Series: Dark Rise #1
Published by Allen & Unwin, Quill Tree Books on September 28, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Young Adult
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The ancient world of magic is no more. Its heroes are dead, its halls are ruins, and its great battles between Light and Dark are forgotten. Only the Stewards remember, and they keep their centuries-long vigil, sworn to protect humanity if the Dark King ever returns.
Sixteen-year-old dock boy Will is on the run, pursued by the men who killed his mother. When an old servant tells him of his destiny to fight beside the Stewards, Will is ushered into a world of magic, where he must train to play a vital role in the oncoming battle against the Dark.
As London is threatened by the Dark King’s return, the reborn heroes and villains of a long-forgotten war begin to draw battle lines. But as the young descendants of Light and Dark step into their destined roles, old allegiances, old enmities and old flames are awakened. Will must stand with the last heroes of the Light to prevent the fate that destroyed their world from returning to destroy his own.
I haven’t read the Captive Prince series, but I know a lot of fans are excited about this new series, so I was keen to give Dark Rise a shot due to its popularity.
Dark vs light, ancient warriors, and old lords reincarnated into new people. Dark Rise is a classic YA fantasy that deals with all these familiar fantasy tropes.
The book takes a while to get into the story, as we meet Will, a mysterious boy whose mother was killed by the Dark Lord’s lackey, as well as Violet, a biracial girl who has strength running through her veins. Both of these characters are descendants from powerful houses, the Lions, defenders of the Light, as well as the Lady, who has been opposed to the Dark Lord in the past. The two work together to find and defeat Simon, a warrior hell bent on making the Dark Lord rise again and take over the world.
There’s also ancient artefacts pertaining to the old world, including an intriguing unicorn horn that signals the existance of these wonderful creatures. We also learn of the Stewards, a society who are defenders of the Light, training warriors to defend against the Dark Lord and the Shadow Kings when he rises again.
So what you’ve got is a very straightforward premise, inspired by Lord of the Rings. While there was a bit of world building, it wasn’t anything too complicated to pick up. The ancient London setting was interesting enough. I did find there was a lot of repetition when it came to certain elements in the story, Will being the Blood of the Lady, Violet being strong like a Lion, everyone anticipating the Dark Lord coming back, the Stewards training up to fight an ancient war.
Essentially the thing keeping me reading would be the characters, but I found both Will and Violet to be quite bland in both their personalities and interactions. Wheter this was done intentionally or not remains to be seen, but there were many times during the book when I needed to put it down. I wasn’t really invested in the story, the world or the characters.
The only interesting character who I found was James, the Dark Lord’s willing servant in the past, and there was definitely some spicy banter between him and Will. I always find characters with grey morality to be interesting, and James was definitely a fascinating one who I would root for.
“The bright star holds, even as the darkness rises.”
There are also a few other point of view characters that we’re given, including Katherine, the fiancee of an important character. Her character is young and naive, preoccupied with the social standing and creature comforts that a life of luxury and being engaged to a prominent figure can give her. I can understand why she was written that way, but again, she felt like a rather forgettable plot device like many of the other side characters.
The plot of the book doesn’t really fall into place until the 80% mark, when we’re given the reveals to some character identities and motivations. I’m glad I read to this point, despite not really being wholly invested earlier on, because some of the plot devices suddenly made sense at that time.
While the story definitely had some interesting elements, I wouldn’t say this book was particularly memorable given the stock standard dark vs light setting. The characters felt rather forgettable as well. I do think the sequel might offer a more interesting story, but I’m not that invested at this point to pick it up.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia for sending me a review copy!
Dark Rise is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$19.99.
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