Blurb from Goodreads:
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.
First in a new trilogy, DARK RISE is a phenomenal YA fantasy novel which proves to be effortlessly immersive and wholly addictive.
The cold open sets us in the middle of a conflict we have no context for, but immediately grips the reader with the mystery of what the prisoner fears so much that he begs for death and what his relationship was with his tormentor before his betrayal. It fades into the background as the author introduces the protagonist, but this plot thread is woven throughout the story and sets up epic reveals which blew my mind! The genre savvy may predict a plot twist or two, but I believe it’s the journey that matters, not the destination, and we’re treated to a phenomenal voyage of excitement, heartbreak and nail-biting suspense.
Our hero Will embodies the typical Chosen One stereotype and with a Dark King and clashes between the forces of Light and Dark, it sounds derivative and uninspired, but don’t be fooled! This standard fantasy set-up exists solely to be knocked down and our understanding of these characters and the nature of their struggle is reshaped and re-contextualized a number of times. The author skillfully subverts classic tropes and gives this gang of misfits so much heart and depth and nuance, it will overwhelm you with emotion.
Will and Violet’s friendship was so beautifully unexpected when I thought they were poised to be enemies; while this is Will’s coming-of-age story, I loved how important Violet was and the care given to fleshing out her background and ambitions. It’s rare to see a ride-or-die platonic friendship between male and female characters, I was thrilled by that dynamic! For those hoping for on-page queer romance, I’m afraid it’s not present in this book, but slow-burn fans will love the glancing touches, unnecessarily close proximity and delicious tension. The last few pages will leave you SCREECHING.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough! It features complex, well-written characters, cool mythology and fascinating world-building plus a bunch of genius twists that have me beyond excited for the next book. Read this and flail with me!
Disclaimer: physical copy provided free from the publisher for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.