Cover Image: The Darkening

The Darkening

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Member Reviews

In some ways, The Darkening is about the way we see ourselves. Are we more than a daughter? More than the roles we inherited and inhabit? We are our own person. With our own lives and desires, what can we make of it? This theme for Vesper to explore is my favorite element of the book. Because it forces us to think about not only the expectations others have of us, but also that we have of ourselves. If she wants to save her father, she will have to grapple with both. 

The action in The Darkening propels readers through a story of difficult choices. Of characters who are all trying to make change in a variety of ways and struggling to figure out who will actually succeed. What approach will finally be triumphant. Because when we see only our goals with a single minded approach, it becomes a question of sacrifice for our pride and our ambition.
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WOW. Thank you so much to the publisher and Netgalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of my new favourite YA fantasy! 

From the moment that we meet Vesper, fighting to survive in a city that is slowly being overtaken by a storm of darkness and monsters, I was in love. The world building is so unique, and the writing really makes you feel that sense of dread that anyone in this world would. I also loved the romance, there is one line that made me gasp which never happens in YA fantasy!!!! 

Finally, the plot - captivating, and I was unable to put the book down until the very end. Can't wait to recommend this to everyone!!!!
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Questo libro è davvero fantastico!
Sin dalle prime pagine è davvero facile immergersi nell'ambientazione e nei panni della protagonista, che è una ragazza che cerca di dimostrarsi forte per affrontare il piccolo deprimente mondo dove vive nel miglior modo possibile. In realtà dentro di lei ha tante insicurezze dovute alla mancanza di fiducia del padre nei suoi confronti e alla mancanza di opportunità di poter fare qualcosa per cambiare la situazione in cui sono tutti costretti a vivere.
Ma le sue azioni sconsiderate daranno il via alla storia e agli eventi che porteranno la maledizione della Tempesta che circonda la loro città a venire annullata.
Vesper, la protagonista, evolve velocemente durante la storia, dimostrando che anche senza la conoscenza che desiderava che il padre le insegnasse, lei riesce a cavarsela comunque, dimostrando a tutti la sua forza e il suo coraggio. Mi ha ricordato molto Katniss di Hunger Games e per questo l'apprezzo ancora di più, perchè non è uno di quei personaggi infallibili e presuntuosi.
Anche i personaggi maschili, Dalca, Casvian e Izamal son ben costruiti, anche se avrei voluto conoscerli meglio (e spero che il secondo libro ce li mostri molto di più!). Su Dalca l'autrice avrebbe forse dovuto lavorare di più sopratutto alla fine. Non ho ben capito come e perchè abbia cambiato modo di comportarsi in maniera cosi repentina. Spero anche di rivedere molto di più Izamal nel secondo libro. Ha molto da raccontare e per parecchio ho pensato sarebbe stato un secondo love interest...ehehe!
Casvian invece è il tipico tsundere, duro all'esterno, morbidoso all'interno!
La costruzione dell'ambientazione è davvero molto particolare, perchè sebbene io abbia immaginato una città con rimandi arabeggianti, non ha direttamente nulla che rimandi a quella cultura, eppure mi ispirava ad immaginarmi paesaggi molto esotici e immersi nel deserto. Questo forse è dovuto alla descrizione della città come unico spiraglio di luce in mezzo al nulla della Tempersta.
E' molto facile immaginarsi questo libro come una serie tv. Ha davvero delle ambientazioni favolose, azioni e combattimenti spettacolari e quel tanto che basta di romance, per tenerti incollata alle pagine per capire come andrà avanti al storia.
Le ultime pagine son davvero riuscite a tenermi col fiato sospeso e le scene finali sono davvero angoscianti, proprio come il peso dell'oscurità sopra la città man mano che la Tempesta va a ricoprirla. 
Voglio davvero sapere al più presto come andrà avanti questa storia!

Grazie a Netgalley e Clarion Books per avermi dato la possibilità di leggere questo libro in anteprima!

