by Kate Hazel Hall
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Pub Date 03 Nov 2020 | Archive Date 10 Feb 2021
Interlude Press, Interlude Press - Duet Books
A Note From the Publisher
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Average rating from 21 members
Do you want a sapphic portal fantasy that'll make you google pictures of sinkholes and recoil in horror? Here it is! This delightful debut novel has made me so excited to see what else Kate Hazel Hall will create. It has such a unique take on fantasy elements incorporated into the real world. With sensitively handled themes such as grief and forgiveness, and a heartwarming romance, I'm so glad I picked this one up.
Ari Wyndham blames herself for the death of her best friend, Alex, when she was nine. Now sixteen, she's bitten by a deadly tiger snake and a summoner is sent to collect her soul. The summoner is Alex. Recognising each other, Alex refuses to let Ari die, but the consequences of this transgression are worse than they could have imagined. Savage dog packs, sinkhole portals, and a trip to the underworld await you in this sapphic fantasy.
One of the highlights of this book was the uniqueness of the storyline and plot elements. I'll admit I don't often read portal fantasies so maybe I'm just blown away by how cool they are! Incorporating the Greek underworld, with Australian wildlife, a sapphic romance, and feral dog packs so wonderfully in quite a small book demonstrates the author's talent for creating an original story.
The writing style was perfect for the book. It was simultaneous an easy, fast-paced read, while also having a strong focus on building a magical atmosphere. It was set partially in reality, but it felt like anything could happen. I adored the fairy-tale feel.
I've not read many books set in Australia, and it's mostly reinforced my idea that I would definitely get bitten by a snake and die on my first day. There's a big focus on nature, from the old forests to the untameable oceans; it makes the perfect setting for the unnatural disturbances that arise.
With a little trip into the underworld, we see the atmospheric writing come to life. It's a creepy idea of the afterlife, but it's also so intriguing. I'm not going to say too much so this can remain spoiler-free, but I loved the characters and conflict introduced down there. It's a harsh world, but it remains full of unlikely allies and friends.
The one issue I had with the book was the pacing. The ending slowed down considerably, and it loses some of the strength it had earlier in the novel. It began to feel a bit lacklustre when I was expecting a bright climax. To be fair to the author, I find these small issues common in debut novels, so it didn't negatively impact my thoughts too much.
The romance was so heartwarming and cute. I could see people who love slow-burns grumbling about how quickly things fall into place, but I loved it. Intense childhood friendship leading into 'wow she's hot' is something I'm always here for. I often find sapphic romances in fantasy don't get the page time they deserve, so I'm happy to announce that From Darkness has a brilliant amount of adorable scenes.
Childhood friends to lovers is a trope I adore in queer romance because it's so common for us to look back on intense friendships and go 'oh, maybe that was gayer than I originally realised'.Just imagine the romantic potential of 'I blame myself for my best friends death, and now she's appeared to take my spirit to the underworld, but she remembers me and will face any punishment to keep me safe,' that's what we're dealing with here, it's so good. It's so good.
Another thing I enjoyed was this isn't a book about figuring out your identity. I completely understand why those stories are so often told, especially in YA, but it was a nice change to have characters who actually know who they are, and what they want. It was also lovely to have a book with no homophobia; there are conflicts and challenges, but it's not related to our duos sexuality.
Finally, there's such a strong focus on grief and forgiveness. This book shows how difficult it is to forgive yourself for terrible accidents. Ari struggles heavily all her life because she wholeheartedly blames herself for Alex's death. I love that Ari slowly learnt that sometimes horrible things happen, and could set herself on the path to healing.
(Thanks to NetGallery and Interlude Press for providing an advance readers copy in exchange for an honest review)
This book is a lovely Greek inspired tale of romance and passion and friendship! I LOVED the mythology behind it and the girls both felt very real. The underworld was my favorite part and where the story got really interesting! I’m excited to see what more tales this author has.
What a wonderful story - it takes you on a journey and I can't ask more than that.
Ari is a 16 year old in a small Australian town. She has a baby sister on the way, a loving family, and a crushing amount of guilt. Her best friend drowned when they were young and she feels she is to blame. When the fates play out though, she finds herself face to face with Alex, defying the rules, and needing to understand the darkness swallowing her town.
As a reader, I find it rare to find novels set in Australia, and rarer still that they have fantasy elements. This novel mixes coming of age, sexuality, romance, and Greek mythology into a beautiful tale. It has hallmarks of a great quest, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I would absolutely recommend it for teen readers, anyone who loves a little mythology in their reading, maybe even fans of Isobelle Carmody.
This has taken a few days to write a review because of how astounding it is and I honestly had me at a loss for words.
I am so thrilled to be given the opportunity to read this phenomenal book, which is Kate's debut novel!
What I liked about From Darkness:
•It has characters that are part of the LGBTQ+ community and isn't negative about it.
• It is descriptive about the Worlds without droning on or being over the top and is great if you have a graphic imagination.
•Any intimacy is very appropriate and tasteful.
•The main character development progresses quite quickly.
•Loving someone so much you risk your life to save them.
The ending seemed to me, too quick and easy, I don't mean that in a disrespectful way, I mean that I was shocked because I was expecting it to be harder.
I absolutely adore this story, the struggle that the MC went through, the realism is out of this world. If you are wondering "should I read this book?" The answer is --> Absolutely, 100% you should!
Thank you Neytgalley, Interlude Press and Kate Hazel Hall for the eARC. All opinions are my own.
•Mental illness & institutionalization
•Death of an animal
•Pregnancy difficulties/almost miscarriage
“Seven years ago, two children tried to swim nearly a mile through rough seas to reach the shore. Only one child made it.”
What an incredible debut novel, oh my goodness! There was sapphic goodness, Greek mythology, and all set on the Australian coast. This is definitely a new favourite and I need everyone to read it! This book follows the story of Ari, who lost her best friend Alex to the sea when she was a child and has blamed herself for what happened that day ever since. One day when Ari is bitten by a snake and starts losing her own life, the summoner sent to guide her to the afterlife suddenly decides to defy the rules of life & death in order to save Ari’s life. Because That summoner? She’s Alex, who has been escorting souls to the underworld for 7 years. But this causes a great imbalance between the mortal world and the underworld, and dark things start happening around Ari’s small town. Now the two girls must figure out how to stop these things from happening and keep Alex from being drawn back to the underworld.
I was so invested in this story omg. From the first chapter I was hooked (that first chapter is one of the best I’ve ever read). The world building was incredible, the characters stole my heart, and the romance made me swoon. Also, the inclusion of some Greek mythology with a twist was wonderful. This author SURE CAN WRITE! This book also deals with some tougher themes in a beautiful way, such as grief and survivor’s guilt, so it definitely made me cry.
As you can tell, I loved this book! The story was touching, atmospheric, and super duper gay. I really can’t recommend this one enough!
*Thank you to Netgalley and Interlude Press for giving me this eARC in exchange for an honest review*
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