Darkrise (The Rhenwars Saga #3) by M.L. Spencer Book Review

Write on: Fri, 16 Mar 2018 by  in Charles' Reviews Be the first to comment! Read 3809


Well, it's over. What? Fantasy. There's no more need to do it because someone has done what I've wanted done in the genre since the very beginning. M.L. Spencer has created a fantasy world where we saw the forces of "good" battle the forces of "evil" with increasing ruthlessness, all the while justified by the narrative until the (seemingly) final victory. Then we switch perspectives and have the exact same plot play out from the perspective of the quote-unquote baddies.

The Rhenwars Saga can basically be summarized as a five book saga (technically 4 books + 1 prequel) which chronicles a world which is divided into half by a group of heroes who tried then failed to save the world 1000 years earlier. To explain the plot of this will spoil previous books, so be warned. *SPOILER* The protagonist, Darien Lauchlin, gained Rand al'Thor-esque powers of near-godlike power after the massacre of his order of wizards only to employ them in a forbidden fashion to kill tens of thousands of Darklanders.

He then trades his soul to save his deceased girlfriend, only to find himself a servant of the god he's opposed all of his life and given the task of saving the Darklanders. Much to his surprise, he finds the people on the other side not really different from the ones he fought for and this makes him history's greatest mass murderer rather than a hero--especially when his own people want to exterminate the one he's now protecting.

M.L. Spencer is an interesting variant of grimdark as the actual story doesn't contain any of the usual qualities of the genre like explicit sex, foul language, or even gratuitous violence. Instead, the darkness of the story is born from the razor's edge between good and evil that consumes almost every character. Character after character goes from being a hero to a villain, particularly in this volume, with them dying screaming for the blood of the enemy.

I'm no stranger to writing deconstructions of traditional fantasy stories but M.L. Spencer one ups me by making a tale which really highlights a world where the typical tale of empires, kings, and warriors becomes a gray and gray war with no victors--only survivors. One man's demon is another man's angel, it seems, and we get to see what could be a set up for all of this war proving to be pointless. After all, in the prequel, none of our hereos' efforts mattered because the world ended up destroyed by a cyclical natural disaster they couldn't prevent.

A cycle which is set to repeat soon.

Is there any flaws to this work? A few. I think Darien has way-way too much luck with the ladies, with seemingly every female character in the series wanting to bang him. There's Meiran the Archwizard, Naida the Priestess, Arda, and even a female who offers to be his concubine. This is all in this single book as well. There's also a bit of a disappointment with some of these characters' fates as some of them I felt still had good stories left.

In conclusion, everyone who got the previous books should continue reading as the story has set up for an exciting climax. There's lots of moral conundrums, corruption, and tragedy in one of the best fantasy stories I've read this decade.

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 October 2019 20:25
C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.


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