It’s been a long time since I picked up a book I couldn’t put down. In short, this book drew me in, left me craving more, made me feel more a part of the world of Er’Rets than Earth…so I bought book 2.
In, By Darkness Hid, Jill Williamson weaves a brilliant plot following two main characters, Achan and Vrell, as they unearth the mystery of “bloodvoicing”, fight for their lives and beliefs, and discover the true and only God, Arman.
The story starts with Achan, a stray who boy works in the kitchens. Having no parents, no rank, and a shameful brand marking his low status, his life takes the first of many steps of change when he meets a Kingsguard knight, Sir Gavin. Sir Gavin trains Achan who discovers bloodvoicing—-a type of communication taking place between minds—though he does not accept or understand it until later.
Three chapters in, the point of view switches to another bloodvoicer, Vrell, a high-ranking girl masquerading as a stray boy to escape an undesired marriage. When her plan takes an unexpected turn, she finds herself on a long and trying journey to a strange “master” who only wants to increase her bloodvoicing skills for selfish reasons. The book jumps back and forth by chapter from Achan and Vrell, giving the reader an equal and satisfying dose of both, while keeping the storyline moving.
Achan and Vrell are thrown together, forming a connection that winds their paths in a way they never expected. Achan is confused about Arman (God), whereas Vrell has a passion for Arman and seeks to spread the truth. Through their interactions and time spent in their minds, the reader learns more about the true God through the character’s eyes, which is applicable to every Christian’s life.
When starting By Darkness Hid, I felt slightly overwhelmed by all the different names of people and places, but as the story progressed, I eventually got them straight (thanks to the Williamson’s repetition and reminders).
The writing is very descriptive and I am pleased to say is far above many secular fantasy novels I have read. As critical as I am, there is very little criticism to give. It’s...refreshing to see this quality of writing and storytelling in the Christian market. It’s just what young readers need.
I would put this novel in the teen/young adult and up age group. Many sparring matches and battles take place, bringing with them picture-painting (but not gruesome) descriptions appropriate for slightly older readers. The writing is realistic, but not crude, and the characters are compelling and easy to relate to. Achan is sarcastic and witty. I laughed often at his humor.
Williamson wraps up the first novel beautifully, leaving the reader surprised, excited, and anxious for more, but with a good conclusion. I highly recommend not only reading, By Darkness Hid, but buying it for author support (click on title above to link to Amazon), for good reading, and for a snazzy cover to lighten up your bookshelf and make your other books jealous.
Violence Level: **** (clean, but still present)
Romance Level: **
Christian Focus: **** (builds toward second book)
Readability Level: ***
Story Depth Level: *****
Recommendation: ***** (yes!)