Cover Image: Sons of Darkness

Sons of Darkness

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Member Reviews

An epic story inspired by Indian Culture this was one book that was hard to put down. I loved how it enveloped me while reading the story. I cared about the characters as soon as I started reading and the world building was so beautifully done that I reread pages just so I could really grasp what I was reading. The characters were amazing and I loved reading about their lives. I can not wait for more from this author.

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I want to thank the publisher Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

For those that are fans of George RR Martin, Steven Erikson and Joe Abercrombie, you will find a lot of enjoyment within these pages. And those who do not like complicated well imagined worlds- especially found in the works of Steven Erikson and Malazan- you will likely not enjoy this novel, become frustrated, and possibly never finish it. As a fan of the three authors mentioned above and especially my love-hate relationship with Malazan, this book was frustrating at times, which can be attributed to my lack of a good foundation in Indian culture and Hindu mythology, but by the end after I started to understand the world I had been thrown into, I truly enjoyed the many hours spent reading this novel and see a promising future for this author.

Sons of Darkness is a reimagining of The Mahābhārata, an ancient Sanskrit epic poem, into a world that has hints of GOT, Malazan, and First Law. For those with better knowledge of the author’s inspiration from this epic poem, they will find familiar characters like Karna and Krishna that have been reworked.

As with many large sweeping fantasy novels, the plot is complex, so it is difficult to explain the plot in a few sentences. The best way to explain it there has been a decade long war between the Magadhan empire and Mathura. Krishna, leader of Mathura, is under siege by the Magadhans. The Emperor Jarasandth’s daughter has died, so he has declared an armistice for one year while he is in morning. During this time, there is also going to be a swayamvar, a contest where the winner will win the hand of a much-coveted princess, a large dowry, and more military backing to possibly tip the scales in this long war.

It was great to see in these pages the number of strong fighting women that are introduced. Krishna, while the leader of Mathura, is overshadowed by his third wife, Satyabhama, who is heroic and leads her all-women personal squad known as the Silver Wolves “a military wing of social rejects”. The Silver Wolves are as brave and heroic as any of the male gladiators within these pages.

The action sequences are lengthy and masterfully written with many POVs switching back and forth, especially as one needs after investing several hours reading a book. The payoff is well worth it. For me, this is where the novel truly took off and I couldn’t stop reading it.

My only criticism is at times the author may have been too extreme in some of his descriptions. There are not many, but the sex scenes are very explicit and pornographic, to be honest. Some readers may be turned off by this. As I get older, my personal preference is I like the sex to be left to our imagination. Also, while I like a good bloody battle with plenty of severed heads a flying, some readers may find some of the depictions of violence, especially when it comes to torture within these pages difficult to get through. I give the author credit as I have a high tolerance for scenes of violence, but at times some of the scenes depicted in this book gave me a queasy, uncomfortable feeling.

Also, minor, but the use of the F-word, at times seemed like the author was trying too hard to be modern. But to me, it was out of place especially during actions scenes with some of the character’s battle cries as it took away some of my enjoyment with being cliche.

This book is certainly geared for those that like dark fantasy as mentioned. There is some dark humor for those that are fans of First Law that does lighten the tone at times. Some will become frustrated with not having a clear understanding of what is going on as we are introduced to more and more characters. And finally, others may be disgusted with some of the ghastly scenes within this book. But if you like this dark fantasy genre, as I do, and invest the time to understand this world, you will find a great adventure, with great set action scenes, strong women, and a desire to read more from this author after you have read the last page.

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I'm blown away by the incredible writing and unique world in this book. You love and hate so many of the characters and you'll never guess the plot twists. This book kept me on my toes the entire time

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I was deeply interested in the concepts of this book - and I enjoyed it for the most part but was not as captivated as others I have read recently. It might be recency bias on my part.

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This review was made possible via an ARC through NetGalley.

Sons of Darkness by Gourav Mohanty is a dark epic fantasy based on Indian folklore and weaving something new while keeping a lot of cultural touchstones. Familiar characters are given new motivations and new dynamics while also keeping parts of the original ideas.

I enjoyed the rich worldbuilding and the variety of viewpoints in the world. Nala was my personal favorite POV and I loved to see more and more of their story unfold.