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This book is really great!
From the very first pages it is really easy to immerse yourself in the setting and in the role of the protagonist, who is a girl who tries to prove herself strong to face the depressing little world where she lives in the best possible way. In reality, she has many insecurities inside her due to the lack of trust of her father towards her and the lack of opportunities to be able to do something to change the situation in which they are all forced to live.
But her reckless actions will set off the story and events that lead the curse of the Storm surrounding their city to be undone.
Vesper, the protagonist, evolves quickly throughout the story, proving that even without the knowledge that she wanted her father to teach her, she still manages to get away with it, showing everyone her strength and courage. She reminded me a lot of Katniss from Hunger games and for this I appreciate her even more, because she is not one of those infallible and presumptuous characters.
The male characters, Dalca, Casvian and Izamal are also well built, although I would have liked to know them better (and I hope the second book shows us a lot more!). On Dalca the author should perhaps have worked more especially at the end. I don't quite understand how and why he changed his way of behaving so suddenly. I also hope to see Izamal a lot more in the second book. He has a lot to tell and for a long time I thought he would be a second love interest ... hehe!
Casvian, on the other hand, is the typical tsundere, hard on the outside, soft on the inside!
The construction of the setting is really particular, because although I imagined a city with Arabic references, it has nothing directly that refers to that culture, yet it inspired me to imagine very exotic landscapes immersed in the desert. This is perhaps due to the description of the city as the only glimmer of light in the middle of nowhere in the Storm.
It is very easy to imagine this book as a TV series. It really has some fabulous settings, spectacular action and combat, and just enough romance to keep you glued to the pages to understand how the story goes.
The last few pages really managed to keep me in suspense and the final scenes are truly distressing, just like the weight of darkness over the city as the Storm covers it.
I really want to know as soon as possible how this story will go on!

Thanks to Netgalley and Clarion Books for giving me the opportunity to preview this book!
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The premise of The Darkening was intriguing, and it was a pretty solid story. Still, I thought the magic system needed further explanation. It seemed complex and integral to the plot, but the author’s treatment of it was vague. And I thought we needed more context surrounding the ever-present Storm. Vesper, Dalca, and Izamal were very compelling as characters, and, I thought, had a lot of personality. I just wanted more detail in terms of world-building. It was still a unique read, and the scholarly aspect of the magic and incorporation of elements when making Sofia’s reminded me of Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind.
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I loved this book at first. The whole idea of a world becoming increasingly dark as the protections against the darkness fail really appealed and I really liked the main character, Vesper. She was independent and strong minded but had a really soft side to her. 
The world building was great and I could really visualise the fifth ring and its inhabitants. I also loved the magic system and the way that the Ikons could be written in anything, even in soil. The plot was straightforward but the idea of the storm being sentient was one that I enjoyed.
However, the second half of the book really didn’t hold my attention in the same way as the early part. The relationships between the characters didn’t seem to have any depth to them. Even the romance arc was a bit confusing as there didn’t seem to be any reason why these characters should fall in love. There were also plot strands that didn’t seem to go anywhere such as the weapons being given to the fifth circle and Vesper’s meetings with the old rebels
I did however, love the epilogue. As a final page of a story, it was excellent. 
Many thanks to Clarion Books and Net Galley for my ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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I'm always a fan of stories that involve revolutionaries being outcast but then suddenly needed by the powers that be. Vesper and the rest of the cast were all well-developed characters and there was a ton of beautiful writing and descriptions. However, that came at the cost of the plot, which left many things unexplained, including the relationships between characters.
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Thank you to Sunya Mara and Clarion Books for the eARC of this book! 

I really enjoyed my read of The Darkening and I'm happy to have received an advance copy of the book. I was immediately drawn in from the first chapter due to how interesting I found the plot. There were a lot of tropes included in the story that I am a big fan of: enemies to lovers, bad boy with tragic back story, dream sequences, found family, a big mystery, an important quest and life-or-death circumstances... On top of that, there was great worldbuilding, an intriguing magic system, and complex characters. 

I really connected with all of the characters and felt they were all well-rounded. They each had their own inner conflict and motivations, and I love how they interacted with one another and the world around them. Following not only Vesper’s personal journey but the journey of all the other characters as well was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. 

