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Books of the Sundered #1

Into the Dark Lands

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War has its cost, and the Servants of the Bright Heart and the Servants of the Dark Heart have been locked in a struggle that has defined life—and death—for millennia. But the end is coming, and only the Lady who has served the Bright Heart for the whole of her immortal life has seen it, in a vision that spans time and demands the highest of prices.

Erin is a healer, and against the nature of her birthright she has learned to wield a sword and use it to bring death to the enemies of her people. Scarred by the losses that war always demands, she is the chosen champion of Light and the enemy of darkness.

But no magical sword or simple quest awaits Erin. Her journey and her doom lie in the Dark Heart's stronghold, and in the hands of her people's greatest enemy.

382 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1991

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About the author

Michelle Sagara West

85 books918 followers
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Michelle Sagara
Michelle West

She lives in Toronto with her long-suffering husband and her two children, and to her regret has no dogs.

Reading is one of her life-long passions, and she is some­times paid for her opinions about what she’s read by the venerable Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. No matter how many book­shelves she buys, there is Never Enough Shelf space. Ever.

She has published as Michelle Sagara (her legal name), as Michelle West (her husband's surname), and as Michelle Sagara West (a combination of the two).

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 116 reviews
Profile Image for Lisa Shea.
Author 449 books459 followers
October 29, 2013
Into the Dark Lands by Michelle Sagara West is the beginning of a multi-book series starring Erin, a swordfighting healer, and Stefanos, the Beast to her Beauty. It is literally Light against Dark, Good against Evil, and somehow Erin is at the center of it all.

Into the Dark Lands I understand completely the draw of the Bad Boy. And, to be fair, Erin doesn't go running into his arms drawn by his dark, brooding ways. Rather, it is an incredibly difficult decision she makes nearly against her will. Her parents have both sacrificed their lives for the fight against the dark forces. She is driven by revenge to take down the enemy. She trains daily, enduring bruises and beatings, all in order to step up and do her part in the war. It is only when she is faced with a horrific choice that she finally gives herself over to the evil side for what she believes will be a lifetime of pain and torture.

Of course, that's not what happens. The leader of the Evil side, Stefanos, is drawn to her beauty despite himself. His entire life has been about conquest and causing suffering. But due to this one intriguing woman, he begins to soften. He cancels the nightly torture sessions in his castle. No, I'm not joking. It really is this "campy". He begins to make small adjustments to his lifestyle for her. The other nasties around him get grumpy, of course, but he doesn't care. He has Erin to think about. He's obsessed with her.

And, over time, she slowly becomes obsessed with him.

To get into why I did not fall in love with the story, we'll need to get into a few spoilers.

First, this appears to be an early work by Sagara West - the back of the book says it was nominated for an award for "Best First Novel". There are numerous issues here that a talented editor should have fixed. The reader barely knows what people look like and how places should be envisioned. The author expects the reader to somehow know these things through osmosis. A confusing hierarchy of family lines and cultures is dumped without much concern for the reader deciphering them. Even far more confusing lineages such as in the Lord of the Rings make much more sense because of the author taking proper time to lay things out. Here it's more like a large box of Legos was upended and we're forced to fend for ourselves.

Point of views are switched without warning, so areas have to be re-read to make sense of them. Details are tossed in without explanation or meaning. The heroine is strong, dedicated, and talented in the first half of the book. Then she near-instantly disintegrates into a helpless, flopping fish during the entire second half.

So let's say all of that was simply due to the author being new to writing, and to the editor team not doing their job. How about the actual storyline?

Again we have a traditional "young woman becomes orphaned and has to adjust to a new culture" cliche which I literally have read in four of the last five novels I've picked up. We have the young man who stands steadfastly by her side, but who she ignores because he is too tame. We have the adults who don't understand her. We have her near-unbelievable attainment of top notch skills in a wealth of areas - healing, sword fighting, leading warriors in battle, and much more.

But all of that pales in comparison with what happens once she falls into Stefanos's grasp. She becomes a complete weakling. She becomes the epitome of the stereotype that women around the globe have been fighting for thousands of years.

She is sure he's not REALLY bad - he's just misunderstood and that through her patience and efforts he'll turn around. She quietly accepts his brutality. Sure, it bothers her he's over-the-top violent - but he doesn't MEAN to be violent. She knows there's hope if she just hangs in there. And yet part of her technique is to undermine his authority in front of his troops. No woman who had been to war leading troops for years would be unaware of the issues here!

