Today I’ll be reviewing Into the Darkness, by A.M. Rycroft. This is the first book in her Cathell series. Here’s the cover and blurb:
Sell-sword Aeryn Ravane didn’t set out to end the world.
Aeryn shut everyone out when her father died. A whisper in the dark pulls her back, promising an end to her torment if she captures the legendary sword sealed within the Black Caverns. Ending the curse that guards it,however, means unlocking the secrets of the past, some of which should stay buried.
Her quest turns into a fight for survival when she comes face-to-face with an ancient evil. She rescues a young thief pulled into the horrors and darkness spreading across Cathell. Keeping them alive and saving their world will take every bit of Aeryn’s strength and wit. Will it be enough?
|Character and Dialogue||16 points|
|Setting and Description||18 points|
|Plot and Creativity||15 points|
|Technical Ability||17 points|
|Cover and Blurb||17 points|
- Main character is kind of wooden for most of the book, but opens up as the story goes on; secondary characters are excellent.
- Not much detail about character appearance, but very good description of settings and events, as well as fast-paced action sequences.
- Easy to follow plot, with an excellent climax. Some characters introduced later than they should have been. No romantic plotline, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
- Good grammar and spelling, not many mistakes. Story pacing works well. Point of view changes are abrupt and sometimes seem unnecessary.
- Cover fits the story and draws the reader’s eye. Blurb has a nice hook and draws the reader in without extraneous details.
Keep reading for the long version of the review.
Character and Dialogue:
The main protagonists in this book are Aeryn Ravane and Theo. Aeryn is a sell-sword with some serious guilt issues. Theo is a ten-year-old street thief. I’m a little ambivalent about Aeryn, to be honest. On the one hand, she’s a strong, no-nonsense female protagonist who does her own dirty work and is the rescuer more often than the rescued, which is always nice to see. On the other hand, she comes across as extremely stiff, almost wooden, especially in the first two thirds of the book. Almost no hint of Aeryn’s personality is presented to the reader for most of the story. Aeryn does open up some as the book goes on, though, which goes a long towards redeeming the earlier stiffness.
Theo, however, is full of personality. She acts and speaks pretty much exactly like you’d expect from a street urchin. She’s aggressive, sarcastic, and suspicious, yet also vulnerable and endearing. Most of the time, she doesn’t really seem to be ten years old, but it’s not really a surprise, considering her upbringing. It’s enjoyable to watch as she goes from seeing Aeryn as little more than a mark to someone she cares about and trusts.
The differences in speech patterns between Aeryn and Theo really serves to illustrate their differing backgrounds. Aeryn is very formal and precise, while Theo is mouthy and more simplistic with her word choice.
There are several secondary characters of interest in the book, as well, notably Tynan and Thystle. I’m not going to go into much detail about either them, mostly due to my strict no-spoilers policy, but I will say that all of the secondary characters introduced as the story goes on are interesting and distinctive.
The antagonist in this book is truly fantastic. I won’t be giving away any details, but I will say that it is thoroughly evil, more than a little frightening, and altogether a pleasure to read about. Great job!
Setting and Description:
Rycroft does a good job of describing what’s going on around her characters. She gives some pertinent information about the characters along the way, such as Aeryn’s dark hair and gray eyes, but I did find myself wondering, at least a little, about what exactly some of the characters looked like.
Good description involves more than just telling the reader what the characters see or hear, and Rycroft handles this well by including smells, physical sensations, and, very importantly, the character’s internal reactions to what’s going on.
The characters visit several cities and towns throughout the course of the book, and I was happy to see that each place felt dynamic and alive in its own unique way. I had no trouble seeing the differences between the squalid and desperate streets of Valis, for example, and the tough but compassionate city of Belhaun.
There are quite a few battle scenes in the book, and Rycroft does a pretty good job of making them exciting and fast-paced. I would have liked to see a little more description of techniques and maneuvers, but I understand that not everyone is as into that kind of detail as I am.
Plot and Creativity:
The plot of Into the Darkness is relatively straightforward and easy to follow. It isn’t especially unique, in that it comes down to the classic battle of good against evil, but it is presented well. The climactic battle is excellent, and even managed to surprise me a bit.
Several important characters were introduced very late in the game—67% through the book, in fact, according to my Kindle. I couldn’t help but feel that the story would have been even better if they’d been brought in sooner than two-thirds of the way through.
One of the more interesting plot details of this book is that there is virtually no romance. Aside from some brief and extremely innocent flirtation, the relationships of all of the characters remain perfectly platonic. I’m not judging this one as a good or a bad thing, since it’s highly subjective. It is, however, unusual enough to note.
Rycroft handles vampyres (how it’s spelled in the book) in a fairly unique way. I’ve read a lot—a whole lot—of books with or about vampires, and it’s nice to see some freshness in that particular subject. The vampyre character in this book is one of my favorites.
I didn’t encounter many typos in the book, or grammatically incorrect sentences. Word usage was on point; I feel like the author said what she meant to say.
The general rhythm of Rycroft’s sentences varies nicely in time with the events taking place in the book. Descriptions of landscapes and places are longer, with more use of adjectives, while action scenes tend to be made of shorter, simpler sentences that keep things fast-paced and exciting.
The point of view in this book changes several times over the course of the story, and it was definitely a little abrupt the first time. The first five chapters of the book are all from Aeryn’s POV, and then the sixth switches to Theo’s. It wasn’t exactly confusing, but it was jarring. Then, a little later on, we get two chapters from another character’s POV, almost at random. I understood that the information contained in those chapters was important, but jumping into a secondary character’s head—even an important one—for a couple of chapters and then never again is extremely off-putting.
Cover and Blurb:
The cover of Into the Darkness is simple, but it works well for the story and for the main character, Aeryn. The sword is both the focus of the story, and Aeryn’s personal focus, the whole reason her adventure began in the first place. It also serves to divide the cover symmetrically, along with the title itself, giving the whole thing a nice balance.
Looking at the cover for the first time made me immediately assume this was going to be a sword-and-sorcery type book, which is exactly what it is. This is important, since it is the cover that people will initially see, and what is going to determine whether or not a potential reader will even pick the book up.
Books in this genre often feature a sword in some position of prominence on the cover, and Into the Darkness is no exception. While this also means there is some lack of originality, the addition of the orb, which isn’t just artistic license, but has real importance in the book itself, adds just enough to make it interesting and catch the eye.
The book’s blurb, in my opinion, is an excellent length. It’s long enough to give the reader some detail about what to expect, but doesn’t try to explain too much, or mention characters that don’t need to be revealed yet.
The blurb for Into the Darkness starts off with a nice hook and then dives right into giving us some detail about the main character. I’m not necessarily a fan of ending a blurb with a question, but in terms of drawing in readers, it does what it’s supposed to do.
Overall Score: 83 points. I definitely recommend reading this book if you’re a fan of sword-and-sorcery books.
Find A.M. Rycroft and her books here:
Thanks for taking the time to check out this review, and I hope you enjoyed it. Remember: Read or Die!