Taking place in a world where Demons are a real threat, Devil's Night Dawning began with a vivid exorcism scene. The plot focused mainly on Adelko and his mentor, the legendary exorcist and witch hunter Horskram, on a journey to stop a warlock from unleashing an ancient evil. This happens while the world at large is in the midst of a civil war. This book totally fits the Dark Epic Fantasy genre, and as cliché as this will sound, it’s like A Song of Ice and Fire meets Lovecraft. By this, I mean there are demons, spirits, and others of the kind; it’s sprawling and grand in scope with a variety of POV’s and characters that were spread around the world, some of which eventually converged, some didn't or maybe haven’t yet. Not only is the storyline a rare experience for me because I haven’t read a lot of fantasy that features gothic horror elements, I also thought the magic system that centered heavily around religion was very fitting to the tone and story of the book, which served to enhance the experience of the readers even more.
Honestly speaking though, I expected to love this book so much more considering the huge praise that Kitty G—a great Booktuber and reviewer btw—gave to this book. Unfortunately, I had several problems, or at least plenty of up and down moments, with it; these moments caused me to struggle to complete this book. The first main issue I had with it was the main character, Adelko. Out of all the perspectives in the book, Adelko’s POV was the most dominant, and yet I found his and Horskram's storyline to be the most uninteresting one. I can’t help but feel like Adelko’s characteristics weren’t fully fleshed out and it was hard for me to care about him. On the other hand, I found all the other side characters' storylines to be much more enjoyable to read. For example, Vaskrian, a lowborn squire in training to become a knight, had a POV that gripped me right from his first appearance and it didn’t let up until the end of the book. His POV is in fact my favorite out of the entire cast. However, Vaskrian wasn’t the only interesting character; even a character that received the Daenerys treatment (by that I meant that the POV doesn’t converge yet in this book) was still a more compelling character than Adelko. The main reason for this is that the author spent a LOT of time on the world building and this happened mostly in Adelko's POV; the world-building aspect is in my opinion the double-edged blade of the book.
The main strength and weakness in Devil's Night Dawning is its world-building. Devil Night Dawning is filled with rich history, and the author deserves huge praise for this as it’s obvious that he has done a LOT of research to come up with all of it. My problem lies in the way it was told; it simply didn’t work with me. Instead of building the world gradually, it was laid out like, “bam, here’s the lore for you,” in a single chapter. Most of the time the author tended to over-explain the background of the world rather than focusing on the characterizations and the main plotline, which ended up hurting the quality and pacing of the book. For example, in Part 1, Chapter 8, Horskram tells the history of the world to Adelko. This part was extremely dense and done in a non-stop info-dumpy kind of way. It felt like hearing my history teacher lecturing for 30 minutes nonstop. Chapter 8 is just one example out of many; I had to reread that chapter three times and it still didn’t completely stick because it was too long for its own good. Before anyone accused me as not a fan of heavy world-building, let me clarify first that slow-paced character driven books and intricate world-building are my favorite kind of fantasy books. One of my favorite series, The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson, spent a lot of time world-building but at the same time, it never forgot to keep the main character’s characterizations and developments as the focus of the story.
I have to admit that I thought of DNFing this book plenty of times during the first half of the book; the only thing that made me continue was the side characters' POVs and the hope that maybe the conclusion would pay off, and luckily it did. In terms of climax sequences, the author did a great job concluding the book especially considering that this is only the first book of a saga. Sure, it was a struggle for me to get there but it was worth it as there are POV’s convergences, great scenes, and pulse-pounding moments.
Finally, prose-wise, Black has a great writing style and voice. It’s not too straightforward and at the same time, it’s filled with some rarely used words that I thought were interesting to hear. There are plenty of missing commas that would’ve made the prose flows even better but overall it didn’t distract me. Considering that this is a self-published book, Damien Black did a great job on this.
Overall, I do think Devil’s Night Dawning, the first book in the Broken Stone Chronicles is a good book and a good start to a saga. In the end, it all comes down to preferences and taste and Devil's Night Dawning just wasn’t completely for me. The world in the book is extremely similar to Medieval Europe, and I prefer the fantasy books I read to take place in a completely new world. If I want to read something with a similar setting to our world, I’ll choose to read historical fiction instead. This is also why Mark Lawrence's Broken Empire and Red Queen's War really didn't click with me. So yes, to conclude this review, I can totally see this book appealing to many other readers out there. It might even be amazing for them because although this book isn’t for me, I totally think it still at least deserves a 6 out of 10 stars for all its quality. Now imagine the rating I might have given if the book was more suited to my taste and preferences!
Everything written here is my honest opinion of the book, and there are possibilities that parts that work for me will not work for others and vice versa. I wish Damien Black the best of luck in the final round of SPFBO 2017.