I suppose at least you could say that he doesn't rape her repeatedly until she falls in love with him. That's a saving grace, considering a few other books I've read recently. But it's not that far off.

There are so many battered women's shelters overflowing with women who tried to "tame the bad boy". It simply doesn't happen. A person who enjoys hurting others doesn't somehow miraculously covert to a loving, caring person. For the book to set this situation up as an ideal hero-heroine pairing concerns me greatly. Sure, most readers might realize this is wildly improbable and read it as an outrageously campy version of a dream state. But what about the remaining readers who think this is realistic and possible? Who think that hurtful, pain-inflicting bad boy in their life might be "brought around" if they just endure the pain for a while longer?

Every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten. Every nine seconds!! A man who loves inflicting pain shouldn't be idolized. He shouldn't be heroic. In this story we have a man who IS heroic and who stands by Erin's side no matter what. She ignores him because he is too quiet. Instead, she gets drawn into the pain-inflicting, child-beating bad guy and thinks she can somehow mitigate his actions.

I just don't find this to be a storyline I can get behind as being one I want to dream about.
Profile Image for Purse Monkey .
5 reviews5 followers
August 1, 2012
The story is set in land where there is Light and Dark. Each has their own God, each has their own purpose: to spread Light/Dark throughout the world. Each Light and each Dark has Servants to fill out that purpose. Servants are immortals that can communicate directly with their God. There are also a race of people that are descendants of these Servants. These descendants are half-mortals and they, too, can communicate with their God but only if they reach their Adult test.

The hero is the First Servant of the Dark. His mission is to take over the world, create an Empire where only Darkness rules. He's a monster. In his campaign to take over the world, he's killed countless of people and because of his nature, he would feed off the blood of these people for himself and make blood offers for his God. He enslaves people that he conquors except for nobilities. Slaves under his reign doesn't have names or their own language. Failure to observe these rules will be a death sentence and he is not lenient. Since he's First, he's the number one evil person, under only the Dark God himself. The heroine, on the other hand, is a descendant of the Light. She is the descendant of the First Servant of the Light. She's half mortal, meaning that she ages slower but will still die because of time. The First Servant of the Light, her grandmother, predicted her to be the only hope that Light and humanity has. Only she will have the ability to change the hero.

The book starts off with the heroine still a child. We see the struggles and heartaches she suffers thoughout their life. Since she's part of the line, it's her mission to go to the battlefield to fight the Dark. She's lost both her parents to them and vows to never be afraid of death. Her greatest power is the power to heal. Once she reaches her adulthood and proves herself to be powerful, she has appointed Sicuelle (?), a powerful title. As a Siceulle, she has helped out many people through the battlefield, even the enemies that fought against her.

It's because of her reputation that she finally meets the hero. He was intrigued and irrated with her so when she went to a village to save them, he was there to capture her. She bargained with me, her life for the people's freedom. He's never tasted the blood and life of a descendant of the line before so he humors her and accepts the bargain, though they both know that he didn't have to. However, the tasting is his downfall as when he did taste her, he sees a light in the core of her that he wants to capture for himself. Therefore, he spares her and tries to keep that light. He becomes very possessive and protective of her right from the beginning. He refuses to kill her and that made many people mad. He didn't care. He doesn't even know why he wants her but he doesn't stop to question it.

They had to journey together to his city so in this journey, he would slowly woo her. He first brought her meals and ask if he could keep her company. Always he asks and never take it for granted that she wanted his company. She was mystified. Why is the number one, most evil person in the world doing this? What does he want? Why is he acting so nice? Why didn't he just kill her as he did to all her people and get it over with? Every night he would come and ask for her company and she offered him food and he refused, though he kicked himself for refusing since it would mean he couldn't share it with her. So finally he say yes and she feed him her food, the first food he's tasted in his immortality life. She laughed at that, the first laugh that he got from her and from then on, a strange friendship was born.

Once at the city he opened a new wing in the castle for her and gave her all the riches of the world, yet she was unhappy which made him unhappy. Once at the city she finally sees how evil he was, blood rites and slaves and killings. Through their journey she forgot about that. So she tries to stop the blood sacrifies that the priests did every night. She was captured and brought to the hero. She was bound and slapped by one of the guards in front of the hero. The priest requested her death and hero denied him. Hero made it clear that she was not to be touched and how dare anyone question him. Oh, and use the guard that dared slap her as a blood sacrify.