Something unique about this book is that there were a few things about the writing and main character that usually turn me off, such as ostentatious descriptions and a back-and-forth sort of attitude, yet I never felt like my enjoyment wavered. I found myself binge reading because I was so invested in the story and the characters. 

However, I did have to lower my rating to four stars because of a few things, such as the fact that I feel like the main romance wasn't as well-developed as it could have been. Even though I ended up loving Vesper and Dalca together, it seemed like Vesper had more chemistry with some of the other characters instead and that we were kind of just expected to believe these two had feelings for one another because that is the direction the author wanted the story to take. There were some plot points set up and never expanded on; hopefully, the second book in the series will address some of the seemingly forgotten characters, like the group of rebels that helped Vesper along the way. 

Despite my few grievances, I did really love The Darkening and will be eagerly waiting for the second installment.
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This is a solid setup to a new YA fantasy series. The heroine, Vesper Vale, is the daughter of two failed revolutionaries. Her father has been in hiding for years and her mother chose to go into the Storm that surrounds their city rather than be caught by the powers that be. Vesper and her father live with her grandmother in a home for the storm-cursed, those who have touched or been touched by the Storm that is slowly closing in on the city. Just before a storm surge, Vesper goes to save two storm-cursed people and is almost taken by a storm creature but is saved by her father's use of a ikon that he created and that draws the attention of the government. He is taken and the house and all those in it are burned. Vesper, desperate to get to her father, starts working with a Wardana (basically a guardian who works to hold back the storm) to infiltrate the governing structure and get close to the son of the current Regia, or leader. There's a lot of cool world-building here, including mythology and history related to the Storm, and some good discussions of class divides. It also ends on a cliff-hanger, so I'm excited for the next one!
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A city tiered like a cake, gates separating each different section, a massive storm closing in - already having consumed the 6th and 7th rings. Those who live with storm, live every day in fear of attacks. Those in the higher tiers, witness little of it’s aggressive nature. Ikonomancers work hard to keep the storm at bay. 

I really wanted to like this book. I kept with it to the end, but just continued to roll my eyes and cringe at much of the dialog/narration. Much of the text was being spoon fed to me. I had all the main characters thoughts, even when I didn’t need them - it’s kind of obvious you are looking for your father as you shadow Casvian in the inner circles of the city. The characters came off as flat and I found NO reasonable attraction or admiration between them. Vesper and Dalca are both trying to connect with parents that are selfish and treat them horribly. Also, for ikons being so powerful, they don’t use them very much. Then they talk about how hard they are to use, but yet Vesper can just sudden pick them up after her father refused to train her. 

The concept of the book was really interesting although I really had trouble imagining what was going on. I saw a photo on Instagram of the city and that really helped me visualize. 

Overall, a promising book that missed the mark. I am interested enough to read the next one. As I was reading I wondered whether my students would enjoy this book. I think so… seems very similar to other fantasy novels, but age-wise I am unsure… my middle schooler or high schoolers? There wasn’t any mature content and the main character does act rather childish. 

Thanks Netgalley and Clarion Books for this ARC. Although it was not my cup of tea, I think my students would enjoy the world building and characters.
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Vesper Vale is a little bit insecure, very unsure of her place in the world, and roughly as headstrong as you would expect from a YA protagonist. She's fighting a storm, or a god, or perhaps the misguided attempts of other people to "fix" whatever is wrong with the world. 

Going in, all I knew about the book is what was on the blurb. I liked the premise, a city trapped by a storm, but nothing seemed particularly revolutionary. I was very pleasantly surprised! What really carried this book was the author's descriptive style of writing and the motivations of the characters. It was beautiful to read, and that's what made me round up to 4 stars instead of three. 

