34 Comments

A Thumbscrew Review: By Darkness Hid, by Jill Williamson

This review has been delayed, because I earnestly anguished over its writing.  Much prayer and council has gone into this review, and I regret to say it may not be the glowing review that might be expected.  I really wanted to like this book, it being my first review for Marcher Lord Press.  I had high expectations based on the plethora of amazing reviews, and I was disappointed that this book didn’t deliver on all the promises.  Through humility and generosity (and at the risk of both Jill Williamson and Jeff Gerke unfriending me on Facebook) I will do my best to give what I feel is a very difficult review.

First, let me tell you a little about the book.  By Darkness Hid is written by Jill Williamson and published by Marcher Lord Press under the helm of Jeff Gerke.  It is a story of hidden identities, hidden agendas, and hidden destinies.  We follow the tale of two teens, thrust into horrible circumstances and who just can’t seem to get a break.  It is also a 2010 Christy Award nominee and an MLP Best-selling title.

On the one hand we have young Achen.  He is a stray, an orphan forced to live life lower than a peasant because he has no family, yet gets the opportunity to train as a squire.  On the other hand we have Vrell, a Lady of nobility forced into a hidden life as a stray boy to escape from an arranged marriage to the horrible heir to the throne of Er’Rets.  Little by little, their tales intertwine until they come to finish this installment together.

The setting is rich and believable.  It is expertly described by an author who cares about making the setting as perfect as possible.  All the stylistic nuances of a typical fantasy world are here:  epic landscapes, castles, towns, and forests.  Unfortunately, there is little original.  Kudos to the land being divided in two with darkness on one side.  It’s weird and I don’t understand it… but it’s original.  But the stereotypical castles (complete with moat), old school armored knights, giants, and snooty nobility are carbon-copy fantasy.  Even the “blood-voicing,” though with an original spin and name, is still just glorified telepathy.  Everyone knows that dragons and elves have been talking to people with their minds for years.

The characterization of this book has obviously been anguished over.  Every character is full of inner conflict and personal strife.  Whereas this is a heroic effort in characterization on the part of the author, there’s a small flaw.  Though the characters have traveled from point A to point B, there is no real change to the inner conflict of the main characters.  Inside, they are still the exact same as when we first met them.  By basic definition the main characters should be dynamic characters (that is a character that changes within the story) and they should be surrounded with supporting static characters (characters who do not change) with which to measure the change within the main characters.  The fact that our highly conflicted main characters do not exhibit change, makes them static characters.  They begin to feel like supporting characters, and trying to force them into lead roles is slippery and elusive, leaving the story with no center of characterization.  In many places, the story seems to want to center around much more interesting supporting characters, such as Sir Gavin… more about him in a minute.

When assessing the plot, it boils down to this:  By Darkness Hid is entirely character driven.  If that’s your cup of tea… fine.  But I feel like a book should be more.  There is no discernable plot in By Darkness Hid. Instead there are circumstances that the characters react to and that intertwine with each other, creating a great adventure with no destination.  I found myself asking as I rounded page 300, “So what?”  So what that Achen is being trained as a squire?  So what that Vrell is being taken as an apprentice?  For Achen the question gets answered… in the last chapter.  For Vrell, the question is never fully answered.  And as we close this book and head into the sequel, finally the elusive plot has emerged in time to put the book back on the shelf.

Don’t get me wrong.  I understand the reason it’s done like this.  The ending wouldn’t have been nearly as good had the reader had this information.  But it’s the lack of direction that bothers me.  Perhaps a prologue would have helped, showing us Lord Nathak rescuing the orphaned baby after the King and Queen were murdered, and giving us a little insight about his decisions in that situation.  I don’t have the answer.  But a reader needs a sense of destination, and By Darkness Hid hides the destination from the reader.  Personally, I would have liked to seen a third POV from Sir Gavin, showing us connections between Vrell and Achen and dropping the reader clandestined hints about where the story was going.  Not only would it provide direction for the plot, but it would allow the reader to spend some time with one of the most intriguing characters of the book.

Then again, I have this same plot related complaint of the master of modern fantasy, the late Robert Jordan.  So maybe I’m just crazy.

