title: Dark of The West
author: Joanna Hathaway
genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
publisher: Tor Teen
release date: Feb 5th, 2019
source: Publisher via NetGalley
❝He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war? Code Name Verity meets The Winner’s Curse in Joanna Hathaway’s Dark of the West, a breathtaking YA fantasy debut.
Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.
Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.❞
dark of the west is a 2019 debut that is marketed as perfect for fans of code name verity and the winner’s trilogy; while i may have not read the former, the latter is my all time favourite book series so it’s needless to say this book had some pretty large shoes to fill in my eyes. having read that and the synopsis, it quickly turned into one of my most anticipated releases of the year and i was so excited and thankful that i got to read it early and participate in the blog tour.
now, it’s very rare that one reads a fantasy novel inspired by more contemporary times (in this case, wwi and wwii) and that was a huge selling point to this book. as a reader of mostly fantasy, it can get quite monotonous to read about the exact same period of time in each and every book that gets published, with little to no differences. i think dark of the west brings something entirely new to the fantasy table, which acts as a very big advantage. the world that joanna hathaway has built is foreign and familiar all at the same time, and it was an entirely new experience to read about aircraft and advanced military technology. it helped bridge the time period gap that is usually there when you first start a fantasy novel because everything is so much closer to our world’s current state. however, i did have trouble keeping up with everything else that is going on, especially the countries and front lines. it took some time for me to get used to the all the names, and while it got fairly easier as the novel progressed, i don’t think i fully comprehend the geography. this world is awfully complex (in a good way!) and it just takes time to get used to. a map would have been very useful in this situation, but i completely understand why there wasn’t one included as this was an arc. i’m looking forward to seeing it in the finished copy.
the political intrigue in this book was really good and engaging, which i’m very happy with because it’s what drew me in in the first place. i love how it was entangled with familial relationships, which made it all the more complex because of the characters’ struggle with loyalty to country and family. aurelia’s mother is a perfect example, especially given her motherland and sovereign country do not align, neither did hers and her children’s political views; she just fascinated me so much. the entire book is laced with this moral ambiguity, which is very much my brand, so obviously i loved it very much.
speaking of aurelia, she started out rather naive and, dare i say it, irritable, but as the novel goes on she starts to evolve from being just a princess into someone who has the potential to change tides. i wish we’d gotten to see more of her development, but i’ll touch upon that later. of course, i have to mention the other lead – athan, the son of an acclaimed general. he possesses such a duality – on the one hand, he has a brilliant military mind, but on the other, he just wants to escape. ultimately his unwavering loyalty is what prevents him from doing so, and i really admire that about him. in terms of their romance, i found it to be a bit rushed, but i enjoyed it nonetheless; not as much as i’d hoped, perhaps because of said rushed pace, and also because i went into this book expecting to get the enemies to lovers trope. however, the prologue promises to deliver on the angst front, so i’m not ruling this pairing out just yet. what can i say? i love pain. anyway, there’s so much potential in both main characters and i can’t wait to see more of them both.
something that i didn’t like about was its pace; in my opinion it really does the book dirty. the plot is just very slow and has very little movement to it, which is understandable to some extend since this is quite the complicated world at war with itself and so many plot lines are happening at once, however, i feel like the book just unnecessarily drags out. there’s a lot of information that we don’t really need and, in my opinion, could have been cut down to make more space for some action. this really hindered the characters’ development as well, since the plot was stagnant, they, too, stayed in place with it. rather unfortunate, because they have all the potential to be amazing leads, but to do that they need to be able to move.
and because i don’t want to end the review on such a sour note, let’s say a few words about the writing style. dark of the west is told in a dual point of view, the narrative split between athan and aurelia’s voices. now dual povs i’m quite skeptical of, having been burned one too many times by this writing technique, however hathaway has managed to completely avoid the disastrous potential of the two narratives bleeding into each other. athan and aurelia’s voices are distinguishable and unique; the author adopts two different writing styles for their individual narratives and it really helps make them sound more separated and realistic. you don’t question whose head you’re currently in because both characters use such distinct language.
a highlight i want to point out for this book is how well-written the flight scenes are; i know the author is a huge fan of aircraft and the art of piloting and has spent quite a long time reading and doing research, which really shows in her writing. accuracy is a big deal for me, and i’m always so happy when authors really take their time and do their research, it really shows their dedication to both the story and the contract that they make with their readers.
overall, dark of the west is a solid debut with immense potential to become a powerful presence in the ya community with its future installments. despite my few issues with the book, i still rather enjoyed the story and cannot say i’m disappointed with what i got. joanna hathaway has a distinct voice which will, no doubt, continue to develop and grow and i’m really looking forward to seeing her development.
joanna was born in montréal and is an avid storyteller who was inspired to write after reading her great-grandfather’s memoirs of the first world war. a lifelong history buff, she now has shelves filled with biographies and historical accounts, and perhaps one too many books about pilots. she can often be found reading, traveling, or riding horses.
her debut novel, dark of the west (tor teen, february 5th, 2019), is the first in a wwii-infused fantasy series of forbidden love and deadly revenge.
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