Review: This Dark Descent by Kalyn Josephson

This Dark Descent by Kalyn Josephson

This Dark Descent
Kalyn Josephson
Roaring Brook Press
Published September 26, 2023

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About This Dark Descent

THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US meets SIX OF CROWS in this spellbinding new fantasy full of intrigue, romance, and pulse-pounding action, where the eldest daughter of a renowned family on the verge of ruin joins forces with a mysterious, rogue enchanter and a handsome, ambitious heir to win a deadly race.

Mikira Rusel’s family has long been famous for breeding enchanted horses, but their prestige is no match for their rising debts. To save her ranch, Mikira has only one option: she must win the Illinir, a treacherous horserace whose riders either finish maimed or murdered. Yet each year, competitors return, tempted by its alluring prize money and unparalleled prestige.

Mikira’s mission soon unites her with Arielle Kadar, an impressive yet illicit enchanter just beginning to come into her true power, and Damien Adair, a dashing young lord in the midst of a fierce succession battle. Both have hidden reasons of their own to help Mikira — as well as their own blood feuds to avenge…

Steeped in Jewish folklore, THIS DARK DESCENT is a pulse-pounding new fantasy full of forbidden magic, sizzling romance, and epic stakes. In a world as dangerous as this, will the need for vengeance butcher Mikira’s chances of winning the Illinir … or will another rider’s dagger?

This Dark Descent on Goodreads

My Review

I definitely see the comparison from this book to SIX OF CROWS. Damian, the mysterious young nobleman, has that same calculating, cards close to the vest thing going that Kaz has in Bardugo’s duology. Unlike SIX OF CROWS, THIS DARK DESCENT follows only two points of view: Ariella and Mikira. I loved both of them pretty much right away. Ari is a self-taught enchanter, grasping for more of her own lost history and the magic of her people that’s since been forbidden. She teeters on the edge of an unnamed darkness as she pursues her magic, and I feel like I was on the edge of my seat, needing to know she would be okay.

Mikira is sparks and frenzy. She’s impulsive, fierce, and fiercely loyal. I wish we’d gotten a little more of her relationships with her sisters Nelda and Aileen. The scenes when she races are so intense. I couldn’t look away. Those moments and some of the behind-the-scenes politics reminded me a little bit of THE SCORPIO RACES.

This is a completely different story than that one, but it definitely has some similarities: strong, desperate heroine; powers that be trying to control the outcome of the race; unlikely alliances; and, of course, a high-stakes, highly dangerous race.

On the whole, I really enjoyed this book. It anchored me in its story world pretty quickly, giving me just the right amount of detail so that I felt oriented to what was going on but not bogged down in unnecessary trivia. The pacing kept me turning pages from one chapter to the next all the way until the end. There’s also a bit of romance. It doesn’t dominate the story, but I really enjoyed that, too. I also loved the references to Jewish folklore and the way faith and heritage or culture and the complex relationships they can be were celebrated in the story.

This Dark Descent on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Some characters are described as having tawny or brown skin. Inspired by Jewish folklore. Also– yay for Widget the cat-who-is-not-a-cat.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used somewhat frequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. Mentions of attraction between same-sex couples. References to sex (happened off-scene).

Spiritual Content
Four Harbingers delivered magic to humans and are still revered and celebrated. Ari is Kinnish, but her family wasn’t devout. Now she longs to know more about the history, faith, and magic of her people, though it’s forbidden by the current rulers. Ari and another woman visit a temple. In intense moments, a couple of characters make reference to praying to gods or goddesses.

Violent Content
Situations of peril. Two men attack Ari, intent on mugging her. A man puts on brass knuckles and prepares to beat two men who are restrained. Racers attack Mikira with weapons and magic. She and her horse fight back. A man tortures a young woman, trying to get information from her. A young woman tortures a man and kills him. A couple of scenes show knife or gun fights.

Drug Content
Characters drink wine and whiskey as part of social events. A character tells a story about getting accidentally drunk on whiskey once.

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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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