I received this book for free from Tor Teen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway
Series: Glass Alliance #1
Published by Tor Teen on February 5th, 2019
Genres: Historical, YA
Source: Tor Teen
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He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war? Code Name Verity meets The Winner's Cursein 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.
I think it was the comp to The Winner’s Curse that drew me to Dark of the West (which is funny because I still haven’t read that series) but I dove into this book with not many expectations. The only one I remember having was that Dark of the West was a fantasy but it became abundantly clear very early on that it was not. The main reason I bring this up is because it very much felt like false advertising. There are no fantastical elements to this book. In fact, calling it a historical novel would be way more accurate since it seems to draw inspiration from the World Wars of the early 20th century. A lot of the technology we have exists in this world too: planes, cars, guns, etc.
False advertising aside, Dark of the West is a good book. As someone who has been struggling with fantasy lately, the fact the book wasn’t a fantasy novel actually made it a lot easier for me to get into and enjoy. It is very character driven which made it a slow read but I liked getting to know the characters.
Aurelia and Athan come from vastly different worlds and much of the book is not about their romance. It accentuates the differences in their worlds. From their families, siblings, political systems and even beliefs (at least early on.) To be clear, this isn’t really an opposites attract situation because while they are different, they have their similarities. For example, they are both incredibly loyal and passionate. I love that the book spends so much highlighting their worlds aside from one another because it definitely makes their romance feel all the more real.
The fact that the book plays up on these differences is also especially helpful because it adds to our understanding of the war that is brewing. That being said, because the book focuses so much on those things, we also get no context for what the fuck the war is actually about besides everyone lying their ass off. We hear about the Nahir rebels on several occasions and yet I could not find any one instance in the novel that states what it is they want aside from vague mentions of freedom. Freedom from what????? I did actually do a proper search too and came up with nothing.
Moreover, Dark of the West feels more like one incredibly long prologue with the actually prologue having more tension than most of the book. This is partly why to me, Dark of the West is merely a good book rather than a great one because its entire purpose seems to be laying the foundation for a sequel. There is stuff happening but most of the action we get happens in the last 15% of the novel with the other 85% being spend building characters and the world (sort of since we still don’t know anything about the war.)
If laying the foundation for all the goodness of the sequel was truly the author’s intention than she has been very successful because I am extremely excited to read the sequel. ESPECIALLY BECAUSE that intense prologue seems to be a snippet from a sequel.
Basically, I think this book is not so much exciting on its own as it is within the context of what could happen in the future. So you should read Dark of the West, but you should read it because it’s the only way we’ll all get to read what I can imagine will be a phenomenal sequel.
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