Book Review: Chasing the Darkness

Not too long ago, I reviewed Searching for Darkness, the first installment of indie author Leah Ward’s thrilling fantasy/adventure series. I enjoyed the way Ward wove fantasy elements with a dystopian/semi-post-apocalyptic setting, and I thought she did an amazing job writing the book so that it was easy to pick up and read on the fly. However, I found that the book had its fair share of shortcomings such as the occasional grammar mistake and the somewhat cliched protagonist. Regardless, I thought Searching for Darkness was a fun read, and I was excited to dig into the next installment, Chasing the Darkness.

A quick recap of the first book: Edwin is an orphaned boy living in a time when the Earth has been ravaged by a magic curse (courtesy of a dark spell book aptly named Darkness). Edwin discovers that he is a Seer, a being in possession of magical powers that not only allow him to “see” things others cannot, but also lets him conjure fire and ice with his bare hands. Edwin teams up with a fellow orphan named Lena, and together, they manage to destroy Darkness and its master, the evil sorcerer Nefarious.

Chasing the Darkness takes place shortly after the first book. Edwin and Lena, now living together, discover that, although they defeated Nefarious and Darkness, there is still a dark magic out there somewhere, and it’s up to them to stop it. They set off on yet another adventure to find the true dark sorcerer once they realize Nefarious was simply a pawn.

I found Edwin pretty stock in the first book of the series, and unfortunately, I didn’t notice too much of a change in this one. He’s still very average. It’s a shame he’s the primary character when Lena is far more interesting and, to me, better developed. I applaud Ward for giving Lena more background in Chasing the Darkness. We catch glimpses of her jotting down notes in her personal diary, giving us a play-by-play of what she’s thinking and feeling. It’d be nice if we could get something like that for Edwin as well in the future.

Edwin and Lena aren’t alone in their journey this time. Now, they’re joined by Charles, a quirky yet adept wizard with an in-depth knowledge of the world before the curse. The team also meets Lanthor, a funny little creature who offers some comic relief, but also manages to be quite the hero when the situation calls for it. And we can’t forget Satiya the dragon (another one of my favorite characters), who returns in this installment to support Edwin and his companions.

I mentioned last time that I wanted to learn more about the world within the series. I’d love to hear all about the Earth and what happened to it after the curse hit. We know that there is virtually no modern technology left, but what else? Ward struck gold by combining magic with the sort-of post-apocalyptic vibe; it’d be great to see her run with it and develop an entire setting beyond what we’ve read so far. Sorry, I’m a huge fan of world-building and I can get a bit carried away.

One big advantage this book had over its predecessor is the illustrations. There are about five or six different hand-drawn images within the book, and they all look outstanding! It always helps to have a picture to go along with the text, especially for his book’s target reading audience. The only tiny issue I had was that the images appeared a bit sporadically. I’d prefer a little more consistency, like a picture at the beginning or end of each chapter.

Another thing I liked about Chasing the Darkness was the intense climax and ending. We eventually get to meet the Big Bad of the book (and there’s a nice little twist that is bound to catch you off guard). Unfortunately, I can’t say much about this primary villain since it could give away the twist. All I can say is that I hope they make a reappearance in a future book.

There’s also a fantastic cliffhanger that has me very excited for the sequel. I seriously had chills reading the last sentence of the book, and I actually found myself saying, “No! You can’t leave us hanging like that!” While Searching for Darkness had a good ending, Chasing the Darkness‘s conclusion beat it by a long shot.

Despite how much I liked the book, I still have my share of criticism. Once again, there’s the issue of grammar mistakes every few pages. I also noticed instances where the perspective changed from third-person to first-person, and then right back. Luckily, these errors weren’t enough to seriously damper my enthusiasm. At the same time, I feel like there are more critical readers who may have issues with the tiny mistakes.

Although it’s written for a middle-grade audience, I consider Chasing the Darkness a good (and quick) read for anyone no matter what age. If you want a new entry for your fantasy novel collection, you should give this series a chance.

Final Rating: 3.5/5

Head on over to Leah Ward’s website at http://www.leahwardauthor.com and grab a copy of Chasing the Darkness today!

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Book Review: Searching for Darkness

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!