Review: The Darkening by Sunya Mara

The Darkening by Sunya Mara

The Darkening
Sunya Mara
Clarion Books
Published July 5, 2022

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About The Darkening

In this thrilling and epic YA fantasy debut the only hope for a city trapped in the eye of a cursed storm lies with the daughter of failed revolutionaries and a prince terrified of his throne.

Vesper Vale is the daughter of revolutionaries. Failed revolutionaries. When her mother was caught by the queen’s soldiers, they gave her a choice: death by the hangman’s axe, or death by the Storm that surrounds the city and curses anyone it touches. She chose the Storm. And when the queen’s soldiers—led by a paranoid prince—catch up to Vesper’s father after twelve years on the run, Vesper will do whatever it takes to save him from sharing that fate.

Even arm herself with her father’s book of dangerous experimental magic.

Even infiltrate the prince’s elite squad of soldier-sorcerers.

And even cheat her way into his cold heart.

But when Vesper learns that there’s more to the story of her mother’s death, she’ll have to make a choice if she wants to save her city: trust the devious prince with her family’s secrets, or follow her mother’s footsteps into the Storm.

Beating Heart Baby on Goodreads

My Review

It took me a couple chapters to really get into this book, but once I was in, I was completely hooked. I love Vesper’s character. She feels things so passionately, and she never gives up. Even though she has a complicated relationship with her dad, she still loves him and will do anything to save him.

I also loved the prince and both of his closest warriors. I liked that they didn’t turn out the way I expected them to. They had a lot more depth to them than I anticipated, and I liked the way Vesper built tenuous but deep alliances with them.

Also– the Storm. Filled with magic, strange beasts, fierce winds… the descriptions of it carried me away every time. I love that there’s so much more to it than Vesper initially believes.

In the story, anyone who encounters the Storm and lives bears some kind of “curse”. This can be a physical abnormality, like a disability or something less visible, maybe bearing a kind of magic. I had mixed feelings about a scene early in the book where a whole group of Stormtouched (storm cursed) people get killed because they harbored Vesper and her dad. It did feel a little bit like the only purpose those characters served was to humanize Vesper and make her a more empathetic character and driven for revenge on behalf of her murdered friends.

The story features other characters who are Stormtouched, so that isn’t the only representation of them. I don’t feel like I have the expertise to really speak to whether that early scene had issues. In any case, it left me with mixed feelings.

On the whole, I enjoyed the fast-paced storytelling and the unique approach to magic as well as the deepening layers of history revealed as the story progresses. I loved the cast of characters, and I really want to see where the story goes next.

Beating Heart Baby on Bookshop

Content Notes for The Darkening

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Characters are described as having brown skin.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used very infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
The Regia rules by carrying the spirit of a Great King from the past. Trained warriors use ikons, symbols they inscribe to create a kind of magic.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. Battle scenes. In two scenes characters fight opponents to the death in an arena.

Drug Content

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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