Hero knows that heroine was unhappy so he made all blood sacrifices stop in his castle. This made many people uneasy and resentful. She was so confused as she's come to care for him and is even attracted to him. One night as he asked her if he could keep her company, he sensed her fear and it made him crazy. He feeds off on fear and she's never been afraid of him. He lost it and almost raped her, though he stopped as he remembers who she was. She became increasingly sick afterward and tried to kill herself. Hero was out of his mind and got doctors to see her and if she isn't better, the doctors would die. Heroine realized that she can't be selfish and realized that it was her destiny to remain at his side in order to save humanity as she can. Hero came to her after her decision and they made love.

He named her Sara cause he wanted her to forget that she was descendent of the Light. They loved each other and a couple of years later, he took her on tour around his Empire. He wanted all the noblility to see that he's picked her to be his Emperess and thus they married. At the wedding was when he realized that she would leave him one day because she was mortal. He was obsessed with it, in fear for the first time in his life because she would leave him, that time was a factor. It was there that was his downfall.
Profile Image for Vamika.
3 reviews
February 9, 2013
This book totally bored and confused me. The PoV was constantly changing, you would have the story told in Erin PoV then it would change completely half-way through a sentence to another person's PoV and then out of nowhere a narrator or Erin starts talking about the history of Light and Dark. I mean seriously! I have read books in different PoV but they at least tell you from the first sentence who it is but this book had none of it. There are so many characters to keep track of and new characters are being thrown in. The story as well had to much going on, I like in depth books but this book just felt like it was going to far. After about the first few chapters of this book the style of writing and the whole story itself just started to get on my nerves and I had to stop reading this book. Truly disappointing book.
Profile Image for Marajean.
102 reviews9 followers
January 16, 2012
So I love the theme of the good girl and the evil guy and the love between them. Every time someone asks for recommendations this book comes up, so I finally bought it and read it.

This book lacks details. That much is true. There's a fine line between too much detail and not enough. I felt like I was given a decent idea of the characters but I was also plugging things in from similar types of books. I really couldn't tell you what any of the characters looked like, including the main characters. With the possible exception of Stefanos who in his servant form has a ghost like face with red claw-like hands burning red eyes and grey skin. Hmmm.

It also really seemed like there was a big difference in the servants of the Bright Heart and the servants of the Dark Heart. The Lady was very standoff-ish while Stefanos is set up rather like Darth Vader in the original Star Wars movie. Yes, he's the evilest of evil and can kill anyone but he's got people in positions of power that are just waiting to overthrow him. How can you even do that? Doesn't make sense.

I enjoyed, to a point, the story of Erin as she grew up. But I was pretty much just waiting for the real story to kick in. The real story being when Erin goes to the other side.

From there I enjoyed the story but really wished it could have been more adult. I don't really need gratuitous but it really felt more childish than adult.

But I really think what kept the book afloat for me was the fact that these two had to make choices for each other that weren't always the right choices.

And the massively horrible conclusion had me absolutely in love and ready for the next book.

I still see the problems, but I am curious.

The only problem is, I'm very worried that the next book will have the characters spending most of their time battling against each other. I really don't care about the world around so much as the relationship between the two. Yes, one affects the other but I'd rather focus on them together. That has stopped me from immediately attempting the second book in the series.
Profile Image for Kagama-the Literaturevixen.
793 reviews124 followers
September 29, 2011
I was drawn in by the premise of a heroine falling in love with the villain.Guess if I was dissapointed...Confusing narrative,characters who never come alive and lots of other problems this book has.

Id never recommend this to anyone.Period.
2 reviews
October 13, 2011
The premise was wonderful, however the execution was meh. The book started out with Erin's background etc. but it really begins when she meets Stefanos.

Erin seems promising as a heroine, but I don't know why she fell flat. A healer and a killer, very ironic. I disliked how she was always trying to change Stefanos; she always asking for something, always ONE more thing. She loves him but it seems she can't accept all of him. She's a mercurial character, smiling one moment then the next gloomy and crying constantly. Her naivety was irritating; she felt like she could save everyone and she was suppose to be the hero, but she hardly did anything after the first half of the book. Her attempt at suicide was not endearing at all; it was quite pathetic.

The only thing I liked about this book was Stefanos. He was mostly true to who he is, although he loves Erin, he is still evil. One thing though, he always gave in to Erin when she was sullen and started pouting. I seriously wanted him to put his foot down and say no. Stefanos mellowed out a bit too much. Where did his inherent viciousness go? He changed too much.

