Cover Image: The Darkening

The Darkening

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I’m feeling quite disappointed that I read this book during a time when I didn’t feel like reading. Every page felt like a challenge and pushing myself to get through this was difficult. This was to no fault of the book, it was very good, I ruined the experience for myself. I put too much pressure on myself to get through The Darkening as quickly as possible as I wasn’t sent a copy until after it had been published. A ridiculous goal set by myself as there were no expectations to do so. 

I finished a huge chunk of the book just last night and when I actually sat down just to read the pages flew by. I finally felt invested in the story I really loved it. The writing was beautiful and the action scenes were intense but fun. 

So far none of the characters were that interesting to me. Other than Casvian as you do see him go through quite a development and in the end, he was probably my favourite. Vesper was at times a little too self-absorbed for my liking and the relationship between her and Dalca was difficult to follow near the end. 

Slight spoiler, but they went from enemies to lovers to mortal enemies, literally wanting to kill each other, back to lovers. I think? Honestly, the last few chapters were quite confusing so I’m not entirely sure what was going on. All I know is that the ending seemed pretty final, but I think this is going to be a series. 

The Storm was an intriguing and inventive antagonist and I liked that it was a living thing. I’d never want to meet a stormbeast in real life, but god do they sound cool. I may need to go back and read the last few chapters again as I can’t fully remember what happens with The Storm, but having it be an always lingering presence created a lot of tension and left you wondering when it would strike again. 
The Darkening has a very inventive concept and the execution of it was carried out pretty well. I will be awarding the book four stars, despite the confusion it caused me at times, as it was very well written. The descriptions and world were totally immersive and I’m excited to see if there will be a second instalment.
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💭My review🐻
I got to start off by saying how beautiful this cover is and represents the book soo well. I really enjoyed everything about this book. I really like the authors writing and the details of the book. The only thing I think there could have been a little more details about the world they live in and backstories. There could be so much more. I really can’t wait for the next one.

Thank you to @netgalley and @clarionbooks Books for giving me the chance to read and review this book.
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Special thanks to Grace Fell at Spark Point Studio and Clarion Books for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 4 stars!

TL;DR: The Darkening is an awesome fantasy debut that pretty much ticked all the boxes for me! It had a  unique magical language, vengeful beings, intriguing curses, angst-filled enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies romance, and a group of unlikely people banding together to save their world. I was immersed in this world consumed by a relentless Storm and was holding onto the edge of my seat for the last 30% as the stakes, tension and action increased. With how the story ended, I need to get my hands on the second book now, pls!

From the moment I saw this cover and read the synopsis, I knew I wanted to read The Darkening ASAP. I’m so glad that I got to buddy read this with Becky because it was so great to have someone to talk to about everything that happened and a lot happens!

Mara created this bleak Storm ravaged world that was slightly reminiscent of the Hunger Games in the way it’s set up. The city is formed in seven rings, only five of which are intact (mostly anyway), and the further out you go from the palace at the centre, the more poverty and desperation you find. The writing was atmospheric, flowed well and was mostly well-paced save for a few meandering moments in the middle. There was a lot that I found interesting—from the magical language called Ikonomancy to the roles of the Regia & Great King to the Storm with its monstrous creatures and curses—but I did find the world-building to be a little haphazard. We’re thrown head first into this cursed world from the start but the explanation only comes as a bit of an info dump towards the end when the action picks up. I’m glad that many of my questions were answered but there were a few inconsistencies which meant more (as yet) unanswered questions that I’m hoping will be clarified in the second book.

The story is told through Vesper’s pov and I thought she was a very compelling MC. She’s the daughter of failed rebel leaders and was raised in a life of secrecy and mild poverty in the fifth circle. She’s smart and tenacious and beyond anything, she’s eager to prove to her father that she’s more than a disappointment. She aspires to be like her mother, fierce, strong and a rebel leader and I loved watching how her character evolved as she learns more about her family history, the Storm and as she learns more about the unlikely people she teams up with to save the place they all call home.