If you’ve read any of my blogs on writing characterization, you’ve seen that I put a lot of emphasis on the Journey of a main character.  Characters should be strong, but characters should also have a journey and the reader a destination.  As I compare my Journeys to By Darkness Hid, I see that there is no character at all that fills the Villain’s Quest.  Also, neither of the main characters, Achen and Vrell, come close to completing the Hero’s Journey.  I have no doubt that within the Blood of Kings series, for which By Darkness Hid is but the first installment, that these roles will be filled.  Yet I feel somewhat empty not having seen a conclusion to this part of their journey, showing me that this one has ended and another one is about to begin.

The story seems to just end without providing resolution to the reader.  Maybe that was the intention, but I feel like the reader needs a little something.  After all, the reader has been teased and taunted, but never given any satisfaction, and after investing in 400 pages the reader deserves some.  What did I expect?  A reunion… a confession… an acceptance.  (If you’ve read it, you know what I’m referring to.)  These simple things would have closed the book, given resolution to this installment, and satisfied the reader.

So in summary, this book has obviously been anguished and loved over by the author… perhaps too much so.  The setting is mostly unoriginal.  The main characters are static and therefore slippery in the lead roles.  The plot is hidden from the reader.  There are no obviously defined villains or heroes.  And the book ends without resolution.

Now for some good news!

Williamson really is an excellent writer.  The scene setups are impeccable, and transitions between scenes are flawless.  Everything flows as one unit and the rhetoric is highly descriptive and void of too many clichés.  It’s an easy read, in keeping with its YA designation, and the conflicts are not so complex that they can’t be easily followed.

The Christian elements in By Darkness Hid are a breath of fresh air in the pagan dominant genre of fantasy.  Why is it that main-stream fantasy writers almost exclusively build a polytheist religious world?  By Darkness Hid acknowledges this kind of world, while presenting a niche group of people who follow the one true God, Arman.  The Christian themes are subtle, but are important to the characters that present them.  The portrayal of this small group of “Christians” is pleasantly reminiscent of the early church, even calling them followers of the “Way,” a term popular with first century Christians.  The believers shown in this book are gracious, kind, and devout.  In fact, they demonstrate all the fruits of the spirit, without giving condemnation to non-believers.  This is a wonderful observation on what it means to be a true Christian, because so often believers are portrayed as “holier-than-thou”.

My recommendations to the curious reader who is interested in this book differs depending on what you’re looking for.

If you’re looking for fantasy, I cannot give my recommendation.  There are too many great fantasy writers already established such as Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, and, my personal favorite, Robin McKinley.  The Hero and the Crown, by McKinley is perhaps the greatest stand-alone fantasy novel ever written.  Williamson has a long way to go before being able to compete with these heavyweights.

If you’re looking for YA, I’m a little on the fence.  There’s great main-stream YA out there and even some great Christian YA.  This book is nothing special in comparison, but it is by no means the least of these.  It is much better than the horrible Here, There Be Dragons and the overtly anti-Christian book The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flemel. It even excels in many ways above Inkheart, to which a movie has been made.  These authors definitely would not appreciate a review by me.  Hmm… thinking on this, perhaps I’ve been a little too hard on By Darkness Hid.

If you’re looking for Christian literature, you won’t find another author more devoted to presenting Christian themes with integrity and passion.  When it comes to good Christian writers committed to writing about the Christian faith in a very real way, perhaps only Frank Peretti is greater.

Where this book best fits is if you’re looking for a combination of the above:  Christian fantasy, YA fantasy, or Christian YA.  In all of these areas By Darkness Hid excels.

By Darkness Hid cannot stand alone.  I have not yet read the sequel, To Darkness Fled, but I plan to.  My expectation for the sequel is that much of my criticism will be answered, and that the two books will come together as a whole to form a more complete story.  I look forward to reading it and hopefully being able to bring a more positive review.  I feel confident that it will be so.

Read Keven’s interview with author Jill Williamson.

