Reviewed by Lori Fox
By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson
"I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy, and even to someone who is unfamiliar with fantasy, and needs a good place to start."
Achan Cham is a stray---an
orphan with a social status lower than that of slaves. Vrell Sparrow
is not what she seems, for what she seems to be
is a boy. Both have secrets, Achan isn't even aware that he has one, but
Vrell is only too aware of what the exposure of her secret could mean to
her, and to her country.
They share one thing in common---bloodvoices. It's said that Arman, the father god, gave the first king of Er'rets the ability to hear the thoughts of others, communicate through thought, and even influence others through their thoughts. This ability has been passed down through the generations in one form or another through the king's lineage.
However, someone wants to use, to control, Achan's bloodvoicing ability. This same person seeks to exploit Vrell's secret. Half the kingdom is shrouded in a literal darkness that twists those who dwell in it too long, while the other half lives out normal lives that are only occasionally influenced by those on the other side of the Evenwall.
Jill Williamson's By Darkness Hid, book 1 of the Blood of Kings series, is a YA (Young Adult) fantasy. Like most YA fantasy novels, it's really only considered YA because the protagonist fits into that age. In the case of By Darkness Hid, Achan Cham seems to be 16 years old, and Vrell Sparrow is 17.
Library Journal is quoted as saying that By Darkness Hid will appeal to fans of Donita K. Paul and J.R.R. Tolkien, but I disagree up to a point. I do agree that fans of Donita K. Paul's DragonKeeper Chronicles will find By Darkness Hid right up their reading alley, though the actual magic system is very different. However, fans of Tolkien tend to have a very different taste in fantasy literature. This is not high fantasy. It is not full of elves, orcs, or a very cool wizard that always shows up right in time to save the main character's keister. It's not that fans of J.R.R. Tolkien won't enjoy Jill Williamson's new series, it's just that they're not a natural match. Making that statement is rather like saying "This new romance novel will appeal to fans of Kristin Billerbeck and Harlequin Romance novels". They may have similar features, but they generally do not share the same audience. I would place it more in the Donita K. Paul/Mercedes Lackey category.
I will say that the beginning of the novel dragged a bit for me, and focused too much on mundane details. A little of this continues throughout the book, but it mostly comes to an end after the first few chapters, which is when the story really begins. A little patience is needed, but the result is well worth it.
If you're a fan of fantasy, much of the story will come as no surprise. We know who the bad guys are, and why they're the bad guys. We know who the good guys are and why they're the good guys. We know more or less what the bad guys are going to try to do to the good guys and why they're going to do it. However, By Darkness Hid is only predictable enough for those of us who already like fantasy to not be disappointed. After all, there's an element to fantasy that makes it fantasy, and that's what we like about the genre. But there are enough new ideas and twists to the story to keep it fresh, even if you, like me, have exhausted most of the famous authors and many of the not so famous.
Basically, this is a really good book and I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy, and even to someone who is unfamiliar with fantasy, and needs a good place to start. That said, I'm really looking forward to see what Jill Williamson does with To Darkness Fled, book 2 in the Blood of Kings series.
Lori Fox is a freelance writer who is working on her first novel as well as writing reviews for TitleTrakk.com. In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, making jewelry, and taking as many trips to Walt Disney World as possible with her wonderful husband Kyle. Visit her online at her website.