Book Review: To Darkness Fled by Jill Williamson

To Darkness Fled CoverSometimes, the second book in a trilogy is a letdown, the weak link in the chain.

The first book has the advantage of introducing the plot, story world, and characters. The third book is the satisfying climax. Usually, that leaves the second book hidden in the shadows of ordinary.

Not so with To Darkness Fled.

Shadows of ordinary…To Darkness. That pun came of its own accord.

After reading the first book, I was eager to see where the story took me next. If anything, it improved on book one, something I’ve found rare in my experience with trilogies.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

If you haven’t read the first book, proceed at your own risk.

The book summary (from the website):

They have no choice. Chased by an evil prince, Achan, Vrell, and the Kingsguard knights flee into Darkness. They head north, for Tsaftown and Ice Island, where they must free an army that can help them fight for Er’Rets.

Darkness sickens Vrell. How long can she keep her secret without being caught? Achan already suspects her of lying. If she is not careful, he will suspect her of treason as well. She hopes he will let his suspicions go until they reach her home.

Achan wanted freedom, but this new journey has bound him more than ever. Sir Gavin’s claims are so far fetched. First, that there might only be one God, and second, that this God chose Achan to push back Darkness, the magnificent curse of Er’Rets. Him. Achan. Barely a man himself.

Each setback Darkness brings seems minor compared to the one choice only Achan can make. What will he choose?

Plot

With the start of To Darkness Fled, the plot shifts to one of escape and survival. Achan, Vrell, and their friends are on the run, adding immediate conflict and tension.

Plot twists are as abundant as swords in a castle. In Darkness, the group faces new hardships, challenges, and dangers—some expected, some so surprising you have to see to believe.

There wasn’t a firm resolution at the climax, instead setting up events for book three while tying off some threads and starting new ones. That might bother some people, but I didn’t think it was a problem. Just when you want things to start coming together, the end turns the plot in a new direction and leaves you hanging.

Excitement, tension, and conflict abound, carrying the story at a quick pace I thoroughly enjoyed. Fantasy at its best.

Setting

Most of the book takes place in the Darkness half of Er’Rets, automatically bringing a different feel in the setting. I was interested to find the answers to questions I had about an environment where there was no sunlight.

  • How do people cope with the endless darkness?
  • What sort of plants and animals can survive?
  • What is daily life like?

I got my answers and more. Because the plot involves a lot of travel, the characters visit enough new places to keep my adventurous appetite satisfied. Barth and Berland were particularly impressive.

One of the strongest points of this book is the continued development of bloodvoicing. Both Achan and Vrell learn new techniques and take on new challenges with their abilities—sometimes with dangerous results.

I love fantasy books that can slowly build up a magic system over the course of the series. There’s always the feeling of new discoveries and possibilities as the characters learn more about their powers.

Characters

The characters make this story work. Without Achan’s shenanigans or Vrell’s secrets, it wouldn’t be as lively. Add some new and entertaining minor characters and this book is a fabulous ride of emotion, sarcasm, wit, conflict, and action.

Achan’s dynamic personality combined with his uncultured upbringing makes for plenty of humor and fireworks. He struggles with his new burden of being prince. Despite his good intentions, he makes plenty of mistakes—a combination of virtues and flaws necessary for any good hero.

Stuck with a pack of men, Vrell has problems of her own. Of all Achan’s friends, she has the most profound influence on him, and the interplay between them, especially the playful scuffles they have, is priceless.

Several new relationships develop between the characters, including—I don’t want call them love triangles because they really aren’t—a complicated web of potential love and heartache. That should be enough to hook you romantics out there.

If for no other reason, read this book to find out what happens to Achan, Vrell, and their friends—and enemies.

Conclusion

This is possibly my favorite book in the trilogy. It has action, suspense, thwarted love, plot twists, secrets, and dozens of other pieces that have me grinning even now as I think back on them.

Once again, some of the phrases became redundant or sounded awkward but not enough to detract from the reading experience.

The spiritual elements have more attention in this book. A few bits sounded “preachy,” but overall I was pleased how naturally the ideas of faith and God fit into the story. For a “Christian Book” that’s a triumph.

To Darkness Fled earns a spot on Shelf Excellent.

Author website: Jill Williamson


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