Friday, October 3, 2014

Under the Shadow of Darkness by James and Issa Cardona

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This review was written by: B
Received: Free e-book from the authors
Publication Date of Book: February 24, 2014
Pages: 188
Stars: (4.5/5)

"In my experience evil is always defeated if we stand, face it and fight it. It is only when we give up that we lose to the darkness."
-Nes’egrinon

Young Bel just graduated from the Academy of Arts and Magic and has been chosen by Nes'egrinon to be his apprentice.  While this is exciting, seeing as not everyone at his school is picked for an apprentice position, Bel is still quite hesitant.  His new master is one of the most renowned wizards throughout both current and past history, but he has had two apprentices previous to him that were killed under his watch.  While the exact causes of their deaths are still uncertain, the mysteries surrounding each of their untimely departures from this world has left Bel skittish and insecure about his current situation.  Also, his mysterious dreams of a one armed boy fervently warning him about something that he cannot decipher does nothing to calm his fears.

It is custom for all wizards to remain celibate, and so Bel has left the only girl he loved to become who he is today.  His determination and loyalty towards his position is unwavering.  So, when he goes to Nes'egrinon's humble home, he is expecting to start his training and have a thorough talk with his master.  Unfortunately, this is not what ensues.  Bel's former rival from the academy is there, Kerlith, along with his master, Muolithnon.  These two want Nes'egrinon's help with a dire situation. Naturally, the old wizard is tentative to participate in their requests.  It is not until Bel is attacked by ghouls in Nes'egrinon's very own forested domain that very same evening that he is fully willing to oblige, and so starts these four wizards journey into the unknown.

A great darkness has been sweeping across the lands where even the sun cannot be seen.  It is eternally black to the point where day and night cannot be properly distinguished.  Searching for the source of this frightening development, they encounter the ghouls time and time again.  These creatures are the living dead in constant search for human blood.  One bite from them will kill you and then turn you into a ghoul as well.  Hundreds have been seen roaming around the lands in every direction.  The wizards discover that they must be coming from a breach between our world and theirs. Under the Shadow of Darkness is their adventurous journey to find and attempt to defeat this breach so that the sun might return again and the dead will remain dead so that the living can regain their lives once more.          

This book has become one of my all time favorites in its genre.  The story was expertly written with enough lure and fantasy appeal to keep the pages turning, and the characters were all unique and enjoyable to read about.  I personally am very excited to hear more about Nes'egrinon's past in the books that will hopefully follow this one in the Apprentice Series.  James and Issa created an intriguing middle grade/young adult book that I can't help but feel will eventually climb the charts with due time.  It has heart, friendship, mystery, humor, and, of course, magic.

The world building was extremely well done in this novel.  I literally felt like I was journeying with the group into the darkness, remarkably to the point where it was practically tangible.  Also, there was definitely one curve ball thrown at me towards the end about Bel's dreams that was absolutely brilliant.  Yet another great aspect in this work of art was the ghouls.  They were a definite intrigue throughout the entirety of the story.  While they were frightening at points, they also carried with them an allure to know more about their sudden presence among the living and how some were more conscious than others about hurting humans for their blood.  Ultimately, Under the Shadow of Darkness was fast paced and a great story.

The only thing that was slightly strange to me was how parts of the dialogue were written.  Throughout most of the book, the speech was how you would expect someone in this world and point in time to talk like.

“Alexius, it is I, Kerlith, apprentice to Master Muolithnon, the wizard of these lands. You remember me, don’t you?”

However, at other times the speech patterns become much more modern and current.

“Wow. That was great! Wooh! You don’t know how exhilarating that is. I feel
like a new man. Hahaha. Okay. Wooh! Listen here. My head’s clearing. Gimme a second."

Don't worry though, this does not take a great amount away from the story told within this book's pages.  It is a must read for all fantasy and wizard lovers, middle grade and young adult alike!

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