Find out more at:

www.MarcherLordPress.com

www.JillWilliamson.com

By Darkness Hid on Amazon.com


About Keven Newsome

Keven Newsome is an musician, theologian, and a bit of a nerd. He enjoys a variety of musical genres, from Christian rock to movie soundtracks to KPop. A former band director, he plays about a dozen instruments, given a couple of weeks to practice up. His theological work has included a book on multi-generational ministry and a thesis on the theology of communicating with the dead. As for his nerd-card, he enjoys the fandoms of The Legend of Zelda, Doctor Who, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Lord of the Rings. With a music degree from William Carey University and a theology degree from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Keven actively serves in ministry as both pastor and worship leader.

34 comments on “A Thumbscrew Review: By Darkness Hid, by Jill Williamson

  1. Wow: what an excellent, detailed review. I admit that I haven’t read all of this blog tour or even the sequel, but I too have been a bit surprised by the wide praise for this novel. Certainly, when compared to other offerings in the Christian fantasy genre, it stands out with flying colors. However, as someone who’s read a wide sampling of speculative fiction (and yeah for praising Robin McKinley, a personal favorite of mine as well), I appreciate this honest critique.

    By Darkness Hid is good; it’s just not that good. I’d recommend it to young Christians I know. However, my litmus test with many books is, “Would I give this to non-Christians as a worthy addition to the genre as a whole? Would they keep reading it despite the Christian elements?” I don’t feel that way about this book. That’s not to say I can’t be wrong. But I wouldn’t put it beside the authors that have charmed me, like McKinley, Susan Fletcher, Jane Yolen, or even Patricia Wrede.

    Hopefully, as you said, the sequel improves and expands upon the story. It’s got great promise; I just personally don’t think we got all the way there in book 1.

    • It’s always great to find another McKinley fan! She’s the most under-appreciated author I know.

      And why yes… yes I do own 1st edition hardbacks of Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword. Thanks for asking! Lol.

  2. Yeah, it can be hard giving an honest review on things sometimes. As believers we like to think the best of the work being put out, but frankly, if we’re going to put anything out it should be of the highest quality. I still haven’t read the novel you reviewed (although it’s sitting on my shelf waiting for its day in my hands), but I have read other MLP novels. Most I’ve liked, but I did have to write a review for one that really ticked me off even though I had enjoyed reading it and saw a lot of good in it. You can see that review of Summa Elvetica here – http://www.amazon.com/Summa-Elvetica-Casuistry-Elvish-Controversy/product-reviews/0982104928/ref=cm_cr_pr_hist_2?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&filterBy=addTwoStar – There was plenty to like about it, but I really felt the author gypped us out of a lot of story telling that could have taken place and didn’t.

    When it comes to this novel you’ve reviewed, I’ve seen similar comments on the more negative reviews on Amazon. Whereas the 5-stars all gush with religious charisma over the fact a fantasy novel in Christian publishing was done so well, the 3-stars or less tell you what’s wrong and needs to be fixed.

    Personally, I’ve enjoyed my “chats” on Facebook with Jill. She seems to be a really nice and sincere person, and it’s clear she’s written a novel that has gotten a lot of attention which is great, not to mention the fact she’s been nominated for so many awards. What has gotten me about her book from the beginning is two things: 1) It’s supposed to be YA and I’m not really sure if I want to read YA, and 2) YA is usually not as thick of a book as her’s is so even if I want to read YA, do I really want to read THAT much YA?

    As I haven’t read it yet, and I know I will since I want to read everything MLP has put out and will put out in the future, I think I’m going to wait until I get the second book before I start the first book (which I was already leaning towards doing anyway), and I’ll judge the story based on both books as opposed to just one book.

    I do hope that Jill continues writing and being published and that whatever lessons she needs to learn from these first two entries into the field serves her well for future novels.

    • Thanks! I’ll have to check it out! And on the plus side, I’m really enjoying The Dark Man so far.

      And for the record… I think Jill is an amazing writer, I just had some issues with the story she constructed.

