already mentioned, there are five main characters, and of the five, I only enjoyed two of them.  Jude and Hassan are both generic and boring archetypes that I really don’t ever need to read in another book, and Jude has the added bonus of being unbearably whiny and petulant.  I’ve rarely wanted to smack a book character, but I wanted to smack Jude.  Perhaps that is what Pool was going for, in which case, bravo.  Beru might be interesting, but we barely get any of her, so who knows.  Ephyra and Anton, on the other hand, are both fantastic, and if the entire book could have been just them, I would have been much happier.  Much of the three stars I gave to the book rest on these two character’s shoulders, and I will probably read the sequel just to find out what happens with Ephyra.

As far as the plot is concerned, it isn’t horrible, but it is rather formulaic with a decent amount of YA tropes thrown in for good measure.  For the most part, all of the twists were predictable, and nothing felt cohesive until the final act.  There was no sense of urgency or danger, no tension to be found anywhere, and when you’re dealing with the end of the world, well, there should be some tension.  It all just felt rather repetitive, derivative, and young, which really doesn’t do the dark premise of the book justice.  Having said all of that, I do think that the next book won’t suffer from the same issues.  The book felt like a semi-confused meandering until the last act, and I think now that the characters and world have been established, the second book will be able to continue the momentum.

You call this place the City of Faith. But corruption and evil fester behind these white walls. I will mark them the way I mark my victims, so the rest of the world can see that the City of Faith is the city of the fallen.

I’ve talked a lot about the things I don’t think worked in this book, so let me tell you about my favorite part: the worldbuilding.  I found the mythology of this world fascinating, and I enjoyed all of the ideas and places.  I was left feeling a little wanting by the end because I wanted more of the worldbuilding, but it is only the first book and we wouldn’t want to give too much away too quickly.  The strength of the worldbuilding and mythology is truly what kept me going throughout this book, and it is overall rather impressive for a debut.

Overall, Darkness suffers from the fact that it’s a debut and it’s much too long.  This book keeps getting compared to Six of Crows, and, in every sense, it is nothing like that; however, Six of Crows wasn’t Queen Leigh’s first book, and had it been, I feel confident in saying it wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful as it ended up.  Everything about Darknessneeded to be tightened up and more clearly defined.  It needed to be shorter, with fewer POV’s, and a clearer path.  It isn’t until the truly fantastic last section of the book that I felt like Pool found her voice and the story found its stride.  There is so much potential with this story, and this is one of the few books under four stars that I will actually read the sequel.  If Pool can keep the momentum going, and maybe drop some of the dead weight, I think the next book has the potential to be really excellent.

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