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The Darkening by Sunya Mara – ARC Review!

Vesper Vale is the daughter of revolutionaries. Failed revolutionaries. When her mother was caught by the queen’s soldiers, they gave her a choice: death by the hangman’s axe, or death by the Storm that surrounds the city and curses anyone it touches. She chose the Storm. And when the queen’s soldiers–led by a paranoid prince–catch up to Vesper’s father after twelve years on the run, Vesper will do whatever it takes to save him from sharing that fate.

Even arm herself with her father’s book of dangerous experimental magic.

Even infiltrate the prince’s elite squad of soldier-sorcerers.

Even cheat her way into his cold heart.

But when Vesper learns that there’s more to the story of her mother’s death, she’ll have to make a choice if she wants to save her city: trust the devious prince with her family’s secrets, or follow her mother’s footsteps into the Storm.

Vesper Vale lives a quiet life in the 5th ward. Her life is monotonous but mostly safe, safe except for the storm that looms outside the walls of her ward threatening to swallow it whole. What Vesper doesn’t know is her father is a failed revolutionary, someone on the run from the Palace, but his past has finally caught up with him. Found by the Prince, her father is captured and taken back to the Palace and Vesper, desperate to help her father, follows him the only way she can, through deception. To save her father, Vesper will have to get close to the boy she hates, the boy who took him from her. But the closer she gets, the more she realises that he isn’t bad, simply a boy trying to do all he can to save his people. Vesper now has a decision to make, she can follow the path to the Prince, or the path of her mother, the path that leads straight to the heart of the storm and to a power that has been waiting to be unleashed for generations.

Vesper is a great POV to read this story from. She suffers a great loss at the start of the book, and the more we learn about her past, the more tragic she gets. She’s easy to empathise with, all the more so because she isn’t one to back down from a fight, she will do anything she can to rescue her father and save her ward from the Storm, even if that means putting herself in the path of Prince Dalca. She is ruthless, but also fiercely loyal to those she trusts and loves, and she is more than willing to loose herself to protect them. We also spend a good deal of time with Dalca, Cavian and Izamal, members of the Wardana, elite warriors who fight beasts that emerge from the Storm, and the people that Vesper falls in with when she heads to the palace to find her father. Every single one has their own goals and aspirations, some working with the crown, others against it, but they all have the best of intentions at heart… even if they don’t always show it. I enjoyed that Mara kept our main cast tight knit because it gave us more time to explore them as characters and get a more in depth look into them.

The magic system was something I loved. Extremely intricate and has almost two sides to it. The main magic used by our characters was called Ikonomancy, the use of Ikon’s to create, fix, build, heal. destroy etc. I loved how this was described, how we learn about it through Vesper’s own learning, and we could to see just how powerful and dangerous they can be. The second part to it is the Storm that surrounds the Kingdom which, if anyone touches it, makes them ‘storm touched’ giving them some kind of unique curse that puts them on the outskirts of society. For most of the book we are constantly asking questions. Was it created? Has it always been there? And then towards the end we get a better insight into it, and all the pieces start falling into place. This part of the magic system really showcases Mara’s foreshadowing skills and makes you wonder how you didn’t fit the pieces together earlier.

I enjoyed the enemies to lovers to enemies romance aspect to this story, seeing Vespers inner turmoil at being intrigued by Dalca, whilst also wanting to hurt him for taking her father. It isn’t rushed, and I feel like we get to know Dalca’s true self before anything romantic actually happens, and then BAM they’re enemies again. It was so well done, all the little aspects that led to them becoming enemies. Mara weaves her foreshadowing skills and the lore of her world to showcase this relationship & I loved seeing it all unfold. I also liked how, even though Vesper spent a good amount of time with Izamal, nothing romantic was ever eluded too, there was no dreaded love triangle, they stayed friends throughout, and I enjoyed how the author allowed them to get close, to get emotional with each other, without it leading to anything romantic.

The Darkening ends on one hell of a cliffhanger that 100% leaves you desperate for the next book. If you love your reads action packed & emotional, filled with morally grey characters & one epic magic system you should definitely give this one a read.

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