Their romance was nice but a little bit uh, unbelievable. Why did they fall in love? That was glossed over. Actually that brings me to another point, details. Details in the book were very vague. Character details, setting details, etc. were not well described. All I remember was, for Erin, only green eyes, Stefanos was grayish?, with red eyes and robes..... Years and months pass in a blink, without really much of a change.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dan.
656 reviews22 followers
December 20, 2012
Angels and half-angels fighting a desperate war, and wandering through the lot is the Lady, who mourns and angsts because she knows everyone she loves is going to die, but if she tries to save them she'll doom her entire nation. Mourn, angst; ominous foreshadowing; angst, mourn, angst.

There are four books of this, and Michelle West is normally a good author. It's possible that partway through this first book the prophesied doom finally happens, and everyone gets to stop angsting and start fixing things. But after 47 pages of angst I decided I had had enough.
Profile Image for Allison.
550 reviews566 followers
April 23, 2017
I'm really not sure what I think of this. It's dark. The endless war between good and evil has no end in sight, and there's death, despair, and betrayal everywhere. Important people die. There's really no relief from it at all, although there's a sliver of hope that things might work out sometime in the next 3 books. If you like your fantasy dark, it's interesting enough that I'd recommend it. I'm not sure if I have the heart to read any further myself.
19 reviews7 followers
August 4, 2009
One of the best intros to a series I've read. With one of the few true anti-heroes. (The remainder of the series (for me) didn't live up to the introduction, but I think it was well worth it just to read this one).
Profile Image for Amélie.
225 reviews31 followers
June 22, 2013
Summary :

The Bright Heart and the Dark heart have fought for millennia by the intermediary of their immortal children, the Servants of the Light or the Servants of the Dark, and by the intermediary of the human empires and kingdoms those Servants have built.

Erin is the granddaughter of the Lady, the First Servant of the Light. The novel starts when she is only a child being taught to wield her light in order to later become one of the warriors of the Light. Her father was human and his corpse is brought back with those of other fallen warrior. Her mother, the Lady’s daughter, is not a warrior but she is a healer. With her husband dead, she can’t stand to stay on the side any longer and go on the front line.

Erin is left alone with tutors in the Lady’s city, but after some begging, she is allowed to go out and meet her mother as she comes back to the city in order to have a few days of rest. However, as she is a powerful healer, her actions on the front line have drawn the attention of the Servants of the Dark Heart and one of them has laid an ambush for her. Erin assisted to her mother’s murder hidden in a cart and is only saved by the intervention of a Servant of the Bright Heart.

Profoundly marked by the events, Erin find that she is unable to call a True Ward, that’s to say to call to herself the power of her God, the Bright Heart, as she is resentful to him (he let her mother die). This important event is supposed to mark the passage to the adult age of the follower of the Light. Nonetheless, after waiting some years, the Lady grants her special dispensation and Erin is allowed to go fighting on the front line as a third class warrior in a scout unit.

The Sarillar (Sarillorn for a woman) is a warrior who has been chosen to become the vessel of the Lady’s power and who is thus the general who coordinate the contingents of the Light, in addition to being the strongest warrior of the Light. During a battle, the current Sarillar is wounded and the fighters of the Light are retreating. Erin is mortally wounded and is thus able to speak to her God and exceptionally called a True Ward, killing all the other army by herself.

Shortly after, Erin is called back at the Lady’s side. The Lady has seen the future: the end of the long battle is drawing near and Erin is the only one able to bring the victory to the Light. Reluctantly, Erin accepts to become the Sarillorn but she know that despite all her power she is a liability to the Light as she is only able to called a True Ward when she is mortally wounded.

Nevertheless, she manages to cause enough problems to draw the attention of Stefanos, the First Servant of the Dark Heart. He meets Erin when she is alone behind the front lines and captures her without difficulties. In order to save the lives of other prisoners, Erin accepts to let him taste her blood and her Light despite the fact that all of the warriors of the Light know how to kill themselves when captured and thus avoid the ritual tortures the priests of the Dark offer to their God. Stefanos is surprised when he drinks her blood, there is a Light in her that is different from the light his enemies used in the battlefield. Intrigued, he decides not to kill her and to bring her back in his Empire.

Erin is confused by the First Servant of the Dark, he is not like she has imagined him, he appears far too human and he is too polite and too considerate with her. She finds herself drawn to him against her will, but she can’t forget the sacrificed that take place in the church every nights. Yet, to please her, Stefanos forbid them while still refusing to free her.

