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Joint Review – Rising Darkness (Game of Shadows #1) by Thea Harrison

Rising Darkness cover image
Where did you get book: E-arc by publisher via Netgalley
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Release Date: Out now

USA Today bestselling author Thea Harrison begins an all-new, darkly romantic paranormal saga, in which the fate of existence itself lies in the balance—and the key to victory may rest in the hands of two eternal lovers…

In the hospital ER where she works, Mary is used to chaos. But lately, every aspect of her life seems adrift. She’s feeling disconnected from herself. Voices appear in her head. And the vivid, disturbing dreams she’s had all her life are becoming more intense. Then she meets Michael. He’s handsome, enigmatic and knows more than he can say. In his company, she slowly remembers the truth about herself…

Thousands of years ago, there were eight of them. The one called the Deceiver came to destroy the world, and the other seven followed to stop him. Reincarnated over and over, they carry on—and Mary finds herself drawn into the battle once again. And the more she learns, the more she realizes that Michael will go to any lengths to destroy the Deceiver.

Then she remembers who killed her during her last life, nine hundred years ago…Michael.

Has: The book starts off with Mary who is a doctor but she is suffering from strange dreams which leaves her wondering if she’s in the midst of a mental and emotional breakdown. But when she is hearing voices warning of her danger and a family is viciously gunned down in front of her, she goes on the run, seeking sanctuary in the north where it is safe. But she then encounters Michael who has been hunting for her years and he tells her that they are soul-mates and that they both have been reincarnated over the centuries and he needs her to regain her memories or otherwise their enemy, the Deceiver will defeat them.

Rising Darkness is the first book of a duology series by Thea Harrison, and when this was first announced – I was definitely looking forward to it because the premise sounded really intriguing and Thea Harrison is one of my favourite authors for PNR. But I have to say when I finished reading the book, I was left with mixed feelings and I was left disappointed because it had a lot of potential but the execution for me didn’t work, and that is partly the world-building which was interesting and at times fascinating and the pacing which bogged the momentum of the plot. I am also not a huge fan of the trope using reincarnation which doesn’t always work for me but I actually liked this element in this book, but it was very vague and dream-like which reflected Mary’s POV but I found it that it asked more questions than answers for me.

E: Harrison has become one of my favorite authors I have discovered over the past few years so when I found out she was writing a duology set in an entirely different world than her Elder Races stories. One of the things I have learned is to try and divorce myself from the voice an author uses in one world/series when I start to read a new one by that same author. If I don’t then I tend to find that the story is missing something. I have also learned that not every voice of an author works for everyone. In this case I read all of the excerpts that Harrison shared leading up to the release so I was already accustomed to the different style. The other thing I had to remind myself was that this was not a paranormal romance although there is the potential for romance and paranormality abounds. With those things in mind I was able to immerse myself in this world.

Initially I thought that I had missed something because the early stages of Rising Darkness seemed choppy but then I realized that Mary herself was extremely confused and her world had become rather choppy. Bits of present day reality mixed up with dreams/visions mixed up with almost a loss of self-awareness painted the picture that Mary was facing. As I realized that Harrison was providing clues and world-building through the combination of Mary’s dreams/visions and the snippets we had of Michael everything started to fall into place. That was also when I decided this had the feel of a dark epic fantasy whose battles had been fought in cycles over the eons so the extended world-building made sense.

Has: That was the factor I liked about the reincarnation but I was left frustrated about the reasons why Mary and her group had to leave their realm and follow their enemy. I felt the most important reason was left out because I was left wondering what kind of beings were they? Were they gods or angels or other preternatural beings? I know this question would be answered in the next book, but because this wasn’t explained, I was left wondering about it because it never answered the most important question on why was it so bad for the deceiver to escape their realm and to enter Earth. I did love the glimpses of the alternate lives and it was rich and descriptive, I especially would loved the era in Norman England and in Turkey. And I loved the hints of their group influencing human history over the ages. It did give an epic feel. But this led back to what kind of beings they were, and I just wished this was answered.

I also agree about the choppy pace, and it definitely reflected Mary’s memories, but I think this also affected the plot which seemed slow going in the beginning. I did feel that it definitely got going in the second half, when Mary encounters Michael. And I think this was the main strength of the book. The characters and the romance. Although the latter is pretty slow going – its a nice slow build-up and I loved the epic feel and tone their love story had, which was emphasized by the reincarnation trope.

