Review: Darklands by M.L. Spencer

Compelled to obey the dark god he pledged his soul to, Darien finds himself tasked with delivering the people of the Black Lands from under the curse of darkness which shrouds the skies. With the enemy mage Azár, Darien sets out across a barren darkscape to assume his place as the leader of a people who despise him.

As he journeys deeper into the shadowed waste, Darien is confronted with difficult truths that force him to question every loyalty he has ever held. For there, in the brutal proving grounds of the north, Darien will be inexorably forged into the most dangerous adversary the Rhen has ever faced.

5 of 5 stars!

This book differs from Darkstorm and Darkmage in the scale of its conflict. Rather than being about a battlefield, this story heavily focuses on Darien and Meiran sorting out their dynamic after all the repercussions of Darien's choices in Darkmage

The main characters spend time planning and negotiating their terms building up to what will perhaps be all-out war, but the imminent clash does not yet arrive in this book. We do learn a lot more about The Enemy, their lifestyles, their struggles, and their humanity. Spencer has created a unique and thriving culture in a region with a perpetually dark sky. 

The story is smaller in scope, the stakes more intimate. The ending gives little resolution, leading into what I presume will be major problems for the next book to tackle. The emotional struggles in Darklands are heartbreaking. This author so skillfully teases up angst and turmoil for the characters. Darien has even more consequences to suffer for his actions in the previous book. It's hard to watch him suffer so, as I often find myself rooting for him. Meiran herself bends the definition of the Oath of Harmony, while relentlessly advocating to uphold it. Maybe it's my own skewed sense of priorities, but I found a hard time relating to Meiran and her perception of righteousness.

Just when they seem to have an understanding, Darien & Meiran find themselves in an unpredictable conflict of interest. Spencer is an expert at weaving characters' choices through differing motivations, leading to true questions of what defines right and wrong. 

Darklands is a story of tenuous promises, and reminds us even the strongest bonds can lead to fragile alliances.  

You can find it here on Amazon and here on Goodreads

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