The rest of the novel show them try to adapt to the situation and attempt to understand each other. Yet, they are both unable to forget their true nature…

My review :

The beginning of this novel is slow, as Stefanos and Erin meet only halfway and that’s why a lot of people give up in the first 140 pages. Yet this slow beginning allow Michelle Sagara the time to lay down the world building and give us time to understand and grow attach to the characters.

The world building is less complex that in Michelle Sagara/Michelle West’s other novels, but it is still well written and interesting. Erin is a healer and like all healers, she hears the suffering of the people around her, it calls to her, she feels them as her own suffering and it is hard for her to ignore them, whether it is on the battlefield, or later in Stefanos’ palace. In the same way, the Servants of the Dark are drawn to the suffering of others, their hurts and their fears, and thrive on them. That’s the reason of the long battle between the Light and the Dark; there is no possibility of peace without the complete destruction of one of the side. In addition, Erin and Stefanos relationship is so interesting because both of them have to struggle against their very nature at each instant and to make sacrifice just by being in the presence of each other. Despite his decision to not kill Erin, Stefanos his drawn to her fear and almost attacked her before coming back to his mind. Even with all the sacrifice they make, they stay true to their nature during all the novel and I really appreciate that, as it’s not something that I often see: it’s too easy to redeem suddenly a bad character or excuse his action and that’s not done here.

Another interesting point is Stefanos’ Empire. More than the Light Servants, he understands the importance of normal humans: he is the first to used them in the battle as they are not sensible to the Light and can only be killed with normal weapons. I also find interesting that the dark priests always complot against Stefanos and try to make him bow to their will because they think that they know best the Dark Heart’s desires. Stefanos is often oblige to kill priests because they make the mistake to forget what Stafanos is, as, contrary to the Lady, he plays a real role in human politics. Therefore, despite all his cruelty and the different ways his mind works, it is easy to mistake him for a human. In addition, he really understands humans and he has thought of elaborate ways to enslave the survivors of the conquered lands without letting them any possibilities of struggles.

This is Michelle first novel and it is her shortest with only 300p. Therefore, some parts of the story may not be as details as her fans are used to. It’s nothing that impairs the understanding or the appreciation of the story but I would have appreciated if she would have spent more time developing the construction of Erin and Stefanos’ relationship. The world building is not as detailed as in her other novels, but we know the essential of their culture, their history and the working of their power. Healers are familiar characters in Michelle’s novels, but Erin is different from Kaylin in The Chronicles of Elantra as she hears the call of people’s suffering. In that, she is more similar to healers in her Sun Sword series.

To conclude, I found this novel to be very interesting for its characters and its interesting take on the eternal struggle between the Light and the Dark. It is the first book in a series of four and I really advise readers not to give up because of the slow beginning as it is what allows us to grow attach to the characters and to better understand them.
Profile Image for keikii Eats Books.
1,068 reviews55 followers
November 12, 2019
To read more reviews, check out my blog keikii eats books!

96 points, 5 stars!
Warning: Cliffhanger (NOOOO! GIMME MORE!)

Three more years had passed in her search for an end to the war, but she had found it. One isolated path, one frail possibility, offered hope. She had walked that road, over and over, looking for any other answer.

My co-blogger, Strix, started this book and told me it was everything I have been looking for. So I can only thank her, because I loved reading this so much. I didn't want to sleep once I started.

The premise of this series is that there is a light side, and there is a dark side, and they've been at war since they met for the first time. Which is also when they created life. Very common premise for an epic fantasy series. However, what made this unique, and for me absolutely perfect, is that the First of the Light side went looking in the future to figure out how to end this never ceasing war. She found one path towards the end of fighting, but she knew she would have to sacrifice to see this future play out. She just has to believe - in both herself and her pawns.

Enter Erin, the First's granddaughter. We meet her as she is just a little girl. Her entire life has been war, and all she wants to do is fight for her side as soon as she is able. You watch Erin grow up through Into the Dark Lands. And you learn what the First means by having to sacrifice to see the future without war come to be.

In a lot of ways, it is really hard for me to figure out just what to say and how much in this review. The first half of the book and the second half of the book feel so utterly different. In the first half, it is mostly Erin just growing up in a world where they are always, always at war, wanting to be a warrior herself. It is slow and it is deliberate. I liked being with her during this time, because it really sort of hurt to be her.

