Knights of the Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden


Fantasy Book Review Book of the Month, April 2016

Knights of the Borrowed Dark is the first book in a brand new trilogy from debutant Irish author Dave Rudden. Published by Penguin, it holds special resonance for us here at Fantasy Book Review as Dave won our Fantasy Short Story Competition in 2011, with his entry Senescence.

As soon as I began reading KOTBD the first realisation I had was that I was inside a book that was written by an author who both loved books and the fantasy genre. Through his characters, Denizen and Simon, Rudden was able to channels his bookish love, and as the two orphans spoke about the books they loved I too felt their joy.

The story centres on the aforementioned Denizen Hardwick, an orphan whose life is decidedly lacking in any magic. But one day, around the time of his thirteenth birthday, he discovers he has an aunt. And she is an aunt who would like to meet him and who sends someone all the way from Dublin to pick him up. But during the car journey he's ambushed by a monster created from shadows and sees it destroyed by a word made of sunlight. Denizen realises he has just entered a world he didn’t think could exist and soon joins the Knights of Borrowed Dark in their life long battle against The Tenebrous, a shadowy race of monsters and their powerful monster, the Endless King.

I would say this story is perfect for ages nine and up as they will love what they find here: orphans in a forbidding orphanage, knights fighting dark entities, dark and deadly forces and, of course, magic. As always I was reminded of other works while reading and these comparisons help to get across the type of book it is and what type of reader should enjoy it. I found KOTBD compared favourably to Clive Barker’s Weaveworld (though not as adult in theme) and Michael Scott’s Nicholas Flamel series (which is also set in and inspired by Ireland). I also believe fans of Jonathan Stroud’s work, particularly the Bartimaeus and Lockwood books, would enjoy it.

For me great books are all about great characters and KOTBD has them in abundance - from the young likeable orphan to the wonderful array of knights he joins in their battle against the Endless King and his Shadow Monsters. But great characters also need to be complemented by places of great character and the orphanage itself is a brooding presence throughout the book and the mystical house of the Borrowed Knights on Seraphim Row is the haven from the storm - they are both strong characters in their own right. The story moves at a beautiful pace, the time spent with these instantly engaging characters is time well spent, and the denouement is both satisfying and thrilling.

Knights of the Borrowed Dark is a rip-roaring adventure full of excitement that is well written and contains many of the elements which makes the genre so immersive and enjoyable. This book is ideal for readers 9+, especially those who are currently enjoying Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co series. I would highly recommend this book.

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