Drive Back the Darkness by Amy M. Newman
The Darkness Quartet, Book One
Publisher: Etopia Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (434 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Jasmine
A kingdom shrouded in darkness. One girl who can save it all. On her sixteenth birthday, Ellie Lyons discovers her entire life has been a lie. Kidnapped, she finds herself in a strange kingdom-Alladon-a kingdom she was born to rule, ruled already by those who would see her dead. The children have been imprisoned, caged and awaiting a fate Ellie can only imagine, and only she can save them. But to do so, she must master the skills of a warrior and learn to contain the magic that roars through her veins and burns everything she touches. But when Morfan, the king’s advisor, sends an assassin to kill her, Ellie finds herself falling for the dark, dangerous Devin. Though she knows her life is at stake, she can’t seem to stay away from him, even as her feelings become strong enough to scare her, and strong enough to disturb Vance, Devin’s second. Vance is the opposite of Devin-blonde, charming, seductive. But his heart holds a kernel of something darker, something that makes him dangerously unstable, especially once he realizes he has feelings for Ellie that Ellie doesn’t share…
Imagine being fifteen years old and having some creepy woman with sharp pointy teeth following you. She follows you home, right up to your door, she stands outside your school watching you in class – and your parents reaction to the whole thing is just weird. Like it’s expected or something. Then, you turn sixteen and suddenly this creepy woman shows up in your bedroom in the middle of the night and transports you to some other world and tries to tell you that, not only are you the long-lost Princess of this land, but you have to fight the evil ruler.
Welcome to Ellie Lyon’s life.
At first I wasn’t really a fan of Ellie. She seemed like a normal teenager, with all the angst, self-doubt, insecurities and doom-and-gloom attitude of a teenager present. She was likable, and she was also bullied, which engendered sympathy, but she was not very heroic. I found myself snorting and thinking ‘yeah, right’ to some of things that she was supposed to be able to do. It wasn’t until she was surrounded by her ragtag band of misfits that she truly began to become the person that she was always meant to be. Watching Ellie’s transformation from the insecure, quiet, bullied girl to the person they need to win back this land for the people was what really made me grow to like her. She is never cocky about the fact that she is a Princess. In fact, she’s not even sure if she believes it through most of the book, but she readily takes on the tasks put before her. She takes the time to learn about this new world, and learn from her companions. She is loyal to her new friends and inspires loyalty in all of them as well.
The world building in this book is well done. It was never overwhelming with descriptions as to be boring but it was still conveyed well enough that I could clearly picture it in my head. The villagers and gypsies that the group encounters, the guards and the evil ones intent on stopping her and the different species of people and animals you get to see keep your attention. The presence and use of magic in the book, and Ellie’s struggle to learn it quickly, is a lot of fun. There is also enough mystery left throughout the story that you are just never quite sure who you can trust and who you can’t.
One person that you know from the beginning that can’t be trusted is Morfan, the evil ruler that took the throne from Ellie’s parents. He is very well written. Creepy and clearly evil. Amusingly enough though, throughout the entire book I kept picturing him looking like Jafar from Disney’s Aladdin. There are a few chilling background details of him along with creepy encounters, so it offset my image of Jafar quite handily.
I was very surprised by the ending. I knew it had to be coming up because of the page numbers, but I thought it ended very abruptly. I actually had no idea it was the end until I tried to turn the page and realized there wasn’t any more pages. I felt like there could have been more of a lead-up to let you know it was coming. That should give you an idea of how engrossed in the book I was though. It did leave an open ending for the sequel, so you don’t get resolution of anything at the end, but I was very glad when I noticed it was book one in a series.
A fantastic debut novel from Ms. Newman! If you’re willing to be carried away to another land for a few hours, meet some fun and interesting new characters along with some talking, giant jaguars (among other things) and get caught up in a new battle of good versus evil, then you are in for a treat with Drive Back The Darkness. Enjoy!