Then there is the second half of the book, where there is so much to talk about, but is in such a different place I can't bring myself to do so. That ending, though? My, what a cliffhanger. I need more.
Profile Image for Moira.
1,110 reviews61 followers
February 20, 2017
20.2.2017 - 5*
Hádám, že kniha, kterou jsem četla už pětkrát a stále mě dokáže bavit a jsem do ní zamilovaná, si nějaké trapné půlhvězdičky nezaslouží. Je to čistých pět, zbytek pochyb hozen za hlavu. :D
Anyway, někde jsem už několikrát četla frázi, že vás může "něco svést", mimo očividného partnerského svádění. Čokoláda. Nebezpečí. Dobrý příběh.
Nikdy jsem si neuvědomila, jaký ten termín má doopravdy význam - ne do chvíle, kdy jsem dočetla poslední stránku této knížky a uvědomila si, že přesně tohle tento příběh udělal. Jelikož ta delikátní, křehká atmosféra, styl psaní, všechno... pokaždé mě to svede, já se zamiluju a úplně tomu propadnu. :)

30.9.2016 - 4,5*

16.1.2016 - 4,5* - ono už ani není vtipné, jak často se k tomu vracím, a v jak krátkém časovém intervalu. A to jsem to dodnes nedočetla do konce, poslední dva díly myslím. *smích*

16.9.2015 - 4,5* - je to zaláskovaný příběh, který je tak roztomile temný a hořkosladký. Strašně se mi líbí, i když v něm vidím ty nedostatky, stále si myslím, že je dokonalý. :)

12.7.2015 - 4,5*
Z anotace to nepoznáte, a ze začátku psaní taky moc ne, ale je to zaláskovanost.
Ale damn, jaká romance to je. Temná, krvavá a místy zoufalá.
Je to temná kniha, propracovaná. Lehce naivní, což je vtipné, když se to přirovná ke všemu ostatnímu, ale mě si to získalo.
Co se mi zatraceně líbilo - charaktery postav, které se mi dostaly pod kůži.
A zjistila jsem, že autorka píše typ knih a zaláskovaností, které mi zatraceně sednou. Typ hlavních hrdinů (nebo antihrdinů), které v literatuře zas tak často nepotkávám - a postrádám.
Je to místy naivní, ale má to něco, styl psaní možná, tempo vyprávění, které si mě získalo. Všemi svými detaily. Zatraceně mě to vzalo. :))
(btw - když si představím, že tato část příběhu původně ani neměla existovat, jak autorka zmínila v předmluvě, šílené, jak propracované to pořád je. .))
Profile Image for Sbuchler.
458 reviews19 followers
May 19, 2009
Genre: High Fantasy

This is set to an epic backdrop of the fight between good and evil (known as Light and Dark in the novel). The main characters are only part human, the other part is divine.

I'm guessing the arc of the series is love balancing pain, and accepting neither the Light or the Dark as ascendant. This novel (the first of 4) is a love story between the First Servant of the Dark and the avatar of the Light. A good half of the book is setting up how Erin (the avatar of Light, known as the Sarilorn) has lost her entire family (and most of her childhood) to the battle with the Dark. Given that, it's almost difficult to see how she could come to love and marry the First Servant of the Dark (Stefanos)... but I didn't have any trouble believing each step as they happened.

The book ends on a happy note, but it's very hard not to be aware how unlikely Erin and Stefanos' marriage will be happy, and it's obvious that he at least is very aware of that.

I generally really like Michelle Sagara West's writing... this was her first novel, and I don't find it as deftly crafted as her more recent books - quite frequently I had trouble telling who was talking or doing the action described.
Profile Image for chris.
471 reviews
December 2, 2011
Could have been a 4 star!
I agree with several of the other reviewers who gave this book a low score.
It jumped around way too much in the beginning, it took way too long to get interesting and to get to the real heart of the story (it was the author's first book I think).
I started this book, and by page 85, was ready to give up and give it a review of two stars.. Then I went and read some of the reviews, decided to give it another chance, and skipped ahead to where the heart of the story lay (really didn't start until about page 150, and I believe is where the author should have really started the story). Then, it got a hold of my interest...before that, it was really boring..
It's the story of a girl, bathed in light, who ends up being captured by the dark, and ends up living in its castle...and what happens when the darkness is as much intrigued with the light, as the light is with the dark..that part of the story was very original..it would have been really hot if the sex scenes had incorporated that contrast and expression in them (they were kinda a dud).
I'd be curious to see if the second in this series is any better.
If you're looking for a good fantasy read, Cast in Shadows is a much more interesting story, and better written frankly than this book.
Profile Image for Sarah.
96 reviews4 followers
April 5, 2011
The first half of the book sets up the overarching plot of this series, which is the war between the servants of the Light (like angels) and their descendants and the servants of the Dark (demons) and their descendants. This is told through the eyes of Erin, a mortal descendant of the Light who is largely shaped by the losses she suffers in the war. The second half then switches gears and focuses on the unlikely and doomed love affair between Erin and Stephanos, the immortal first servant of the Dark. This love affair sets up the main theme of the series, of whether light can be found in the dark and vice versa. Although how they come to love each other is not entirely convincing, their respective struggles against who they are by nature and their loyalties to their gods and people is very compelling. The writing style is a tad choppy, but the ideas in the series are really good. I'm nearly done with the 2nd book, and both are dark and disturbing, with some rather difficult to read scenes.

