The fantasy genre is filled to the brim with countless stories from numerous authors all over the world. Nowadays, it’s difficult to make a name for yourself as an independent author in such a saturated genre – trust me, I would know. Fortunately, indie author Leah Ward has managed to achieve such a feat with her middle-grade fantasy novel, Searching for Darkness.
The story follows a young orphaned teenager named Edwin living in a world that has been decimated by a dark magical spell. Edwin quickly discovers that he is a Seer – a being with the power to see things that others cannot. He decides to use this power to find the legendary dark spell book, Darkness, which is responsible for crumbling the Earth many years ago. Edwin’s plan is to use the book to restore the world to its former glory, but as you can imagine, his journey is not an easy one.
During his adventure, Edwin encounters bloodthirsty wolves, a ferocious dragon, and a variety of other beasts and perils. He also learns of his hidden Seer powers, such as the ability to see the future, the power to conjure fire and ice, and the ability to grow gills underwater. But the biggest part of Edwin’s journey is when he meets Lena, a lone teenage girl with a knack for the bow and arrow. The two become fast friends and set off to search for the Darkness together.
Searching for Darkness features your basic fantasy story tropes, including the familiar “orphaned protagonist destined to be a hero” shtick. Edwin is a likable hero who you love to root for, but he doesn’t really separate himself from his counterparts such as Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, etc. He needs a certain defining characteristic that sets him apart from everyone else. In all honesty, I found Lena to be a more interesting character, and I would’ve preferred her to be the main focus of the book. Fortunately, Ward writes in a way so that we see both sides of the coin. We get to experience both Edwin and Lena’s perspectives throughout the story, and overall, I enjoyed the latter’s point-of-view more.
Ward managed to create a vivid picture of a decimated Earth in Searching for Darkness. When I first picked up the book and read the description, I didn’t know it would combine fantasy elements such as magic and dragons with modern technologies like GPS (and a mention of Super Mario Bros. at one point). This is a refreshing take on the fantasy genre, and it’s a shame you don’t see it as much in mainstream books anymore. They either go with the futuristic aspect, or the pure fantasy route. Why can’t more people be like Ward and just combine the two?
My only problem is that the world wasn’t fleshed out more in this story. We hear vague descriptions of Edwin’s village and the world around him, but I wanted to learn more. I would’ve loved a chapter of Edwin just walking around his town and having an interior monologue about the various aspects of the neighborhood. Maybe he could’ve explained a bit more about how exactly the Earth looked now that it’s been torn apart by magic. The world of Searching for Darkness deserves more detail.
Another thing I enjoyed about Searching for Darkness was the easy-to-follow narrative. It was incredibly simple to pick up and read with no hassle, and I actually finished it within a few days. This isn’t a book where you have to commit your life and soul to finish it (cough *A Song of Ice and Fire* cough). It’s simple yet enjoyable, and even though it’s written with a younger audience in mind, I think it’s a fun read for any age.
While I really enjoyed Searching for Darkness, I had my small share of complaints. I think my biggest issue was some of the shoddy proofreading here and there. There were times when I had to double back and re-read a sentence because of the way it was written or because a comma was missing. It wasn’t enough to pull me out of the story, but it was hard not to notice it in some points. I also felt like a bit of the dialogue between the characters was too formal. Edwin and Lena would talk casually in some parts, and then later on speak in very direct and formal phrases in others, like they were reading from a script. Again, it didn’t totally pull me out of the experience, but I couldn’t help but notice the errors.
Overall, I think Searching for Darkness is a very creative and imaginative story that is worth a read. It may be written as a middle-grade novel, but I think a fantasy fan of any age can appreciate Ward’s work. I already have my copy of the sequel, Chasing the Darkness, and I’m ready for the adventure to continue!
Final Rating: 3/5
Check out Leah Ward’s website at http://www.leahwardauthor.com and pick up your copy of Searching for Darkness today!