Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Review - Rise of the Darklings (The Invisible Order Book 1)

Rise of the Darklings is the first book in a series (of at least 2 books). I received a review copy from Amazon Vine and rom a high level, the premise reminded me a bit of the Spiderwick or Fablehaven and other recent books…you have a young girl, Emily, who is able to see the magical world of faerie/fey creatures living among us. And she has a fun adventure because of this gift of sight. There were a few things that differentiated this book from those series…the first being that this book is set in Victorian England rather than the present day. Added to that is the fact that Emily is a poverty stricken orphan working by selling watercress on the streets.

For some reason, the writing style and/or language rubbed me wrong for the first couple of chapters. I'm not exactly sure what bothered me…whether it was the sentence structure, the semi-internal monologues of the characters or something else. It was a minor quibble but enough of one that through the first ~30 pages, I found myself not really getting into the story because I was distracted by the "feel" of the writing. However, after a few chapters, it felt natural and I was able to be absorbed by the story.

As I mentioned, the concept of faerie/magic creatures co-existing secretly is something that's been very popular lately. The plot and general story arc are creative and engaging and I quickly set aside my fears that this would be a "cookie cutter" book. Young Emily inadvertently finds herself sucked into a war between factions of fey creatures as well as being shown a mysterious society of humans who are seeking out the creatures for some reason (destruction, knowledge, power, something else)?

I personally really enjoyed the intrigue and mystery of trying to figure out which group (humans, fey group 1, fey group 2, etc) could be trusted. Or, if none of them can be wholly trusted (as seems to be the case), which one is telling enough of the truth to unravel the problem of the story.

As the book went on, I loved the layer upon layer of various subplots and foreshadowing. As I neared the end of the book, it became obvious that not everything was going to be wrapped up in this book. Just from the title, it was obvious that there was going to be a sequel, but the way the book ended somewhat surprised me. The book tied up enough of the loose ends to give a generally satisfying conclusion, but it also ended with a pretty dramatic cliffhanger that makes me want to go check out the second book.

The book felt pretty appropriate for a target audience of ~10-12 year olds. Making the protagonist a girl will potentially help appeal to girl readers…while the adventure and the secondary male characters will help boys relate as well. The writing was simple enough to be accessible to younger readers while still having plenty of heavier vocabulary and historical/geographical/etc information to help readers stretch. The violence was fairly minimal and the language was pretty age appropriate though I think there were one or two instances of mild curse words. Overall, I would feel comfortable letting my kids read this.

I went into this book a bit wary that it was going to be the "same old thing" and I finished with the feeling that this is a refreshing fun take on a popular genre. The young characters sometimes felt old beyond their years, but as a middle-grader book, that's somewhat to be expected. The descriptive storytelling and the intriguing plot drew me in and left me wanting more. I definitely look forward to seeing what happens next.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Brian Miller said...

hmmm...will check the library as it may be something my boy would get into...

Phoenix said...

I'm just happy that it's an adventure where the main protagonist is a girl. We need more of those, for sure...

Okie said...

@Brian - I'll be interested to hear how he likes it

@Phoenix - I definitely agree. My 7 year old daughter has been picking up a variety of books trying to find a good female protagonist. It's definitely a harder path.