Through her, we meet many characters that were in turn interesting, frustrating and funny. I found the main secondary characters, Dalca, Cas and Iz, to be very interesting and delightfully morally grey. I loved discovering the layers to their characters and seeing where and how the lines between good and evil blurred and how their personal motivations drove them. I never really knew who was trustworthy and it created some great tension and a good dose of angst when it came to the romance. The romance itself was true enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies again that had a forbidden/doomed aspect to it that only served to increase the intensity, especially at the end. That said, I wished we got more time with these three on-page as they would (dis)appear at random sometimes to the point where it felt like they were forgotten completely only for them to suddenly show up again. Just as with the world-building, I felt there was a slight missed opportunity to dive deeper into these characters and the relationships that were formed.

Overall, I thought this was a really great debut and I’m already looking forward to the second book (it seriously couldn’t come out soon enough)! If you like fast-paced action, unique magic and monsters, complex characters and an interesting adversary, I would recommend checking this out!
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Sunya Mara's The Darkening takes a familiar enough YA plot (I must join the elite though truly I am not one of them and I intend to try and strike down everything they stand for) and sets it against the backdrop of a fascinating world where people are beset by a supernatural storm that curses or kills everyone it touches. I had a good time reading this book and I think a lot of my personal issues with it were more to do with me being burned out on the aforementioned familiar YA plot and less to do with the quality of the book itself. 
I thought that the world that Mara created in this book was fascinating, the manifestation of a class system in the rings of a city is something we have seen before but the idea of those outer rings being gradually consumed by the storm as those in the centre continue living their lives added a sense of drama to the piece. 
I found the main character Vesper to be a compelling YA heroine (though again I am a little bit burned out on this particular kind of character). I found she kept a good enough head on her shoulders throughout all that happens in the book and she didn't make too many choices that made me question whether she is the right person for this particular job. 
I also liked the magic system, Iconomancy, which we got to learn more about as the book went on. I might have liked a little more time spent on the instruction/teaching of the magic just so I as a reader could fully comprehend it but I can see that would make the balance of the book quite different to what it is now. 
Overall I have very few technical complaints about this book other than the overuse of the word 'moss' which is everywhere in the early chapters - but to be fair the moss is also everywhere - and I think that those who LOVE this kind of YA revolution story will have a great time experiencing it through Vesper's world. I personally wouldn't want to reread this but I think that's personal as opposed to a comment on the book. 
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, all opinions are my own.
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Very well-written YA fantasy, which explores an interestingly built world, stakes of power and human desire, plots, and twists that power and anger make. 
I read in one sitting, sure there is a feel of a YA novel, but not to point of simplicity.
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I had to keep reminding myself to keep an open mind about <i>The Darkening</i>. The characters weren’t compelling, and the worldbuilding left much to be desired. It felt very been there, done that with a few unique touches thrown in.
I understood the gist of the magic system, but I’m not sure if that’s from reading books with similar systems or from worldbuilding in <i>The Darkening</i>. It doesn’t fully explain how and why the ikons work.
Vesper, our main character, left me thinking, “meh.” I didn’t connect with her and was not too fond of the romance plotline. It felt forced to me, and I was actively rooting against them.
Overall, a middle-of-the-road read. If you’re looking for a quick teen fantasy read, you’ll probably enjoy <i>The Darkening</i>.
<i>Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.</i>
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Thank you to Clarion and NetGalley for providing me an eARC to review!

First of all would just like to say this cover is absolutely beautiful!!! But sadly I found this book to be just okay.

While the setting - especially the storm and its monsters - was interesting, I thought the characters and their relationships fell flat. A lot of this book is the main character going on about how she has to save her father and how everything is her fault, and her father refuses to be saved, so between them it just felt like there was a lot of whining going on which I didn't particularly enjoy. I think there was also meant to be a bit of a found family element, but I found Iza, Cas and Dalca all quite one dimensional and the romance in particular I didn't think was great. I also thought that the women in this book were either depicted as pitiful, kind of evil, or dead which I didn't LOVE.