      • The Dark Man was one that took me by surprise. I gave a review of it on Amazon too. I really, really liked that one. Keep reading it for sure, it has a lot of great things in it. 😉

  3. Keven, when I did my review one of my criticisms was that MLP didn’t make it clear this book was not a stand alone. Much of what you said about the plot is true if this book was meant to be a completed story. It’s not. Think Fellowship of the Rings. If you evaluated the Ring Trilogy by that one book, you’d have a lot of criticism, I dare say.

    I don’t agree about the characters being static, however. Achan underwent considerable change as he grappled with becoming a squire and mourned the loss of his childhood sweetheart. Vrell, too. I mean, she bought a sword! She defended herself physically. She went against her mother, or tried to, in order to protect the rightful king.

    As far as the villain’s journey—I haven’t read your posts on the subject so can only imagine to what you’re referring, but I’ve read enough other discussions about making the villain 3-dimensional, so I think I know where you’re going. Again I’ll reference the masters—CS Lewis didn’t give us a villain’s journey of the White Witch, at least not in Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe.

    The real rule for fiction is, Does it work? Clearly a good number of readers think By Darkness Hid worked, so much so that they’ve ordered the next book.

    Becky

    • Becky,

      Thanks for your comment! I have to stand by what I said on the characters though. Achan went back and forth with his “stray” mentality the whole book, and at the end I didn’t really get a sense that he’d overcome that. To me Vrell maintained the same spunky personality the entire book. The things she did that you mentioned seemed to me just demonstrations on her feisty attitude. But really, nothing changed.

      We may just have to agree to disagree!

      • Hi, Keven,

        I’m not really trying to change your mind—just tell you what I see.

        As to Vrell maintaining her “spunky personality,” I think that’s exactly what an author should aim to accomplish. The character change isn’t a change in personality; it’s a change in character—in the inner moral fiber. Some weakness is moved out of that column, though not necessarily into the strength side of the table.

        As to Achan’s struggle with his status of stray and the changes that requires, that’s exactly as it should be. If he’d had a miraculous adaptation to his new role, we would all be crying how unrealistic the story was.

        I’ll say again, to understand this series, a reader must understand that there is ONE story, not three (or however many books are in it). These are not stand-alones, so the character arc isn’t finished any more than the plot is.

        As I see it, many of your complaints would be valid if this was intended to be a complete story. It was not. Again, I’ll liken it to the Rings trilogy, but this time to the movies. There’s a reason the Academy Awards virtually ignored the first two movies, then lavished praise on the final film: they needed to see the whole before they knew whether or not the parts worked.

        So too with books.

        As I said before, it’s a disservice to a book not to let readers know this is what to expect. I don’t think I did a good job preparing the CSFF participants what to expect any more than the back cover copy did.

        Becky

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  6. Kevin, I almost had to laugh at your calling the setting “unoriginal.” One of the big challenges I have with my book is that the setting is not what fantasy readers expect. I have rapiers instead of broadswords, tea in china cups instead of mead in tankards, and a democracy instead of a monarchy. So readers don’t know what to make of it. It doesn’t feel like fantasy to them. So I suspect what Williamson is doing in her books is keeping the setting the way fantasy readers expect to find it. That’s probably a wise move on her part. We writers tend to speak as if there’s a high value on “originality,” but I’m not sure the book-buying public values it as much as we do.

    • Lol. I mostly agree with you, but I felt it necessary to say something about the setting. I guess I could of left that paragraph out! However, when I look at the most successful fantasies I know, they’ve managed to find some way to make the setting original.

      It’s really weird… because I started out as a fantasy writer and I’m a huge fantasy fan. But the more I read, the more critical I become of this genre more than others. There comes a point where it can start feeling like you’re reading the same story over and over told by different authors. You know?

  7. Thanks for reviewing and touring the book, Keven! I’m sad you disliked it so. No worries, though. I won’t un-friend you on FB. You have such a cool guitar! 🙂

    Best of luck to you on your writing endeavors. God bless!

    Jill

    • Jill, this really was one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever done. It’s hard to be objective when you’ve spent time trying to get to know the author personally.

      I wouldn’t say I “disliked it so”. I think the good qualities outweighed my criticism. And I also fully believe you’ll overcome my criticism throughout the series as a whole… to which I promise to recant!

