4 / 5 stars
Read in September 2020
Book #2 in the The Age of Darkness trilogy
A 3rd person multi-POV fantasy story with complex, memorable characters, an apocalyptic setting, and Greco-Roman vibes, the Age of Darkness trilogy deserves more love with everything it delivers. Book two, As The Shadow Rises, expands the world and characters we grew to love in the first book, while also upping the stakes for the finale in book three. On top of that, it stands well on its own as a middle book with solid character development and plot twists.
That being said, if it’s been awhile since you read the first book, I would recommend re-reading or brushing up on it before reading the sequel. I was a little fuzzy on the connections between characters and the magic system/world, which made parts of this book a bit difficult to follow.
If you have read the first book and, like me, your favorite element was Jude, Anton, and their budding relationship, this sequel definitely will not disappoint you. Watching their romance blossom as they come to terms with their individual fears and insecurities made my heart melt and seriously was the reason this book left me with a 24-hour book hangover.
Pool also does some amazing character work with Ephyra, the morally gray killer desperate to protect her sister. While I unfortunately didn’t feel as much of a connection to her, or to Beru for that matter, I still appreciated the exploration of Ephyra’s anger and grief. Hassan’s storyline contained some good twists I didn’t see coming, but I found his character slightly unbearable and his chapters felt just as underwhelming as they did in the first book. If it weren’t for Jude and Anton, I most likely would’ve given this book fewer stars.
Honestly, I think this is due to the fact that we don’t get POVs from anyone else in Ephyra, Beru, or Hassan’s storylines, romantic or platonic, to give us perspective on their actions and personalities. We know how Jude feels about Anton, and we know how Anton feels about Jude, and seeing them come together in a beautiful catharsis made it all the more emotional. If you were hoping our ensemble cast would team up to work towards a similar goal in this sequel, you sadly might be disappointed. It plays out similarly to book one in that the characters don’t all collide until the end of the book.
The plot also included some unexpected twists involving side characters from book one. While I thought these twists were interesting additions, Pool introduced some of them so early in the book that they lost some of their shock value. Given these characters’ memorable fates in book one, it was jarring to see them reversed right at the beginning of this book and made the ending of the first book feel a bit cheap. However, these characters did make book two more interesting given their nuanced relationships with our protagonists.
I found some of the dialogue and other elements in this book, like descriptions of clothing, to be anachronistic enough to pull me out of the story. Like book one, there is still the confusing idea that this world seems to be a fantasy twist on antiquity, yet trains are a common form of transportation. Based on Pool’s writing style, you can definitely tell she learned her craft from a screenwriter as she states in her bio, as this book is mostly dialogue and blocks of action. Descriptions are sparse, and while this didn’t necessarily detract from the book, readers looking for more flowery prose might not appreciate her to-the-point style. I don’t think I could tell you with 100% certainty exactly what our main characters look like.
Lastly, the ending of this book had me on the edge of my seat turning the pages at rapid speed. I had initially planned to stop reading for the night, but once the climax began to unfold I stayed up til I’d finished the final page. I can’t wait to see where the story goes in book 3!