The magic system was also pretty cool but it was lost in the kind of monotonous tone of the first 2/3 of this book. Around this point things get more interesting, but it also felt a bit jarring since the beginning had been relatively uneventful. If the whole book had had more of this strange, adventurous element I think I would have enjoyed it more, but the whole book just felt a bit flat to me and I couldn't really get into it. I think part of this was the main character just being so hopeless and whiny all the time about how everything was her fault - she wasn't exactly someone that was easy to root for. And the ending does have a bit of excitement but since I wasn't invested I didn't really care.

It reminded me a bit of Raybearer in some ways, and while I don't think this is a bad book, I just wasn't gripped by it. Would definitely be interested in picking up something else from the author in future though.
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“If nightmares had music, they’d sound like the Storm.”

Vesper Vale’s life has been anything but easy. After her parents’ failed rebellion, her mother was sent into the Storm, a cloud of nightmares and monsters that surround the city Vesper lives in. Her mother was never seen again and after twelve years of attempting to avoid the same fate, Vesper’s father has been captured by her city’s cunning sorcerers, the Wardana. Vesper will do anything to save her father, even if that includes infiltrating the insidious group that trapped him. As she works to save her father, Vesper discovers that her mother’s death was not all that it seemed. And in order to save her city, free her father, and avoid being sent into the Storm herself, Vesper may have to put her faith in the very people she’s attempting to fool. 

Sunya Mara’s The Darkening is everything that a YA novel should be. With a one-of-a-kind setting, an intricate magic system, and a compelling plot, Mara has created a wonderfully written debut novel. Her writing style is so expressive and passionate, I truly felt that I was transported into the world she has created. The characters were my favorite part of the novel. As the story progresses, the bonds between Vesper and the other characters developed and the dynamics between them made for a much more entertaining read. Vesper was a fantastic main character, her simple goal to save her father and her growth made for a much more realistic and engaging character. Sunya Mara’s incredibly descriptive action sequences kept me on the edge of my seat, and her lyrical prose created a beautiful world for her readers. I recommend this book to anyone looking for an electrifying fantasy thriller that will have them begging for a sequel. 

(Pine Reads Review would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing us with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change upon final publication.)

PRR Writer, Frances Drye
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I was drawn in by the gorgeous cover and thankfully the content inside did not disappoint. I had a copy of this as an eARC although I ended up reading that ARC the day the book released. I will definitely be looking to pick up a physical copy of this gorgeous book.
Mara takes us to a world where a storm continues to threaten a city stuck in the eye of the storm with no hope of possible escape. In this desperate situation, a hierarchy of those sworn to protect has gotten corrupted and turned into a highly stratified, caste-like society which places those closest to the storm in the lowest rank with the "storm-touched" falling below even that.
In this situation, the main character finds herself trying to rescue her father whom she belatedly learns had previously tried to overthrow the ruling regime in an attempt to solve the problem of the storm and ends up captured and on trial for treason. She infiltrates the palace, becoming an apprentice to the Prince's right hand man but her subterfuge is quickly found out.
All of the twists and turns in this story utterly captivated me even though the world building did get a little thick at parts of the narrative, something likely necessary in the first book of a brand new fantasy series. The complexity of the characters hooked me and I cannot wait to read the sequel.
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The premise of this book was quite intriguing and I was so excited to delve in. I enjoyed getting to know each of the characters as the story progressed and overall, I did enjoy the writing style. I think my biggest issue with the book was the pacing. There were moments were the book flowed quite nicely and others were it just didn't. I also, personally, wasn't a huge fan of the romance, but I can definitely see people feeling differently. Overall a solid read.
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I received this an ARC through Netgalley.  Like many other reviews I've read, I to had high hopes for The Darkening from reading the description.  It felt like a mix of Hunger Games, Divergent, Mortal Instruments, and Shadow and Bone series.  If that sounds like a lot, it is. If it hadn't be that I was reading as an ARC, I would have DNF"d at about 100 pages.  I felt like it was a worn out trope with Vesper, never feeling good enough and being the reason everything was being messed up.  Dalca, the bad guy or the good guy falling for the lowly girl who might turn out to be the country's savior.  Just really couldn't connect with any of the characters or the world that was created.  I believe this is the first in a series, I won't be reading the rest of them.
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The Darkening by Sunya Mara is the first instalment in a gripping new fantasy series that kept me hooked from page one. With experimental magic, a cursed storm, an undercover protagonist, and a royal love interest, this one contains so many elements that I love. I especially enjoyed the balance between worldbuilding and action, which makes this one a rich and unputdownable debut that fantasy fans will love.