      And you have my full permission to tear Winter apart, if ever I get it published. 😉

  8. Keven-

    How about this question…I’m not a big fantasy reader, as you know. Would “By Darkness Hid” be a good beginning book for me to jump into fantasy? I would definitely prefer Christian based over some of the things I’ve read about.

  9. For fantasy… no. But if you’re looking for Christian fantasy, the scarcity of Christian fantasy books is so great that this book is definitely at the top of the list.

    But I think you’ll have a hard time if you’re new to the fantasy genre in general.

  10. I enjoyed your review Keven. I have started Jill’s book, but have not gotten far because of my own time management. I think fundamentally you caught the issue when you stated that it is a character driven story, based on her own feelings and intuition – the typical style for a female writer. However, you expected a plot-driven story worthy of analyzation. It is two very different target audiences as well as different styles. Add that to the acknowledged issue of it being a book 1.

    Sounds like the age old debate between the convergent vs. divergent, the circular thoughts vs. linear, the analytical vs. the intuitive. If using sterotypes and basic gender war gripes, one might say male vs female. From my own studies of human nature I think it is deeper than that, but for simplicity it works for this. You see you have measured against patterns such as the hero and villain progression arch that you have extracted from certain books. Note that all your examples are written and designed by males.

    I agree with Becky that changes in real life often take time and can be a back and forth thing. Just because you see little to no linear/clear dynamics in a character doesn’t mean that they are perceived as static by the circular mind. The book is written by a female and sounds like it was written for the average female (who read more for the characters than the plot construct anyways). One thing she’s really got going for her is that the average reader is indeed female.

    Though I am not part participating in the tour, I saw no misleading. Book 1 is pretty clearly written on it, but then I’m not sure what Becky was shown. I knew from the first time I was exposed to the book that it was a series. And being that, I agree with her that technically it works and other respected series have done it that way.

    Personally, I expect to thoroughly enjoy her writing and characters. Jill strikes me as similar to how I naturally write. It’s my analytical Husband who pushes me to address more of intentional complexity you apparently enjoy. It’s a different way of writing and takes some serious paradigm shifting. Granted, although I say they are separate, I do believe that there is significant value in both. The things you mentioned have merit and would likely strengthen the book if integrated well. But I view it far from necessary to make it a good book for the typical divergent/female. I for one wasn’t expecting a detailed architecture job. A few writers learn to balance it better, appealing and satisfying both audiences, but they are like people who become ambidextrous. It’s a surprising delight when it happens, but if I want to read a character story, I read one. If I want an analytical, I go read one of those. But I don’t fault one for not being the other.

    But then maybe it’s just me and my own delving into personalities and human nature.

    • Ren, I don’t think MLP was intentionally misleading. But the most recent trend has been for series to be made up of stand-alone books, such as Sharon Hinck’s The Restorer, The Restorer’s Journey and the third one, with the title that is escaping me right now. Each of those was a pretty defined story in and of itself. The third one depended most on the other two but not entirely.

      Other series are like that—Narnia being the most well-known.

      Jill’s is different. When you come to the end of book one, some things are clear but nothing is resolved. It is simply not the end of a story.

      I think, though I haven’t asked any editor, that it’s probably a harder sell to market a book as a third of a story, so that could explain why it’s not more clearly stated that the book isn’t a stand-alone. I don’t know which is worse—scaring off potential readers or disappointing actual ones. Quite the dilemma.

      Becky

      • I think we can agree on this Becky. I see your point. I know it’s only 1/3 of the story like LOTR. But if that’s not the trend or the norm in the market anymore, should we cut it some slack? I think if the norm is for each book of a series to be complete in itself, then this book should be compared to that norm. That’s what I did in the review.

    • I think you’re right here. I know and recognize that it is a character driven story. I just don’t like or get that style of writing. For me it doesn’t work. (But… my favorite and to me the best stand-alone fantasy ever written, The Hero and the Crown, WAS written by a woman and features a female lead.)

      When you finish, I think you should post a review. We could promote it as, “Here’s a guy’s a opinion, and here’s a girl’s opinion.”

