Saturday, December 17, 2011

Review: The Land of Darkness

"It is not the land that is dangerous, Callen. The danger lies in your heart. Others have lost their lives searching for the bridge. Are you certain you are prepared to pay that price?"

Jadiel is twelve and things couldn't get much worse—or could they? Not long after her mother is killed in a tragic accident, her father, Kar'el, marries a vile and abusive woman named Huldah, but Jadiel sees how he simmers under Huldah's intoxicating enchantment. Jadiel's wicked stepmother means to get rid of Jadiel, and sends her off with a threat and an impossible task: bring back the leaves from the Eternal Tree by the next full moon or her father will die. Heartsick and hopeless, Jadiel sets out alone and afraid.

Callen, a wordworking apprentice for Jadiel's uncle in Wolcreek Vale, discovers some weathered drawings of an exquisitely detailed bridge made entirely of wood and embellished with mysterious symbols that appear to be ancient script. Obsessed with finding this bridge, he sets off seeking clues to its possible existence, unknowingly beginning a perilous and mystifying undertaking. On his journey, he rescues Jadiel from brigands and learns their quests are linked—as the elusive bridge Callen seeks is crafted from the rare tree Jadiel must find. The trail of clues leads them to the forbidden Land of Darkness, where they must face the greatest dangers of all—what lies in their hearts. (From the back cover.)

The Land of Darkness is the third book in C. S. Lakin's Gates of Heaven series: modern fairy tales with an allegorical twist.

Each of the books are different in their own ways and styles, and only loosely linked, so my review may differ from my reviews for the rest of the series.

The Wolf of Tebron (the first book) was as fairy-tale as fairy tale can be, with beautiful prose and vivid description, with a fairly slow-moving plot. The Map Across Time, in contrast, was a fast-moving, time-travel story with a fairy tale flavor and high stakes.

And the Land of Darkness is neither, unique in its own way and tied to the other books by its world and its genre.

It balances plot and fairy tale, and, unlike the others, was heavily allegorical to the point of obviousness. I'm one of those fellows who likes to dig for the meaning, and I both read and write books that have hidden meanings and good plot. The Land of Darkness, I feel, was my least favorite in the series for this reason. The plot was held together by the strength of the allegory alone, whereas the fairy-tale aspects of The Wolf of Tebron was what enabled the plot to move. But by the weight of the allegory, the plot slowly built up and then concluded itself quite nicely.

And the little strands of continuous plot that are weaving themselves through the stories (such as the Keepers) are building up to something. I can't wait to see what it is. :)

The characters, I felt, didn't quite live up to their potiential I was quite attached to Adin (the main character of The Map Across Time), actually, so even though I "liked" these new characters, I didn't quite love them. And, to be honest, Callen (one of the main characters) really annoyed me at times. But it IS really hard to write such a character. Overall, the characters had good depth, although I would have liked to have the characters of Jadiel and Callen developed a bit more. The development of the minor characters was fantastic, though.

While this book was my least favorite in the series, it's still a great book. The writing quality is top-notch, and the description is beautiful. I'm sad to say that the simple description of a cave put many of my own "scary parts" to shame.

The worldbuilding is quite good, and it would be even better if we had a map to follow, for there are a lot of different locations and references and histories that were hard to keep track of. But that's a good thing; I really enjoyed the worldbuilding.

All in all, the Land of Darkness is a good, clean read, with some rich allegory behind it. Recommended. Rated 8 out of 10. :)

(Many thanks to the author, who provided this an advance reader's copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.)

(You can also see my review of the previous book in the series here.)

Until next time,


Noah Arsenault said...

Great review, thanks!

Hannah Joy said...

Great review! Maybe I'll check these out....