Years ago, Vesper’s revolutionary mother was captured by the queen’s soldiers and sentenced to death by a storm that surrounds the city. When Vesper’s father, the only family she has left, is taken as a prisoner himself, she is determined to do whatever it takes to save him. Armed with her father’s book of experimental magic, Vesper disguises herself as an apprentice in order to infiltrate the castle. However, when she realizes that there is more good in the prince than she thought, her path to saving her father becomes more complex than she thought.


Vesper is an interesting main character, and I enjoyed reading about her internal conflict. She is an advocate for justice for the outer rings of her city, and while she has big shoes to fill as the daughter of revolutionaries, I liked how she chooses her own path and makes her own decisions. Vesper’s loyalty to her father is especially touching, even when her desire to save the city conflicts with her plans to save him. Throughout the book, she undergoes a lot of self-discovery, and I enjoyed the direction her character takes in the end.


As I was reading, I found myself hooked by the pacing of this book. Pacing is often something I struggle with in fantasies, but Sunya Mara successfully kept me engaged throughout the whole story. She begins by taking the time to unpack the world and its social conditions, and I appreciated getting a feel for the environment before diving into the plot. While there are many descriptions at the beginning of the book, I was never bored by these, and the story remains action-packed and suspenseful all the way through as we fear for Vesper’s cover being blown.


The Darkening by Sunya Mara is an epic fantasy with many surprising elements. I enjoyed the idea of experimental magic and a cursed storm, and the main character develops throughout the story. As someone who tends to struggle with long fantasy novels, I enjoyed the pacing of this one, and I would recommend it to those looking for a thrilling new series with an exciting world.
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This debut was fantastic! The worldbuilding and setting were just so unique and engaging. The city made of rings and a storm that consumed everything was really, really cool. Vesper was a strong character who was fun to read. Overall, a solid YA fantasy that skews slightly younger with great spins on familiar tropes! 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for review
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Thank you so much, HCC Frenzy and HarperCollins Canada, for allowing me to read and review this e-arc. This review will be posted closer to the publication date on Goodreads, My Instagram, and Various Shops (Amazon Canada/Barnes & Noble/ Indigo Canada).   

I enjoyed Sunya Mara's The Darkening. I was hooked from the very first chapter. Mara's writing is very poetic. I found myself highlighting various quotes on my kindle. Mara does a great job at setting the novel's scene, tone, and atmosphere for each chapter. As I was reading, I could see the entire story unfold in my head like a movie. 

I think this story will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo (Grishaverse), Elizabeth Lim (Six Crimson Cranes), and Cassandra Clare (Shadowhunter Chronicles').  

Mara does a great job at worldbuilding in The Darkening. The storm and the magic system were easily explained. I did not feel there were any moments where there were info dumps in this book. Overall, the plot and the worldbuilding flowed easily together. 

The characters? I loved Vesper. I found myself rooting for her from very early on in the novel. I also developed a soft spot for Cas in this book. 

The romance? I did enjoy the romance between Vesper and the Prince. However, I'm hoping the romance will be further fleshed out in future books.  

The book ends in a way...where I'm not sure what will happen in book 2. This makes me excited for the sequel. 

My only critique is that I felt the Prince's character could have been fleshed out (strengthened) more in the beginning half of The Darkening. 

Overall, I'm looking forward to the sequel to this series. I'm excited to see where Vesper will take us next on her journey. I loved the worldbuilding and  Sunya Mara's writing in this book. Vesper was a great narrator, and I enjoyed the romance. The Darkening was a solid first book in a new fantasy series.
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I would highly recommend this book for early YA fantasy readers. As someone who has read from this genre frequently for quite sometime, the author's implementation of several tropes didn't resonate with me the way it may with fresher eyes.
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3 stars 

It's important to note that I am not typically a fan of fantasy but do often challenge myself to read it when the premise seems strong, and that is exactly how I ended up reading this one. Overall, I'm glad I did. 