      • lol, maybe, but my life’s gonna have to slow down a little for me to finish it any time soon – as much as I’m interested in it. Between the kids and repairs on the house… Sad, too, since in my younger years I could polish off a book like this in two days easy.

        I do know how tough it can be to shift between the character driven and plot driven. Like I said, I married someone like you who wants the solid plot. He loves chess and dabbles in physics (just enough to get me in trouble when I decide to have a major setting of my book under an inland sea – we spent hours debating the architecture and measurements of the stairway…).

        Knowing where to end a book, let alone how, can be an art in and of itself. Granted, I haven’t been reading the latest stuff, but I atleast feel like series still can be three parts. I don’t think they have to be stand alone. I’m not sure if I would really say my Hall of Masters is “stand-alone” because there is plenty that isn’t resolved, but I hope it resolves enough that it will feel like a natural break. To me it’s more an issue of leaving the reader with a feeling of satisfaction, or at the least that the book has it’s own “stage/theme”. But I wouldn’t call that “stand-alone”.

        Harry Potter is stand-alone-ish, but that’s mostly because it’s naturally divided by the school years. Would Star Wars be considered “stand-alone” quality? Sure, Narnia is, but part of that seems created by the world jumping, which creates massive time jumps.

        Don’t know Hero and the Crown, but maybe I’ll stack it in my “to read” pile. Though, as I hinted, I think it’s more an issue of personality type than gender. I’ve met some seriously analytical females before (they make deadly chess players!).

  11. Hi, Keven,

    You said I know it’s only 1/3 of the story like LOTR. But if that’s not the trend or the norm in the market anymore, should we cut it some slack? I suppose that’s one way of looking at a work—does it do what other works in the same era do.

    I don’t think that allows for any flexibility or change, though. How can a novel break out of a mold if only those books in the mold are considered good?

    I tend to look at a work and judge it according to what it’s trying to accomplish. Since Jill wasn’t intending to write a stand-alone, I’m not going to analyze it as a stand alone.

    Becky

  12. Ren, I was thinking of Harry Potter as I read your last comment—then you used the books as an example! 😀 I’d say the earlier books were stand-alone, but not book six. Maybe not five either (I read them so fast, I get them a little mixed up), and certainly not seven.

    Here’s the thing. Epic fantasy is beginning a resurgence, and it is epic fantasy, because of its scope, that requires multiple books to complete the story.

    I’m fascinated by your discussion with Keven about the male/female take on the book. I’ve written about that in a number of other tours. (Sharon Hinck’s comes to mind because the only real negative criticism came from male readers).

    But I’ve noticed there are books that both men and women like. One was an unlikely candidate—Faery Rebels by R. J. Anderson, with it’s toughly cute faery on the cover. Even “the manly men” (their term) on the tour liked the book.

    So too with By Darkness Hid. See, for example, John Otte‘s review or Rick Copple‘s or Fred Warren‘s. Keven seems to be the lone hold out. 😉

    Becky

    • I say everyone is an odd duck – Keven included. And from what I percieve as his point of view, I don’t blame him. However, I am intrigued by his “neither MC remotely resembles the Hero’s journey” comment. I’ll have to refresh my mind on the steps, but it seems to me that they have atleast a couple of the elements under the belt where I’m reading so far. Of course, if Keven wants me to do a review of the book on my own, maybe I should just save that stuff ’til then.

      In terms of the male/female discussion – like I said, I think that a lot of it is more personality than gender. However, my Husband and I have found in several personality studies that we are pretty much diametric opposites. From what I’ve seen of Keven, it’s possible that he has a similar personality to him.

      • Actually, I said they didn’t come close to COMPLETING it. They go on a Journey yes… but there’s no defined “quest” for them to qualify for a Reluctant Quest. Vrell has companions, but Achen does not. There’s no Death of the Mentor for either. No Epiphany, and certainly no “Get the Girl”.