I really like the cover art, I have to admit that's the reason I picked this up! It doesn't really capture the plot of the book very well but does capture the overall feel.
200 reviews1 follower
January 4, 2014
Hmmm. Well, for starters this was one of the few books that I picked up and then put down, and only started reading again because I was bored and hadn't slept for twenty four hours. Normally, I just read a book in one go, and the only time I put them down indefinitely is when I'm not enjoying it, but I pushed through since it was a romance and I thought it had potential to make me happy because the romance would be blissfully unrealistic and end in a really touching way.

Need I say that that isn't what happened.

This book just made me sad, and not in a tear jerker, sobbing sad that is strangely addictive, just mildly depressed with overtones of hopelessness sad. Reading the blurbs and reviews of the other books in the series I believe that in the end some of what I didn't like in this book is resolved, but I just can't be bothered with trying to read them, it just doesn't seem worth it. The only people I can think who will like these books are people who like dark and depressing reads (lol) and people who are purely plot motivated, but really, on both counts there are far better books out there.

Profile Image for Mykle Law.
22 reviews1 follower
September 12, 2009
It probably only deserves 3 stars... but I guess I liked it. It does feel a little slow moving for quite a while-- and I always wanted better description of the action scenes.
Chosen champion of the light, Erin of Elliath, Sarillorn the descendants of Lernan, God of Light-- encounters one of the most powerful servants of the God of Darkness, Malathorn (or whatever his name is...) Said servant does not destroy Erin-- as had been his initial intent, and Erin becomes much more intimately aware of the Malanthi's ways. But the Servant of the Dark is in for a ride himself...
Profile Image for Jewel.
781 reviews17 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
September 19, 2021
I was so excited to read this book, because dark romances in the fantasy genre are kind of hard to come by, but unfortunately, this book suffered from a severe lack of description. I don't know what any of the characters look like, I don't know what their world looks like, and I can't seem to figure out the worldbuilding beyond "the people with light powers are fighting the people with dark powers" which just isn't enough explanation for me. I might return to this series eventually, but for right now, my confusion is winning out.

DNF @ page 200
Profile Image for Eliza.
619 reviews22 followers
September 4, 2019
3.5 for me....I think there is something really magical about this book, but I honestly didn't know what the fuck was going on 90% of the time and I don't think I have the patience or brain power to finish the series.

Maybe if the author or editor had done a better job of indicating who was talking and when the pov switched, I could have kept up. I never knew who was talking!
Profile Image for Princessjay.
548 reviews25 followers
November 12, 2017
A straightforward story of the fight between light and dark, exemplified by the long and fraught relationship between a woman of the Light and the First of the Dark.

This series was a childhood favorite. I like it despite all the flaws. So many flaws.
August 23, 2018
So when I first got this book I looked at the reviews and all throughout every review there was one common sentence, "there isn't enough detail" and I thought to these people. Why don't you just watch a movie if you can't even read a book without wanting everything to be explained to you? But then I read this book and I have to apologize those people because I understand exactly what they mean. There is seriously little detail in this book such as they keep talking about Maps but no maps are ever described to you they speak of places that have gone but we have no way of telling how far these places are from one another, the only time you ever hear about time passing while on the move is how long it took to get into the darklands and you don't know where they going, I mean it did they walk around in circles for 2 months or did they go up over Mountains, or cross Rivers, I don't understand. However that isn't enough for me to dislike this book, and even maybe because of it I do like this book. Because it was more about what was going on and not where it was going on, if that makes sense. What I do have an issue with though is how it would skip 4 years in the future without even such a *** to point out that there is now a different time frame it was so very hard to follow I had to keep going back to figure out if maybe it was like a flash forward like a memory or something that hasn't happened yet you know, and so I mean I can't even tell you how many years pasded within this book but it must be at least 15 or 16 years but I can't tell you because it just keeps jumping forward but all in all still really good book I got to 91.3% and realised there's not enough book left for all the things that must be done. I almost cried when something happened right at the end, but again even the most important parts of this book were like three phrases long I mean it makes it very hard to get too emotionally invested when you have very little to go on, but again doesn't make me hate the book I apparently am very quickly becoming emotionally invested in characters because I was highly emotionally invested in this book and I think I shall be eading the second one but I'm not quite sure, I will have to hope that the format of time passing changes somewhat to make it easier to follow.
Profile Image for Donna.
1,058 reviews1 follower
September 9, 2020
I have read and will continue to read the Elantra series by Ms. Sagara. I'm not quite sure why it has taken me so long to find this. It is pretty apparent that this is one of her earlier works and I appreciated reading her introduction and admission that the story would be written differently if she were to write it today.