This book definitely starts off strong and loses some of its momentum toward the end - I was questioning quite a few of the character choices by the time it finished, but I think there's still room for the sequel to wrap it up well. I loved the scenes inside the storm but I wish we had more development of the relationships between the four main/side characters, especially because they end up being so important. Would still recommend it to those who love a good YA fantasy, and I hope the author branches out into more complex, perhaps adult, fantasy in the future because their writing truly is gorgeous!
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An engaging read with a compelling cast of characters. This book really shone in its descriptions; the way the author brought the Storm to life gave me chills. It was atmospheric and intense; you could feel the power of the Storm, but you could also understand why people were drawn into it. I liked how each character had more to them than met the eye. I also thought that the way the main character was written and how she came across was different than your average YA fantasy heroine, she was more forthright in her struggles. I liked how the author made it clear with little details that she was a character that struggled to learn these things that came so easily to her father, so she practiced and practiced for hours in a desperate attempt to learn. I enjoyed how that was portrayed as all too often the main character suddenly knows how to do these incredible things as some innate talent is unlocked. Vesper didn't have some innate talent she worked hard and kept working hard for every scrap of knowledge; that was refreshing to see in a character. Overall, this was an awesome book, and I am looking forward to reading the sequel when it comes out.
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What a magical story. It is fresh and the writing is so engaging! Needed for libraries that serves teens!
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Going into this one I was so excited and relieved that it started with a bang and was so interesting.  If only it stayed that way.
The mid to end of what I thought was going to be a good for once YA fantasy was slightly boring and contained beauty every dreaded trope I was hoping it would avoid.

The idea of a storm while not in itself very original was something a bit different from recent  years fantasy stories. Now, i just wish we got more. More of an explanation of why and how the storm came to be and also I was very disappointed that these dope ass storm monsters we saw once or twice weren't more in the story. Or explained very well. 

The characters were my favorite part. I loved the dynamic between the 3 guys and our mc who had a different type of friendship with each guy. I just wish it wasn't so instalovey and I feel like one character didn't get the ending they deserved. Also, we were introduced to these bad ass rebel type group of people early on in the story and that was it
 They were never mentioned again? Nada. 
And what was the whole random storyline with the weapons being given and then nothing really happening. 

That's my sum of the book. Nothing really happens. We have this Regia person who clearly needs to be taken from power and a group of people willing to do that who end up going into the storm to make it happen and then we have this father to our mc who is super important and gets captured but it gets sorta confusing and weird because that takes a ride on the backburner. Idk I felt confused by how everything was just happening like maybe my early copy is missing some parts to make it flow more so I'll definitely be  checking it to the finished  copy. 

Everything just happened to easily 😕 

But I enjoyed the world and the idea of the wardana and the rune magic.
I also liked the writing of the author so I'll check out more from them.
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Thank you Clarion Books and NetGalley for the arc of The Darkening by Sunya Mara in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Vesper Vale is the daughter of failed revolutionaries, having lost her mother she lives in the farthest edge of a city trapped in the eye of a cursed storm with her father. Vesper feels like a failure, not living up to the ghost of her mother’s memory and her father’s skill as a magical ikonocaster, but after her father is captured she steels herself to save her captured father from the prince and his soldiers. 

I absolutely loved the world-building in this book, I could vividly see the rings of the city, the underground tunnels, the fearsome and all dominating darkness of the storm, all of which added to the multi dimensional feel of the story and pulled me into reading it, not wanting to be pulled away. The magic system was also well explained and the images of magical symbols was both interesting and understandable within the context of the book. 

Vesper as a main protagonist is totally likeable, independent, determined, flawed and unwilling to follow blindly. Plus all her encounters with Dalca are so well captured…all the awkwardness and internal conflict are just perfect. 

The romance between Vesper and Dalca was delivered at just the right level, supporting and aiding in developing the main plot, and all the morally grey facets were clear to see. Add in great supporting characters like Iz and Cas,  who are so damned human, fallible and it was easy to empathise with them. I suspect like many readers of the book, one of my favourite quotes is: 

"To do the one good thing that I must do, I find myself caught in a thousand small evils."