What stopped me from loving it was the depictions of harm done to children, but I, personally am sensitive to that. There was nothing I felt was graphic or truly excessive that would turn off most readers as long as they are aware of the expectations of grimdark; I just have some days where I can handle it better than others.

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This is a pretty long political grimdark fantasy. Some of the writing choices were a little weird just with the language used. In the same vein as game of thrones

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One word : EPIC.
It was such a good choice that publisher finally picked up this independent publishing novel.

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Review

Thanks so much for the arc in exchange for an honest review!

First of all, the cover is to die for. Literally gorgeous and one of the best I’ve seen recently. The artwork is absolutely stunning and definitely one that jumps off the shelf.

This book is quite long, it’s definitely an investment if your time to read it. However, it’s intriguing and driven enough to keep you interested and drawn into the world. The world-building is especially strong in this work, as others in the genre sometimes go too far to the point of being redundant or too little to the point of being confusing. This book found a sweet spot where you are immersed but also understanding what’s happening.

If you like more politically based fantasies, this is a good one for you. It’s reminiscent of Game of Thrones with each character facing individual struggles and stories. The multiple POVs allow for extra exploration into this and different perspectives on issues.

Overall, this book is incredibly well written. It might not be for people just trying out the fantasy genre due to its length and dynamics, but for a seasoned fantasy reader it’s definitely an ideal mix of the things that make fantasies so epic.

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Thank you so much to Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read this book early!

I want to start off by saying that I absolutely loved this book; it is the perfect new political fantasy that can fill the Game of Thrones holes in our hearts (and in my opinion is even better because it's not a medieval European inspired world).

Even as someone who has never read the Mahabharata, the Hindu epic, I thought this was an incredible book that draws you into its world inspired by ancient India and introduces its complex characters in a style wholly reminiscent of an epic classic. It's definitely a doorstopper of a book but please don't let that be a barrier to you, because after all aren't all epic fantasy series (see: ASOIAF and Wheel of Time)? This book is clearly only the first installment of what is sure to be a series of immense scale and complexity traversing worlds and thousands of years. While I might have wished more of the daeva storyline was included, I understand that this book was dedicated to introducing us to the complex world and the cast of characters who, after the devastating climax, will soon face something even worse. It just means I'm more excited for the next installment.

As with any epic fantasy series, be prepared for the far-ranging locations and cast of characters that, at times, may be difficult to keep track of (I did like how each part focussed on only a few characters at a time, but then I did have to remember what happened in previous parts when characters were reintroduced). In addition, while compelling in its political machinations in its own right, this book is very clearly just the overture preparing us for a much more intricate storyline. And it is one that I honestly cannot wait for.

If you are a lover of intricate political fantasy and characters who are neither good or bad, but every shade of morally grey, do yourselves a favour a pick this one up.

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There are no surprises in this book. If you like Game of Thrones and modern high fantasy, you'll probably like this. Highly recommend to fans of the genre. I liked it but wasn't overwhelmed by any particular opinions.

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First and foremost, I would like to say how much I loved Satyabhama's character. Seriously, she was the highlight of this book for me. The Silver Wolves, too. Alright, on another note, I absolutely enjoyed this book. The prose, the political intrigue, and the grimdark quality certainly molds this story into something really entertaining to read. There's a lot of interesting narrative techniques, too, and the rate at which (as well as how) information is unveiled makes way for a lot of clever and fun revelations. While I was reading, each chapter played out like a high-budget fantasy TV show reminiscent of Game of Thrones. If political machinations interest you, I would definitely recommend reading this.

Also, Mohanty's character work is definitely to be applauded. Most, if not all, perspectives were interesting to follow, and I can't wait to see how the sequel plays out. At first, getting really engrossed with the story took a bit, especially after being separated from Muchuk Und so quickly. The prologue was so strong, and it really caught my attention. After that, it was definitely a little slow-moving as we were introduced to the central characters, however, it was still really enjoyable. In the end, things certainly picked up speed, and everything wove together in the Battle of Mathura. Incredible war sequences. Incredible everything. I would be remiss, also, not to mention Satyabhama's duel. It was so good. Though, I did want a little more from Mati's character. She seeps into the background towards the end, and I was expecting more from her arc considering she is mentioned in the synopsis.

