A compelling read with two well drawn characters, cool world building, a fun cultivation style magic system
Darkening Skies by Eden Hudson is the first in the Path of the Thunderbird series, and it’s a wonderful start to a series that promises to become a go-to for fans of the cultivation subgenre. Set in an Asian-inspired secondary world, Darkening Skies tells the story of a young boy growing up at a monastery, while simultaneously telling the story of a princess about to embark on her own journey.
The first element of this novel that deserves praise is the intertwining timelines. The story is told through two viewpoints, one “present time” and one taking place a decade or so in the past. I often find myself disliking this sort of literary device, but Hudson uses it to great effect in Darkening Skies. The reveals from one timeline often have an emotional impact on the other, and vice-versa. Hudson also manages to keep the pacing consistent within and between the two timelines, which makes this a fast read. The novel also manages to use the prophesied savior trope in a unique and interesting way that feels fresh rather than stale. That in and of itself deserves praise. But coupled with the way the two main characters are drawn, it helps to make this novel stand out from the pack. I loved both the main characters, and the slow burn romance that buds between them is very well done. Of course, the magic is also interesting. Typical of the cultivation genre, we don’t get much detail in this first book, but a strong foundation is laid. Hudson crafts fight sequences that are engaging and manage to remain fresh throughout the story. The combination of physical fighting and magical fighting is a staple of cultivation tales, and Hudson does an excellent job with the combination here. Overall, there is something extremely compelling about this book. Whether it’s the world building, the characters, the intertwining timelines, seeing young Raijin in the past timeline versus adult Raijin in the present timeline, seeing Koida work to overcome her weaknesses, or the sum of these being greater than the parts, I found myself unwilling to put the book down, telling myself I could read just one more page, one more chapter, before bed.
I did find that the characters took a little while to grow on me. For the first third or so of the book both Koida, the princess, and Raijin, the boy growing up at the monastery, felt a little vanilla. But they did grow on me quickly after that initial period. In some ways, this applies to the novel as a whole: it takes a while to get going. I also found myself with many questions left at the end of the novel. This is forgivable because it’s the opening book in a series, but even with that in mind it ended on quite the cliffhanger. There is also a little bit of a learning curve in understanding the cultures and some of the terms used in the story. I don’t mind this at all, but some readers may find this off putting.
Darkening Skies is a great read. Once the story kicks into high gear, it doesn’t let up and keeps you engaged. It’s a compelling read with two well drawn characters, cool world building, a fun cultivation style magic system and a slow burn romance. It will appeal to fans of Will Wight’s Cradle series. I’m eagerly looking forward to reading the sequel.
Review by Calvin Park
7.5/10 from 1 reviews
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