Vesper, the m.c., is the child of revolutionaries who end up more successful in their hearts than in their practice. It's no surprise that a similar spirit has imbued her. However, Vesper experiences some limitations that, unfortunately, make her about as successful as her parents, in some ways. Vesper really fits that strong fem who is constantly surrounded by dudes who don't listen to her type, and while this is going to be relatable for many (even most) readers, it's also a little frustrating at times in terms of both her character and the forward movement of events. For me, the pacing is a little slow throughout most of the book, though I do really like the way this ends, so much so that it's making me excited to read the conclusion to this duology. 

While I hoped for a little more explanation of some of the magical elements and a little more rapidity throughout most of the book, I did enjoy the read overall and am really interested to see how this collection wraps.
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I really enjoyed the first 2/3 of this book, and then it took kind of a weird, sad turn and it just kind of ruined it for me. I liked the whole aspect of the Storm closing in and the power being tied to the Regia, the leader. There were a few things that were explained poorly though, or didn't have a complete explanation or resolution.
Vesper was a great main character. I connected with her inner struggle and desire to do the right thing, but always feeling like you're making the wrong choice. I struggled with Dalca, he seemed to be blown about by any change of situation and I don't feel like I ever actually found out what he stood for.
I really, really wanted to love this book, but I just hit this disconnect point and it never got me back. Other I know will love this book, but it just wasn't for me.

Thank you so much to Harper Collins and HCC Frenzy for gifting me an e-arc of this book to read. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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I picked this title as part of my attempt to read more Fantasy novel. I will say fantasy tends to go over my head and this one was no exception. This book, however, has gorgeous and lush writing. And have you seen this cover?
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I am so bummed that this wasn’t a BOTM pick. For being a debut, this book should have been one! It is AMAZING. 

The world building was done so well, and the way she described the ways magic works and the relationships kept me engaged. 

Sometimes sci-fi YA can be underwhelming, but the author really understood the assignment! Highly recommend, and can’t wait for book 2!!!
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The city is haunted by a powerful Storm that devours all it touches, or curses those that escape it. Vesper Vale, daughter of failed revolutionaries, knows this well. It is her district that is dangerously close to disappearing into the storm, like her mother did all those years ago. Only the Regia--the Queen, the living vessel of a great god--can save them... but Vesper has her doubts. When her father is captured and held prisoner by the paranoid prince, Vesper decides to infiltrate the prince's inner circle. Soon, though, she'll be faced with a decision that could very well destroy her world.

The Darkening is a dark fantasy debut that will appeal to young adult and adult readers alike. It has some heavy themes, and is laden with strong symbolism. In fact, it almost felt a little more cerebral than your average YA fantasy. 3.5 stars.

This is one of those books that feel hard to describe. I did take a little while to read this, in part because I felt that the first half was very slow and drawn out. Mara builds a world that is narrowed down to a single city facing utter destruction at the hands of a magical, ominous Storm. Vesper, who is a fairly complex character, was an easy narrator to follow. But I never really felt fully taken with the book until the second half.

In the second half of the novel, a lot of those loose threads introduced earlier in the novel are beginning to weave themselves together into a bigger picture. The book is heavy on its symbolism, and almost feels a little philosophical in nature. Vesper and some of her supporting cast are forced to look deep into themselves in more ways than one, the consequences of which can either save their world or completely destroy it. Many of the side characters have some small complexities that I fully expect will be explored in the subsequent novel.

All in all, I enjoyed The Darkening. While it is a book that feels very abstract and might be a bit much for younger teens to wrap their heads around, it has the potential to be a book that crosses the divide from YA to adult audiences. The politics, the intrigue, and the deep thought put into it are utterly interesting, but could also be a downfall for some readers. Ultimately, this book is an alluring beginning to a series.

Posted to Goodreads on June 28, 2022.
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