Initially she tends to jump erratically from scene to scene. One minute you are reading about the Lady musing about her journey into the future and then the next paragraph switches to a different character and what they are doing/saying/thinking. This seems to diminish as the story goes on.

Erin and others are half immortal. The Lady is her grandmother. There is a character known as The Grandfather but it seems like he is regarded as such to the entire populace of the light. Who is Erin's maternal grandfather and who are the sires of the other half immortals is never mentioned. We do know who Erin's mother and father are yet there is no mention of her paternal grandparents coming forward when her parents are killed.

I read a review where the author is very concerned about the female falling under the spell of the evil male and cites statistics regarding battered women. She feels that a storyline such as this might influence a woman to stay with an abusive male in the belief that she can change him. Okay, this book is not only fiction but fantasy fiction. Does she really believe that there are readers simple minded enough to use this as a moral compass? There is magic involved here, people, and the bad guy falls under Erin's spell long before she succumbs to him. He makes a lot of changes to please her without any prompting from her before she realizes the power she holds over him. If anyone has the upper hand in this relationship it is her.

Another reviewer pointed out the rather surprising ending so the dynamic between the two main characters will undoubtedly change in the future. I'm looking forward to finding out.
Profile Image for Kailey (Kathryn is looking for me).
309 reviews45 followers
May 23, 2017
While reading this book, I made a mental note saying that when I finished and reviewed this book I would mention how the narration was a bit confusing at times because the POV constantly jumped around, sometimes seemingly in the same paragraph. But, confusion aside, it's fine because the story is interesting and the jumps between perspectives in the same scene added more deatails and, um, perspective, that you wouldn't get from just one POV. It was a relatively minor issue.

But now let's jump to my reaction immediately following the last sentence of the book: WHAT THE HELL. WHAT!?!?!?!? OMG???

There's a lot going on in the Dark Lands, let me tell you.

Profile Image for Mary.
386 reviews3 followers
July 1, 2017
This book wasn't without it's issues, but after being forewarned about many of the writing issues in the authors intro and knowing it was a first novel, I tried to put that aside. And honestly it wasn't so hard. Yes, it would have been nice to have more/better description. Yes, the world and the good against evil seemed a little flat. But the story of the characters was interesting enough and if anything came through clearly it was their struggles. Erin/Sara loves but struggles with that love so much that it almost doesn't come through, and one might make an argument that it is false or destroyed at the end.

It was a little dark... I'm torn over whether or not to give the next one a go, because of that. I will say that at least there's an acknowledgement of it being dark. The evil isn't "just the way it is". It's being carefully crafted to be the kingdom of an evil god after all, and this is played out well as a source of conflict and character growth. I guess if it's going to be dark, at least this feels dark with a purpose other than just the spicy bad boy entertainment factor.

While it wasn't perfect, it was good, especially for a first novel.
Profile Image for Liz.
1,456 reviews35 followers
March 23, 2018
I have complicated feelings about this book, both because it took a while for me to get into AND because the narrative arc is one I both love and hate. The Beauty and the Beast story is one of the narratives that turns the keys to my heart and yet it is so easy to slip into making the Beast a monster (yes, yes, I know).
The story really revolves around the idea of woman/lover as sacrifice, which is super icky...but also very Jesus-y and I don't know if the vision of Erin as Jesus makes it better (as a feminist) or worse (as a Jewish woman). But the story, especially once she meets Stephanos and becomes Sara, is gripping and my favorite part. The tragedy mamba of the first part was a bit of a slog to read...and that in and of itself says something about me.
I feel like there's more to say about this trope of love as redemption intertwined with the trope of good (or god) entering the dark world to redeem it through sacrifice.
Obviously I'm going to read the next. I'm just going to keep feeling weird about it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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