The King was dead.
His body was found slain in his room, only months after his son had been brutally murdered. Skylar Mandolyn, his daughter, has now become the last heir to inherit the throne. But instead of becoming Queen, she has been imprisoned for helping in the escape of Sir Harlin Brien, her knight who was framed for the King’s murder.
Confined to darkness, Skylar's captors have given her no choice but to yield to a new kind of enemy: a kingdom that has advanced in both technology and warfare. It's when she refuses that the prison uses its other means of persuasion, and although unmerciful, the whip lashings and isolation can't suppress the memories of her family's downfall. Pulled between her subconscious and reality, Skylar already knows who the true enemy is, because even the darkness can't hide the deceptive hands that have destroyed them all.
With two kingdoms on the brink of war, Skylar's only hope is in the person who has gone missing — Harlin, the knight who was sworn to protect her. The memory of him surrounds her when the darkness screams louder than the prisoners, and when Death smiles a faceless grin in between the cracks of the stone. While the tremors start to rise from the deep, crawling up through the prison's walls, Skylar doesn't realize that she will soon see why he's one of the Benighted.
The mystery was never how Harlin escaped. It's how he'll return.
Can I just say I really like the cover of this book. So much so that when I was wondering around over on Net Gallery looking for something different to read I caught my eye and to be honest I looked at it for a moment and then I moved on but sure enough after a few minutes I had to go back so I looked at the pretty cover a bit longer read the blurb and thought 'Hell ya!' and sent in my request because I love fantasy and it's been ages since a new to me author in this genre has grabbed my attention. Needless to say I was more than a little happy when I saw that my request had been approved.
'The Benighted' is the first book in this author's saga which goes by the same title. As is often the case with any series the first book has a big task set for it because it needs to grab the reader's interest and keep it enough to make them want more while laying the foundation for the overall series with it's world building, character development and giving us the necessary background information to help everything make sense. Doing all this at the same time. That's a big job for one little book and while in some instances for me it could have been better there was also a lot that I really liked...besides the cover.
I'm going to start with the things that didn't work so well for me because I want to get them out of way and not dwell on them. I'd rather dwell on the good stuff.
This first issue is a bit of a pet peeve of mine and while it didn't factor into the rating that I gave this book at the same time I can't bring myself to totally ignore it either. It's my issue with editing in e-books in general and while some are definitely better than others in the scheme of things this one was by no means the worst that I've ever encountered it also fell short of the mark for being one of the better ones as well. I found myself wondering if maybe one more round of editing would have made the difference and caught the 5 instances in which the word 'passed' as used when in fact it should have been 'past'. There were other things but I admit this one really stood out every time I encountered it.
Ok now that I've got that out of my system let's move on to the more important details the story what didn't work about the story for me was Skylar's wardrobe or more accurately the amount and number of times spent describing it. I honestly found myself skimming these parts after the first 2 or 3, but in defense of this it was well done and given that 'The Benighted' is a Young Adult novel. A fact that I really wasn't aware of until I started reading it, this detail is something that the target audience for the book will probably enjoy. I admittedly fall outside to this demographic.
Unfortunately, I also had a bit of an issue with part of the plot and again I think this is due at least in part to the fact that I fall outside of what it feels to me should be the intended age demographic for this book and as a result of my age and life experience my perspective is such that I found I just couldn't convince myself that certain things could happen for the reasons that they did.
I may have missed this detail, but I really don't believe I did it was never clearly defined as to what the setting for this story was whether it was an alternate reality for earth or a different world altogether. My impression was that it was a world totally of the authors creation but at the same time there were certain aspects of it that tied very strongly to the real world. Things such as Christmas and the names of precious stones like diamonds or metals such as tungsten carbide. Yes, in the scheme of things these points are small but when you're reading along and trying to create that alternate world that's suppose to be so different from the one you live in it becomes a bit of a distraction and last of all but probably the biggie for me was the lack of relationship development between the MCs, Skylar and Harlin, not that it wasn't there it was but to me it felt more eluded to I would have like more scenes between that where there personal interaction and no if you're wondering, I'm not talking sex here. I'm talking about actual relationship interaction where they find out about each other. There was some and I liked what was there but I just felt like I needed a bit more.
Now on to the fun stuff...what I liked, what worked well for me. I know you're probably thinking not much, well than you're wrong because there was a lot and some of it was little things but most of it was big and some of it I really, really loved.
Let's start with the way the author chose to give us background information things that happened before the start of the book that are integral to the story. It was done in flashbacks that Skylar had while she was imprisoned (this is in the blurb so no spoiler here). The flashbacks were done in bits and pieces interspersed with current scenes that were taking place in the prison and for me they helped to keep things moving and interesting and made sure that I was paying attention since they weren't always done in chronological order but were more relevant to Skylar's thoughts at the time, maybe this made them a little harder to follow but at the same time it added a sense of realism for me.
I was also more than a little impressed with the talent displayed by this author in her ability to convey the cruelty and abuse that some characters endured without being excessively graphic.
Next I loved the MCs both Skylar and Harlin...
Skylar because she was outspoken and confident. She didn't take the easy way out and stuck by her convictions. This girl, no this young woman wasn't some damsel in distress waiting around for her prince or in this case her knight in shining armor to rescue her. She fought back, she kicked ass every chance she got, but she was also kind, compassionate and intelligent.
Then there's Harlin, he's a knight but not just any knight he's one of The Benighted an elite force if you will. He didn't treat Skylar like she was some silly little princess to be indulged and coddled, protected...nope, he had the maturity and foresight to know that she needed to be able to defend herself and while he accorded the courtesy and respect entitled to her position as heir to the throne he also listened to her and respected her as an individual capable of independent and intelligent thought. Sadly this is not always present in m/f novels of any genre.
As for the plot, yes I did mention that there as an aspect of it that I had a bit of trouble with but over all the plot for this story was excellent and definitely lends itself to further books in the series. This a big storyline and for it to be resolved in one novel I think would be doing a definite disservice to the potential it holds.
Admittedly at the end of it all I'm betwixt and between on whether or not I'll read the next book. Mainly because it's YA and so there are parts of it that I know aren't ever going to be quite what I'm looking for in a story and I can live with that. I think the bigger question for me is can the author deliver a second book that's as good or better than the first.
I'll probably give the second book a chance, when there is one, and we'll see where things go from there. In terms of whether or not I would recommend this book to a YA reader absolutely. As well as having some really strong potential, I think this is an author with a story to tell that is interesting and just a little different.
A copy of The Benighted was received through Net Gallery in exchange for an honest review.
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