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The god of the soil is furious. Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, earthquakes--everything points to his unhappiness. At least this is what the people of Armania in the Five Realms believe.
Amidst the unsettling state of the world around them, the princes of Armania live their lives focused more on who will claim the throne after their sickly father, King Echad, dies. That is until Prince Wilek's concubine turns up dead--beside her, a bloodied message that seems to have come from the mother realms.
Series: Kinsman Chronicles (Book 1, Part 1 of King's Folly)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (December 1, 2015)
Page Count: 160 pages
I've had the pleasure of being on the launch team for this series, so Jill graciously gave me the advanced reader copy to review. Being a fan of the Blood of Kings, I was very excited to hear about the release of this prequel series set in Jill's infamous fantasy world.
The Plot: The plot of this book is definitely complex what with the four POVs characters, the main ones being the gods are angry and wreaking havoc on the environment and the three princes are vying for their father's throne. There are numerous subplots from the mystery of a murder and the love interests between a few characters. This story had to take a lot of careful planning to keep from getting tangled with all that's going on. There are some good twists I enjoyed that I didn't see coming at all.
The Characters: There are a lot of characters in this book. The most I've read in a book for a long time. Usually I'm good at remembering character names, but I couldn't keep up with his many. Not that that was necessarily a bad thing, but it was a bit overwhelming at first. The characters are wonderfully varied in this story. I get a good picture of all of them. They're very vivid while reading.
Trevn is sweet and a bit innocent. I like his love of cartography and his bashful and hesitant nature around Mielle. I like Mielle for her love for others and how she cares for her ladyship and for those in need. Wilek is very damaged and has resentment toward many people. He's torn between pleasing his father and doing what's right. Lastly, Charlon is a poor soul who wants to feel loved, but is going about it the wrong way.
Each character was enjoyable to be in the head of. I especially enjoyed Charlon's point of view. I also liked side characters like Hinck and Wilek's snarky Gran.
The Setting: The setting is very cool and very different than Blood of Kings since instead of a lush area this area is barren with deserts and earthquakes and adobe huts and cactus gardens. It's a very fun setting filling with danger and magic. The culture is very different like the eldest son doesn't automatically inherit the throne, multiple gods are worshiped, and multiple wives can be taken. It feels foreign but at the same time transports you to a totally different place.
The Writing: I really enjoy Jill's writing. The opening draws you in and the end keeps you wanting for more. Her characters and description are my favorite parts. She gives little details that just draw you in like the egg in the King's beard literally made me shudder. She makes you sympathize with the characters and really feel their hurts.
Epic Things: The magic is really interesting yet ritualistic. The mold spell aka using the mold or guise of someone else is very interesting. The runs intrigue me and of course it's fantasy so that's pretty epic in of itself. ;)
The Theme: Since this is just the first part of the book I haven't seen the theme come to full fruition yet, but there are some themes of compassion and doing what's right despite society.
Content Cautions: This book has the most content concerns of books penned by Jill that I've read so far (and I've read most of them). There is some innuendo about people having sex with other people, a girl was formally sexually abused, polygamy and concubines are accepted in society. The king sacrifices humans to the god Barthos and some magic practitioners called mantics draw power from demons similar to voodoo, so basically pagan worship.
A woman is murdered and some earthquake accidents occur with some blood involved and a woman is stripped half naked because she's wounded, and a man tries to take advantage of a servant. Though all of these concepts are dark, Jill handles them expertly and nothing is too explicit. Though I wouldn't recommend this book to younger teens due to the amount of content. I'd say 15+ would be appropriate.
Conclusion: Darkness Reigns is a great start to this new series of Jill's. Though I would take age and sensitivity into caution before reading this story, I recommend it to those who love a good high fantasy. Four stars!
Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms and the award-winning author of several young adult books including the Blood of Kings trilogy, Replication, the Mission League series, and the Safe Lands trilogy. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two children and a whole lot of deer. Visit her online at her blog, where adventure comes to life.
You can find her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads.
Check out my interview with Jill!
Check out some of my reviews of her other books!
The Blood of Kings: From Darkness Won
Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into A Published Novel
The Safe Lands: Captives
The Safe Lands: Outcasts
The Safe Lands: Rebels
The Mission League: The New Recruit