Cover Image: The Darkening

The Darkening

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Member Reviews

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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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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