30/11/20 | 5-min read |
And so begins a Saga of empowerment and wonder…
For me, reading Darkwind was like witnessing a pretty caterpillar become a stunning butterfly. Allow me to explain:
While reading the first chapter, I was certainly intrigued – in the same way a caterpillar’s cocoon-building is fascinating to watch, but it’s not overly spectacular – YET. Our story begins with an introduction to Princess Cistine in her home of Talheim. Though she didn’t immediately grab me as a lovable character, she was certainly layered from the get-go and I found her interesting, and likeable (a term even she would use to describe herself). Little did I know how attached I’d soon become.
The world of Talheim becomes vivid pretty quickly, and by chapter 3 I felt like I had a good sense of the atmosphere. My initial thoughts were that the pace was a tad slow, and there was a sense that I was waiting for something a little more; a kick to get it going (bear in mind, I was also reading small sections at a time in between other things, so this could have mostly been because I wasn’t reading enough in one sitting to become engrossed).
As Cistine began to train with the cabal, I was a little skeptical of the prospect – often in movies, there’s a short ‘training period’, after which a previously incompetent character is supposedly capable of holding their own in a fight. The same goes for when a character is severely injured, but can magically walk normally again in the following scene. So, I was worried that the same rushed unrealistic trope might show up here. BOY WAS I WRONG, and I how could I have expected anything less from Renee?! Cistine’s training and Ashe’s leg recovery are THE most realistic progression-over-time depictions I think I’ve ever come across. And yet, the subject never gets boring!
Even though this time span is quite a chunk of the book, there is a perfectly-paced drip-feed of new information that consistently adds interest to the mix. It is pitched so well in fact, that by around chapter 10 I realised there was this…almost magnetic pull towards the story, and I began to really savour – crave, even – the steady pace and rich level of detail. I felt like I was in safe hands, listening to a wise storyteller beside a campfire as the story unfolded in real-time. While not flashy or overly grand, the tale gradually builds momentum, gathering more texture and layers as it rolls on.
Cistine is one of those characters who – like the book itself – gradually, slowly, grows on you until you realise you absolutely adore her. Cistine’s progression is inspiring and realistic, and I absolutely love the way her character is ever-changing, learning and growing before our eyes as we navigate the new environment alongside her.
Of course, being the main character, we also see all her flaws laid bare – so we’re bound to judge her more harshly. For example, there is an unexpectedly rash decision she makes that seems a bit out of character for her, and it might have been more a way of propelling the plot forward than a plausible choice on Cistine’s part. However, it is a sign of how she has progressed and the new ways she has been taught while being part of the cabal, and this is acknowledged in the narration. Additionally, the aftermath of the matter is dealt with PERFECTLY in book two. While consolidating the event, both characters are given their own reasons to argue for their strong view, which as a reader is incredibly satisfying to see.
Meanwhile, I absolutely fell in love with the other characters, one after another. By halfway through, I felt so at home with the cabal and already wanted to become a part of the team (if anyone knows where I can train with Quill, please sign me up!).
There seemed to be a bit of info-dumping at the end as revelations came to light – some were cleverly foreshadowed, while others seemed a little sudden and one was easy to guess (but I was so fixated on the fact I’d guessed it, I totally overlooked another thing – so there was still impact in the revelations!). This also set up higher stakes for going straight into the second book…
As I was ill for the second half of this week, escaping to the world of Darkwind was the perfect distraction from how awful I was feeling, and I found strength in the characters’ perseverance. Seeing them rise up and grow stronger imbued me with strength as I breathed through painful stomach cramps and dizzying nausea. It made me feel more connected with the characters somehow, like I was in sympathy as they recovered from injuries – and I found myself focusing on the question of ‘what would they do?’. I’m so obsessed with the world and invested in this wonderful found-family now. I really feel like I know them personally, and they’ve already been in the back of my mind while going about my day.
With Renee’s understated but beautifully flowing writing style, the magical world-building is second only to the luxurious focus on character, with personalities and relationships that come to life before your eyes. Wholesome friendships are accompanied by dazzling locations, some gems of inspiring quotes that wouldn’t look out of place on a bedroom wall, and sprinkles of humour to boot.
And so, from the cocoon emerges a beautiful butterfly – mauve and scarlet with shimmering gossamer wings, which it flutters demurely as the moonlight glints from its delicate mosaic surface. I can’t wait to follow as it swoops through the next instalments, where I’m sure its wings will become stronger, and glitter even more brightly – much like Cistine, though I think I’ve got carried away with that analogy…
My point is, this is a glorious book. Just you wait until the cabal feel like family. You won’t be able to let them go.
Visit Renee’s website here: https://www.reneeduganwriting.com/
Look out for the Starchaser Saga sequels!
Book 2: Dawnstar
Book 3: Nightwing