        So Vrell fails on four of the ten steps, and Achen fails on five. Take that for what it’s worth… if it’s worth anything at all. But there’s my reasoning. 😉

      • okay, okay, he said “neither come close to completing” the pattern. lol, of course not. Not sure all the elements he finds lacking, but if I’m writing a series I sure ain’t letting the hero “get the girl” in book 1. I’m far more likely to push the hero off a cliff and let the villain walk off with her. The only series he cites in there is LotR and the examples used to show how it fulfills the pattern spans the entire series. Harry Potter certainly doesn’t “get the girl” early. The “girl” (either of them if I recall it correctly, let alone the “right” one) doesn’t turn up until book II. Meanwhile, is there a “mentor” figure outside of Dumbledor in book I? And he doesn’t die until…

      • Ok, ok… Held to the fire by my own examples. Maybe I went a little far bringing the Hero’s Journey into this review. But, do not forget I said at the end of that paragraph:

        “I have no doubt that within the Blood of Kings series, for which By Darkness Hid is but the first installment, that these roles will be filled. Yet I feel somewhat empty not having seen a conclusion to this part of their journey, showing me that this one has ended and another one is about to begin.”

        I guess my point is this… we don’t feel any kind of conclusion or resolution in the plot or in the characterization for this installment. As Becky points out, that’s not necessarily required of an installment series, but it is the trend now for modern writers of fantasy. I happen to think that every book should have some sort of conclusion and resolution regardless if it an installment. Being a musician, I look at it like this. A song ends in what’s called a Cadence… that is a specific order of chords designed to bring resolution to the song. A perfect cadence ends with the tonic chord. A half cadence ends in the dominant chord. Both bring resolution, but the half cadence seems like it need to go on. Installment books I would never expect to end on a perfect cadence. But they should at least end on a half cadence. By Darkness Hid has no cadence. Does that make sense? Probably not. lol.

  13. Sure, Keven. Though I certainly can’t comment on impressions of a half resolution since I haven’t finished it yet. Now, I have to admit, I didn’t feel much closure with the end of The Fellowship Of the Ring. The point of that one seemed only that the fellowship was shattered at that point.

    So I guess we’ll let that one lie until I have a clue how it ends.

  14. Keven, I’m glad to find someone who agrees with me about this book. Just like you, I had read rave reviews and couldn’t wait to read it. But I could not get into it. And, about halfway through, I put it down and didn’t pick it up again.

    My reasons were pretty much the same as yours–unoriginal setting, no plot, static characters. The biggest problem is that for a book to be character driven, you need dynamic characters.

    Another reason I didn’t like it was Vrell–I found her annoying and I just didn’t buy the reason she was disguised as a boy. Maybe that is what you meant about things being revealed in the end, but I didn’t make it that far. I shouldn’t have to carry disbelief through hundreds of pages to then be able to go back and say, “Ah, ok, now I see why she did that.”

    Yes, Jill has real talent for description and the technicalities of writing. But I can overlook technical problems if a story grabs me. I can’t over look story problems, though, because of perfectly structured sentences and well-described fight scenes.

    I am disappointed, too, that I can’t love this book. I WANT to. I don’t know Jill, but what I’ve seen of her is great. She seems like a terrific person, and I commend her for her success! We need successes like this in the Christian spec-fic genre, so for that I tip my hat to her :).

    • Well, I guess the theory of guys not liking it vs. girls that do is officially blown out of the water. Thanks for the support Kat! It seems we’re in the minority, but I can’t really figure out why. Did I read a different book from everyone else?

      • I’m used to being odd man (girl) out :). I truly wish I could have loved this book–I SO looked forward to reading it. I still have it on my shelf, and have determined to give it another try at some point, but that time hasn’t come yet.

        I’m going to have to check out The Hero and the Crown. I’ve never heard of that one.

      • lol, I said it was an issue of personality – not gender. I only used the male female thing because of sterotyping making it simpler to show a division.
        As Rebecca already pointed out, there were guys who absolutely loved it.
        It does wander in the middle and sections really slip in any efforts to drive the plot forward – I admit that. It wouldn’t make my favorite’s list.

  15. […] Press. I held my breath when I asked her back, fearing she wouldn’t have forgiven the one less than stellar review published here. But perhaps the amazing interview and the second much more praise worthy review […]

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