A few months ago I recommended Morgan Rhodes’ A Book of Spirits and Thieves, the urban fantasy spin-off to her high fantasy Falling Kingdoms series. Last month the sequel, The Darkest Magic, was released. Carrying on from where ABOSAT left off, The Darkest Magic explores the consequences of Farrell’s decisions, the darker side to Maddox’s magic, and what Becca’s supernatural heritage means for her family.
As I mentioned in my recommendation for ABOSAT, the sibling relationship between Crys and Becca is nuanced and realistic; they’re neither best friends nor constantly bickering. The Darkest Magic adds a new level to this, with Becca’s burgeoning supernatural connection. It’s not something Becca wants, and it’s not something she benefits from in any perceptible manner, yet it’s undeniably important in terms of stopping Markus and Valoria. This leaves Crys envious of her sister’s importance, because it dawns on her that she’s the only one in her circle who is replaceable. At once she envies Becca and realises how ridiculous it is to envy Becca for something like this. It’s such a very sisterly thing to do, to both envy her sister and realise she shouldn’t, and I love that Rhodes doesn’t shy away from such contradictions.
Although Crys and Becca’s relationship is my favourite, the character whose POV I enjoyed the most was Farrell’s. At the end of ABOSAT, he accepted the third mark from Markus, subsuming his will to his master’s. While reading the book, it’s never quite clear how much of his thoughts and actions are truly his, and how much of them are Markus’. At times he clearly appears to be acting under Markus’ influence, while at other times he appears himself. And yet it’s in those moments that we’re faced with the undeniable truth: We’ve never ‘met’ Farrell as himself, because he was already under Markus’ command when he was introduced. What results is a character whose motivations are nebulous even when we’re reading his own internal narrative.
This depth of characterisation will be familiar to readers of the Falling Kingdoms series, as will Rhodes’ willingness to heighten the stakes and create heart-stopping plot twists. The Darkest Magic will have you on the edge of your seat, desperate to learn what happens next. Without spoiling anything, there was one moment in particular near the climax of the novel that had me frantically reading ahead, unable to peel my eyes away from the page.
The sequel to ABOSAT is a thrilling, emotional installment that will leave you eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the trilogy.
Nicola has been reading more Canadian fiction than usual lately, and she thinks you should too. You can find her on Twitter.