Thank you NetGalley for the digital ARC!

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DNF AT 50%

This was a most highly anticipated release for me but it really just didn't work. I typically give a short summary as an introduction to my reviews but in this case, I truly don't know what it's about. There was way too much going on and too many people introduced with nothing and no one that seemed central or focused. I couldn't find an underlying narrative to latch onto to guide me along for the ride and I think 10 hours of my time reading and rereading, struggling for purchase was long enough.

I think this novel tried very hard to slot itself into the ranks of epic high fantasies like GRRM, Tolkien, and Sanderson but unfortunately, I felt apathetic to all the events and all the characters and instead felt bombarded by a barrage of information and names that never seemed relevant or important.

However, the highlight to me was the prose. It was beautiful and I enjoyed reading the prose enough to get close to page 400. I would not recommend this to everyone, but I would recommend that epic fantasy lovers give this as try because while it might not work for me, it just might work for you.

Thank you to Bloomsbury USA and Head of Zeus for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Thank you to NetGalley for the eARC of Sons of Darkness in exchange for my honest review!

I thought I had reviewed this one a while back when I read it but it must have missed my radar! I don’t think this was really for me, it had a lot of great elements but I found myself dragging my feet through it.

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First of all, THE COVER?? Are you kidding me? I need to buy the physical copy so I can have this on my shelf. I'm typically not one for dark fantasy or ones that lean into political structures (I like fun books because I use them to escape from the dark politics of the real world), but every once in a while I will pick one up, because that is where you can find some amazing writing. I was not disappointed here. This book was very well written and very clear. Another reason I struggle with this genre is that it is often confusing. It is very difficult to build a whole new world and political structure and explain that clearly to the reader, especially in a way that isn't just outright stating the facts. However, this book did that very well. It was immersive and exciting and accessible. I highly recommend this whether it is a genre you typically reach for or not.

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Prepare yourself for an extended read, but it's well worth it! This book is exceptionally well-written, featuring robust and witty prose that is sure to captivate a broad audience.

It can be likened to an "Indian Game of Thrones" in many ways. The characters are predominantly self-interested, with some willing to perform horrific deeds to achieve their goals. The narrative offers various perspectives, ranging from child acolytes to mature statesmen in roles reminiscent of "grand viziers." This story uniquely contributes to Eastern and Western fantasy, leaving an indelible mark on the global SFF landscape.

What sets this book apart is, firstly, its world-building-. While combining Indian mythology in a secondary fantasy world isn't entirely novel, the author accomplishes it in a way that makes the world of Aea feel incredibly immersive. The narrative delves deep into Aea, exploring its vastness and complexity. Unlike his mentor, George R.R. Martin, the author weaves a rich tapestry of geopolitics and integrates magic seamlessly into this world. Furthermore, the inclusion of science fiction elements, while not surprising to Indian mythology enthusiasts, may pleasantly astonish Western fantasy readers, as it fits seamlessly within the story's universe.

Secondly, the rich characterization elevates the narrative to greater heights. The diverse cast of point-of-view characters, many drawn from the epic Mahabharata, are presented in new and intriguing ways. The author's bold reinterpretation of their histories and personalities lays a brilliant foundation for the overarching narrative. With over 200,000 words, the book devotes 30% to meticulous world-building and scenario setting.

What truly shines in this book is how the author explores class and geopolitical tensions through the characters' personal lives. Whether it's Karna's rage against classist issues in Aryavrat, Shishupal's constant struggle to maintain honor amid war, or the strategic rivalry between Shakuni and Krishna, each character contributes to the multifaceted exploration of these themes. Satyabhama emerges as an enthralling warrior and leader, reminiscent of a Gemmellian hero. Nala and Masha offer glimpses into the world's past and future, while the author's interpretation of Eklavya adds a delightful twist. The story also introduces numerous side characters likely to play more prominent roles in the sequels, provided they survive. It's worth noting that while the Pandavas make cameo appearances, they are not the central focus and do not receive POV treatment.

Furthermore, the book boasts thrilling action sequences that will leave readers stunned. Without delving into spoilers, the Swayamvar incident from the Mahabharata receives a surprising twist, delivering a chaotic and mesmerizing battle. As expected in epic fantasy tales, the climax revolves around a brutal and massively destructive siege.