If you’re looking for a book that delivers a great  read, a well thought out magic system, clear and well designed world-building and great characters, definitely pick up this book. I did, and I can’t wait for the next book to see what happens!
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EXCERPT: “The Darkening is a thrilling debut novel from Sunya Mara, a young adult fantasy that falls in the footsteps of books like The Hunger Games and City of Bones. Although it doesn’t fully distinguish itself from similar books in a way that would advance its premise, The Darkening does achieve a similar impact nonetheless — one that leaves readers with anticipation for what happens next.”

Full review published online at Asia Pacific Arts Magazine.
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A big thank to NetGalley and Clarion Books  for gifting me an eARC in exchange for honest review.

The Darkening by Sunya Mara is a YA fantasy that follows the tumultuous life of Vesper, as she lives in a city slowly being decimated by a horrific storm. While her and her father hid away from the ruling family, in a lonely part of the city. But everything is turned on it's head. when Vesper's father is arrested and she makes the decision to steal his book of experimental magic and join the the solider-sorcerers. All while slowly falling in love with the devious prince.

This book is whirlwind of action and mystery. In the not to good way. In fact, it became too much that sometimes what was provided was not enough. The plot was a little lackluster, and the characters were just okay. While the world building was cool. It just didn't have enough of the right stuff for me. 

I came for the enemies to love, but left feeling a little more confused than necessary.
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For me this one was just ok. I really wanted to love this book and, objectively, it has all the things I love in a fantasy. But, sadly, I just struggled to connect with this one. I loved the premise, themes, and tropes so I felt like it was something I could really get into. I did not have a terrible experience, but I also didn’t have the most engaging one either. I think it deserves a solid three stars, as I feel like there will be a bell curve of readers who fall equally on either sides of this rating. 

The worldbuilding, society structure, and magic systems were all a little confusing to me for the first quarter of the book. I had a difficult time visualizing and conceptualizing the events that were taking place, which left me a little emotionally bereft when it came to the characters. 

It also felt really predictable, textbook ya fantasy formula, and I think that also detracted from the enjoyment for me as well. Not much is fresh in this one. For example, I like the Hunger Games style class divides, but we've seen it before. With this lack of connection, I failed to truly immerse into the motivations that should have swept me away into the story. Even the love interest was predictably generic, a royal who doesn’t fit in. 
A lot of the characters felt surface level to me because of the stereotypes they molded to. I didn’t feel any depths of emotions. 

It wasn't that anything was truly bad in my experience of the story, it's not even that I disliked anything in particular, but it just failed to captivate me in the way I would love from a story. Although not the most enchanting read for me, it is still a decent debut.
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The promise of an exciting intrigue and revolutionaries, the execution took a turn I didn't expect. Cool magic system but the second half of the book lost its charm
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I chose to read this book based solely off of the description, and I was not disappointed. The world of The Darkening felt very well-planned out; I loved the idea of a giant storm slowly consuming a city. The characters were complex and made choices that really felt true to their characters. The plot also didn’t pull any punches; there were times that I genuinely couldn’t believe that the story went there. 
There was one point a little over halfway through that I considered taking a break from reading, but the pace picked up pretty quickly not long after that and I finished the book in one sitting. 
A great and fascinating debut! I’ll definitely be reading the second book.
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The Darkening by Sunya Mara

★★★★★

Phenomenal. Easily my favourite read of 2022 so far!

In The Darkening, we're introduced to our main character, Vesper, as she goes through a turbulent journey from being a fifth-ringer helping people cursed by The Storm to being her worlds salvation. 

Vesper lives in the fifth ring of her seven ringed city. As days goes by the ever looming storm, that has consumed the seventh and sixth rings already, draws closer to taking over Vesper's home and the fifth ring. Her father, a previous rebellion leader in hiding, has been discovered and captured, and Vesper makes it her mission to free him.

On Vesper's journey to save her father, we meet Cas, Iz and Prince Dalca. We find an ally in one who we wouldn't have guessed, a lover in someone we shouldn't have and friendship that we hope will survive.

I found the world building to be quite enjoyable and the book to be well written.

I can't wait to see what happens next (and maybe see Iz again too).



ARC received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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