For today’s Book Review Wednesday, I’ve got a dark fantasy treat by the awesome ML Spencer. This is the first book of hers I’ve read, and I have to say it was a pleasure to read. While not perfect, it was a solid read and a great addition to the dark fantasy genre.

Darkstorm

Faced with an imminent cataclysm that will destroy the magical heritage of their people, a secret conspiracy of mages has resorted to harnessing the powers of Hell to save their legacy. The only mages who can oppose them are Braden and Quin Reis: two brothers with a turbulent past and a caustic relationship. But both Braden and Quin are compromised, harboring terrible and tragic secrets.

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Will Braden and Quin be able to prevent the unsealing of the Well of Tears? Or will they fall victim to the darkmages’ sinister manipulations and join their conspiracy?

My Review: 4 Stars

There were a lot of things I loved about this book. There was one particular scene earlier on that beautifully showed the callous brutality of the characters and the world in which the book was set. The story was engaging, well-paced, and pulled me along from start to finish. The ending of the book was beautifully satisfactory and yet surprised me at the same time.

I found a few issues: one part of the story seemed to meander in a certain direction for no apparent reason. I believe it was meant to delve into the backstory of the character/s, but it just felt out of place among the rest. Also, the romance between two of the characters was hard to swallow. They went from opposites to lovers in too short a time without proper development of their relationship.

However, overall it was a great book and one I’d recommend to lovers of dark fantasy.

Here’s a Taste:

The room they entered was just as dark and wet as the rest of the warren of passageways they had traversed. On one side of the floor was a large slab of granite, waist-high. It had the look of a table or altar, hewn from a single slab of rock. A foul, dark liquid oozed down its sides, congealing on its surface.

To the other side of the chamber was a circular well made of staggered granite blocks.

It was toward the stone table that Braden moved first. He paused beside it, eyes contemplating the rough surface. Slowly, he extended his hand and dipped a finger into the dark liquid pooled on its surface. His finger came away coated with thick, coagulated blood.

Sephana recoiled with a gasp. The sheer amount of blood was appalling. It collected on the surface of the table, running in thick rivulets to the floor. She was standing in it. The blood had mixed with the water at her feet, rendering it impossible to tell how much there actually was.

She shook her head and whispered, “Animal sacrifice? To what purpose?”

“No.”

Braden’s voice was empty and hollow, completely drained of all emotion. The sound of it chilled her heart. He lifted something from the floor next to the slab of rock. It took Sephana a moment to recognize the object in his hand: a thick iron shackle anchored by a heavy chain to the side of the granite block.

Human,” she whispered.

She covered her mouth with her hand as Braden cast the chain away from him, repulsed. The iron shackle slapped hard against the slab with a sharp ring of metal.

Sephana flinched at the harsh sound. Braden hardly seemed to care if anyone heard. With a grimace of contempt, he wrenched himself back away from the altar, swinging around to face the well. He stalked across the floor toward it, kneeling down beside the granite ring. His hand rose, tracing over a series of vile-looking markings that were carved into the well’s rim. They looked more like claw marks raked into the stone by some ghastly creature than any language Sephana knew.

She crept up beside him and observed Braden’s study of the gruesome marks.

“I want to go,” she insisted, voice quavering.

But he didn’t act as though he even heard her. He was kneeling beside the well, inching his way slowly around its circumference, eyes and fingers exploring the hideous markings all around the rim.

At last, Braden finished his scrutiny of the well’s texture and pushed himself to his feet. His gaze remained fixed on the sinister markings, stare narrowed in thought. He brought his hand up to his face, absently stroking his thumb over the whiskers on his chin. He rested his other hand on the well’s cover, a thick slab of granite stone.

“This is a portal,” he said finally. His voice was cold and dispassionate. Utterly flat. He didn’t look up at her; his eyes remained captured by the cruel markings of the well’s rim. “They’re boring a gateway to the Netherworld. And they’re using human sacrifice to finish the job.”

Sephana could only stare vacantly ahead, mouth agape.

“They call it the Well of Tears,” Braden continued impassively, indicating an inscription set into the very base of the well itself. “If they succeed—if this gateway is ever opened—then more than just Aerysius will be in danger. They will unleash the powers of Chaos across the world.”

The sound of a loud, metallic crash rang out across the chamber. And then another noise: a distant thundering sound, low and throbbing, echoing up from the depths.

“They know we’re here,” Sephana gasped.

About the Author:

M.L. Spencer was born in Southern California and grew up on the works of Steven R. Donaldson, Stephen King and Frank Herbert. She wrote her first novel-length manuscript at thirteen.

By day she works as a biology teacher; by night she sweats over a beaten-up keyboard. Her novel Darkmage won the Indie-Reader  Discovery Award for Fantasy.

Her favorite authors are Robert Jordan, C.S. Friedman,  George R.R. Martin, David Eddings, Patrick Rothfuss, and Terry Goodkind.

M.L. Spencer won 1st Place Prose in the San Bernardino County Writing Celebration and the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award for Fantasy.

Find the book on Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Darkstorm-Rhenwars-Saga-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01MT77SK9

Tweet at her: twitter.com/MLSpencer1

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