In conclusion, this genuinely epic and stunning fantasy wears its influences proudly. While it draws inspiration from other works, it is a unique and individual creation. The characters are multi-dimensional, hailing from diverse backgrounds, contributing to the marvelous world-building. The action is intense and complements the story, while the dialogue is sharp and witty. The pacing aligns perfectly with the expectations of an epic fantasy masterpiece.

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1/5 Stars (DNF @ 5%)

TL;DR - Bland and amateur at best, anachronistic and laughably cringe-inducing at worst. It was a struggle from page one and was downhill from there. Thanks, I hate it.

Big thanks to Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley for providing the ARC for this book in exchange for an honest review!

‘Sons of Darkness’ by Gourav Mohanty is a grimdark retelling/re-imagining of the Mahabharata. I can’t tell you a damn thing about the plot or most of the characters, though, because I only got 5% of the way in before it became apparent that this book is just awful.

First, on one of the first pages, we have a stunning example of Men Writing Women, as follows: “Under her armor, her hunched muscular shoulders looked all the more ungainly without a bosom to balance her form. It was a miracle she did not slide off her horse.” Sir. SIR. How are YOU still on your horse with no tiddies then??? Like, what? Laughing so I don’t cry.

And it gets no better from there, and in fact, only gets worse. The dialog is boring and amateur, the “war heroes” talk and act like teenagers, and even the gods themselves do. Description? Never met her. Might as well take place in a shapeless void that occasionally has some topiaries floating past.

Anachronisms abound. I can excuse one or two, because a lot of words that seem modern have much older origins, but this is just silly. I kid you not, less than 5% in, is the line, verbatim, “In my defense, Ushas, I was left unsupervised.” IN A GRIMDARK HIGH FANTASY.

The last straw was a character unironically screaming “Die, motherfucker!”.

I’m done.

(There’s also what I’m pretty sure is a Hitler joke, so, that’s…a choice.)

Final Thoughts:

I’m so disappointed. Gorgeous cover, amazing premise…terrible, laughable execution. There’s bound to be people out there who can look past this stuff and enjoy the book, but I am assuredly not one of them. No thank you.

Going to go scrub my Kindle out with bleach now.

(Posted to Goodreads)

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The political manoeuvring in this had me hooked in interested the whole way through. The world is atmospheric and visceral, and you feel every blow that comes along with the characters. It's rich and epic and clever. I'm definitely reading the sequel.

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4.5 Stars - I really loved this book.

As a character driven reader, I found it difficult to get settled into this book once I realized we were switching POV’s but the consistent action and political maneuvering kept me turning the page. I also ended up really loving how we’d ‘heard’ of these characters before actually being introduced to their POV, it was a really unique way to develop characters.

By the end of the book, I was thoroughly invested in some of the characters and I felt like I truly had no idea what was coming next. I think this book was an amazing set up and can’t wait to see where book 2 goes. I really enjoyed the narrative choice to jump around between random POV’s for the battle scenes, it made for a visceral experience.

Again, as a character driven reader, my disconnect with this book near the end came from feeling like we had been introduced to so many characters and I was invested in their outcomes and then they seemingly disappeared. I would also say the continued references to the Wolves being assaulted near the very end felt unnecessary.

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The cover got me intrigued and I unfortunately didn’t enjoy this one. It was a bit confusing at times but the writing isn’t the worst I’ve read. Definitely see the potential. Grim dark fantasy is a sub genre of fantasy that isn’t really for me. I tried, I wanted to read it and I hoped it would be good but I just can’t get past the gore and child torture.

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I'll be honest: if I'd realized this book was nearly 800 pages long I would not have requested a review copy. I don't read many epics of that length, so I was a bit dismayed by the size of this book.

That said, it has a really cool premise and I love the Mahabharata, so I was still excited to give this one a try. Unfortunately, the writing style of this one just didn't work for me. I would definitely still put "Sons of Darkness" on people's radar as a book to check out, but given that I didn't jive with the writing style in combination with the book's length, I put this one aside after a couple chapters. This is an entirely personal taste DNF rather than any fault of the book.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc! Opinions are my own.

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