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Given to Darkness by Phil Williams – Book Review!

Ikiri demands blood. Whose will it be?

A malevolent force stirs from the heart of the Congo. One child can stop it – but everyone wants her dead.

Reece Coburn’s gang have travelled half the world to protect Zipporah, only to find her in more danger than ever. Her violent father is missing, his murderous enemies are coming for them, and her brother’s power is growing stronger. Entire communities are being slaughtered, and it’s only getting worse.

They have to reach Ikiri before its corruption spreads. But there’s a long journey ahead, past ferocious killers and unnatural creatures – and very few people can be trusted along the way.

Can two criminal musicians, an unstable assassin and a compromised spy reach Ikiri alive? What will it cost them along the way?

I received a free copy of this book from the author for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Given to Darkness was an action packed, epic and sometimes a little creepy finale to the Ikiri duology & I’m definitely going to miss spending time with these characters. This book picks up pretty much straight after the final scenes in book one, with the characters that spent the total of book one apart now having to work together. Reece and Leigh-Ann aren’t sure if they can trust the ‘government’ officials who seem to want to take over, having not had the best experience with those in the law. And it’s made worse when they meet the slightly crazy Katrzyna. But they are in it for the long haul, and if that means working with them to protect Zip and defeat the evil of Ikiri, then that’s what they’ll do. Agent Tasker isn’t sure taking two musicians to one of the most dangerous places on the planet is the cleverest idea, but they seem unwilling to leave Zip and he knows they could most definitely use the help if they are to get back to Ikiri safely, especially if they have to watch out for the creatures sent by Zip’s brother to stop them returning. But as is often the case, things don’t quite go to plan, the gang find themselves not only running from Zip’s brothers influence and that of Shearjoy, but also Mason, Zip’s father who is determined to end the reign of Ikiri, no matter the cost. Bonds will be tested, friendships will be made, but in the end the safety of the world will come down to one little girl and the band of misfits that are on a mission to protect her.

As I said above, one of the things I will miss most about these books is the characters. They are all effortlessly real, and I almost felt as if I became one of the gang whilst reading this series, and I just loved seeing how all the interactions we get between them in this book. These people couldn’t be further apart from each other; a government official, a contract killer, two musicians from the south & a young girl, it sounds like it should be a comedy sketch, and in some ways it was. While there were plenty of laugh out loud moments that were used effectively to break up the tension, I also loved the parts where they learnt to work together and in the end trust each other. I’m a huge fan of well written characters and Williams gives us them in spades, but my favourite throughout the series has to be Katrzyna. She reminds me of Vilanelle from Killing Eve with the quirkiness to her personality, her almost lack of a conscience and her skills in a fight. But the more you read from her perspective, you realise that she has some serious attachment and emotional issues, and I just adored seeing her thrive as one of the team, not always following the instructions, but coming to care for the people around her and throwing herself into danger to save them.

Williams uses his characters effectively to project the emotion he wants the readers to feel in the moment, giving us the perfect blend of action, horror and comedy. While the cover and description of this series might give it a darker feel to readers going in, there are plenty of light moments throughout the book whether they are humorous or just the slow interactions between characters, but he also gives us plenty of tense moments, ones where I was gripping the pages white knuckled. The feeling of suspense I got through this book was like no other, Williams knows how to end a chapter effectively leaving you scrambling to find out what happens next only to have it jump to another place entirely, at some times it was a torturous wait, but in others it was the perfect time to add a little levity to the story and take away from the intense and action filled scenes with some slower ones.

For readers that haven’t experienced a Williams novel before I wouldn’t worry too much, though he does weave in parts from his other series, the Ikiri duology completely stands on it’s own two feet. There was no moment when I thought ‘ I should have picked up the previous books’, instead Williams effortlessly introduces us to his world, characters and magic system without it feeling overwhelming or info dumpy to those who have read his previous books. Given to Darkness is filled with epic fight scenes but without a doubt the star of the book was the final scene in Ikiri, I was absolutely glued to the pages and found myself effortlessly visualising the scene, feeling I was there experiencing the action right besides the characters thanks to Williams descriptive writing.

Overall I adored this duology thanks in large part to the wondrous characters that live inside it. Williams urban fantasies are like no others, bringing the world we know and love into a whole new light filled with magic and creatures that will both make you laugh and your skin crawl. I’m certainly going to be picking up his other works and hope that he brings these characters into some of his future works.

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