Darklands by ML Spencer (The Rhenwars Saga #2)

8/10 I really have no idea how it's going to play out, which is rare and always nice. Ultimately, in Darien We Trust.

An unexpected, interesting read that I think should appeal to a cross-section of fantasy fans. It's dark, but not too bleak; philosophical, but not preachy; complex, but approachable. My only warning is to readers who want a break-neck plot pace, because this one moves fairly slowly and savors the details. On the flip side if you like your plots a bit slower and the time to enjoy every word and reaction, then this will suit you perfectly.

Very thorough and well-done. There's two cultures opposed to one another, one a sort of 'outskirts' people in a terrible geographic situation with hints of desert or bedouin culture. The other is more 'civilized' and fortunate geographically, with hints of maybe Turkish and some modern Western culture. Both are interesting and well-presented, and the contrast is very purposeful and important. These differences bleed into the magic system as well, and if you're a high-fantasy fan, there's a lot here to like.

Mostly everything of consequence takes place in the 'outskirts' or Darklands culture in this particular book in the series (hence the name!). For the Rhen (the more 'civilized' folk), they begin the story worried about invasion, and they end the story worried about invasion. Some things happen here, but it's mostly just filling in gaps and pacing for the other thread.

With the exception of some hints of romance and more elaborate intrigue, this book is the story of Darien as he transforms from a defender of the Rhen to the defender of the Black Lands. Unfortunately, I haven't read the first two books in the series (and I intend to), so I think I missed a lot of references to historical events and actions that would have made all of this more meaningful. But regardless...well, see Characters below.

Darien. It would be fair to say I was...impatient...for the Darien parts of the book. He's the mover and shaker in this story, and he's the guy apparently holding the fate of nations in his hands. Women love him. Men want to be him, well, or torture and kill him. He can use all the cool magic. He's got a demon dog.

There are other characters, too. I guess. OK, Quin gets an honorable mention, who's another sort of grey-figure in the book and makes some things happen. There's some bad guys, or at least ruthless guys, some politicians and priests and mages and soldiers. I mean, Darien can't exist alone.

Actually, the love interest Meiran annoyed the hell out of me, and I'm pretty sure that's on purpose. Let's just say if Darien were my friend, I'd be setting him up on some new dates. Not that he'd need my help, because they'd come to him.

There's a very definite style and voice to this writing, which is I think one of the reasons why it catches eyes. Like the plot, it's slow, intricate, and deliberate. There's a lot of emotive language, a lot of dialogue tags and adverbs mixed with detailed description. Again, a delight for some, a con for others. 

Final thoughts
I enjoyed the book and certainly want to know how it all ends. There's a great deal of questions and cleverness going on here, and I really have no idea how it's going to play out, which is rare and always nice. Ultimately, in Darien We Trust. 

I'll also add that Ms. Spencer is a fresh new voice to the scene, and I think fans can expect many more stories to come, which is a nice perk, and another great example of why indie is awesome. 

★★★★★ “Betrayal, lies, and destruction follow across every page.” —Grimdark Magazine

Review by


ML Spencer's The Rhenwars Saga series


The Rhenwars Saga #2


The Rhenwars Saga #1

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