As I posted the publisher’s summary for the book yesterday, I won’t do it again today but will just jump into my take on By Darkness Hid.
As I mentioned yesterday, I expect By Darkness Hid to have great appeal for both adult and young adult lovers of Christian fantasy–and yes, the book is unabashedly Christian. In my opinion, this is a good thing because the Christian fiction market is desperately in need of fantasy and sci-fi books of this caliber. There are many readers (and writers too) who have abandoned Christian fiction because of its tendency to gloss over this genre. Because of this, I love what up-and-coming publishers such as Marcher Lord Press are doing to provide quality books to those who are hungry for speculative Christian fiction. And I believe By Darkness Hid definitely helps to fill that hole.
(Warning: If you haven’t yet read the book, the following does contain minor spoilers but I promise not to give away the ending.)
In fact, I found the book’s style to be reminiscent of (and written as well as) Robin Hobb’s classic Farseer Trilogy. Perhaps part of that is due to the fact that Achan reminded me a bit of FitzChivalry (the main character in the Farseer books), but the similarity in characters ends there. Where Robin Hobb’s main character searched for meaning in spite of who he was, Jill Williamson’s Achan spends his days dealing with the injustices of his position in life as a stray orphan, all the while not realizing his true identity.
In this, I believe Jill skillfully created a character arc that skillfully depicted Achan’s increasing conflicts and hoped-for resolutions. I suspect that Book 2 will continue to build Achan’s character even further.
I was a bit surprised when Jill threw Avarella/Vrell Sparrow into the mix as well. At first, I found her story developing a bit slow, but it picked up for me as Jill wove Avarella’s and Achan’s story lines together. I look forward to seeing this combined story line continue in Book 2 as well.
In terms of story world, Jill has built a wonderful universe that encompasses two regions, one that contains sunlight and another that is hidden in a fog of darkness. However, I admit to being a bit confused as to how this half of the book’s world could operate in a normal fashion (at least in terms of the nobles and societal structure) if the fog of darkness is as black as it seemed to be painted. I suspect that we will find out in the next book that the “darkness” is actually more grey than black.
My review would not be complete without discussing the magic system Jill has built in her universe. Bloodvoicing is an interesting talent but I believe it is the other main reason By Darkness Hid reminded me of the Farseer books–the talent is only found in those of royal lineage. But that’s okay. I think Jill carried it off just fine.
As I’m sure you have noticed by now, I haven’t read Book 2 in Jill’s Blood of Kings Trilogy, but I enjoyed Book 1 so much that I ordered Book 2 (just published April 1) the same day I finished Book 1. I have tried to identify the things about Book 1 that I liked the best and realized that what I truly enjoyed was the way Jill intertwined the characters, story world and magic system into a believable, intriguing tale set in an interesting universe.
In spite of the huge pile of books I have collected that I want to read, Book 2 of The Blood of Kings series (To Darkness Fled) will quickly move to the top of the list once I get it in my hands. Because I read Book 1 on my iPhone, I wasn’t sure how many pages the printed copy was but when I looked on Amazon, I saw that the trade paperback is 508 pages. I admit that my favorite books are so large they can double as doorstops, so I’m glad to see that Book 2 weighs in at 696 pages.
I like the longer books because they are generally crafted in a more complex fashion than simpler books. I say that to point out the fact that because Jill has woven a story in this book that (at least initially) presents more than one story line, it would probably be difficult for younger readers to follow. But readers ages 13 and up will probably do just fine.
If you find the length of By Darkness Hid a bit daunting, let me encourage you to not let it stop you from reading the book. To me, By Darkness Hid was crafted well enough that it held my interest from beginning to end and kept me going until I had finished the book in two days.
Overall, I would enthusiastically recommend By Darkness Hid to Christian fantasy lovers aged 13 years and up. While some excellent books come along from time to time (Wayne Thomas Batson and Bryan Davis come to mind) it’s rare to find a well-crafted fantasy book in the Christian market.
Tomorrow I will post an interview with Jill Williamson so come back y’all, y’hear? If you want more info about By Darkness Hid, click my Amazon affiliate link here.
Don’t forget to check out my fellow CSFF bloggers and see what they have to say about By Darkness Hid.
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