E: Interesting. I looked at them as almost like Khan from Star Trek so I didn’t need an answer to what kind of beings they were. I also thought that the “good guys” play by the rules so they were unfortunately disadvantaged with their initial arrivals while the “bad guys” cheat. I wasn’t so much caught up in the potential romance between Mary and Michael as I was with the fascinating thing that they didn’t always regain their lives in the same generation and therefore their relationship did not always contain a romantic aspect. One of the other things I liked was how Michael’s earlier knowledge and abilities were balanced by the things Mary gained as she started to remember her past outside of her dreams. To me that put them on a much more level playing field and allowed me to believe that their romance had a chance. I was also glad to see that Harrison didn’t wait for some of the potentially more traumatic events until the second book but that also inspires a sense of pity and foreboding for events to come.

Has: I did like that element of different types of relationships, but it was kind of glossed over for me but I would have loved to see more of that and I hope we do. Because it did highlight and explored the soul-mate trope in a different way and it was refreshing especially how it interlinked with the mating trope. I am also glad that the traumatic stuff was broached. But I think the main element for me which was disappointing was the foundation in the beginning for the world-building. I wouldn’t have minded the vagueness/dream-like clues and hints about Mary’s hidden memories, but the reason why they decided to leave for Earth was a plot hole for me and it diminished the premise of the story.

E: I also find that interesting. To me the reason why is part of the discovery through the two books. Right now I don’t think Mary or Michael remembers why they started out on that journey only that there is a reason. And like you, Has, I do want to know their origin but I am happy to find that out later. **not so subtle hint to the author** I do think Astra knows a lot more than she is saying. I also wonder why she is so bound and determined to try to control everything. I also think that Mary and Michael might have more allies than they are aware of as the final (hopefully) confrontation approaches.

Has: I definitely think the sequel will answer those questions but I do hope it will expand on the world-building especially the factors I had issues with. But I only felt the story really got going towards the end which ended way too abruptly for me although I was hankering for more. A whole year is a long wait!

Overall, although I was disappointed with some aspects of the world-building and pace which affected the plot. Rising Darkness, did have a different and refreshing take on the mating and reincarnation tropes. I also liked that it was different to define – it was not fully a PNR or a Fantasy but had elements of both. But I just wished this was explained a bit more on the whys’ instead of the hows’ because I felt this was a bit of a plot hole. But the second half made up for the slow pace, the romance really started to gel as a result Michael and Mary’s story promises to be pretty epic in scope and tone.

I give Rising Darkness a C.

E: I have been looking forward to reading a new epic fantasy for a while. I will admit that I was not expecting my epic fantasy read to come from Harrison but I have enjoyed the change from a complete story arc in a novel to one that spans novels. I found the technique she used to bring in the world-building and history of this conflict added to my sense of sympathy for the heroine and everything she was going through. Harrison introduced some interesting supporting characters that I hope are fleshed out more in the next book. She has also set the stage for a very interesting showdown between not just Michael, Mary and the Deceiver but also amongst their allies. Speaking of which I wonder if the other five will emerge in this particular generation as well. I will agree with Has that the second half of Rising Darkness was smoother than the first but I think part of that had to deal with Michael and Mary finally knowingly working together again instead of being at slightly cross-purposes. I am looking forward to finding out how this epic struggle will conclude.

I give Rising Darkness a B

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By E_booklover

E is addicted to books. She discovered at an early age that not only were they her transport to far off worlds, adventures, and exotic cultures, but that she ran into far fewer objects if she walked while reading then if she wasn't reading. She reads across several genres, such as: romance, western,mystery, SF/F and its derivatives. She isn't too picky except for good characterization, settings she can imagine, and a story that flows logically... umm so ok -- she wants a good story. Have any to recommend?

7 replies on “Joint Review – Rising Darkness (Game of Shadows #1) by Thea Harrison”

Okay, I can’t wait to read this book myself, so I only looked for your rating. Hmm I was expecting it to be a bit higher. We’ll see what my opinion will be 🙂

I liked it but to me just like any first book of an epic fantasy until the world building and characters are established it takes some getting used to. I think the second book is going to be where Harrison makes her money. The world and characters are very fascinating. I hope you enjoy it.

I had a little trepidation reading this book after this review, but I loved it! I was prepped for a different voice from Thea based on these comments. I loved her pros- it was so descriptive and lyrical. I felt that the confusion that Mary felt as things were revealed to her was accurately reflected by how the story was laid out. I give this book an A.

Interesting takes, I do love the joint review!
I haven’t tried a book by Harrison yet, I keep meaning to. Maybe I will wait for book two.

@Michelle K: I am very glad you liked it. I enjoyed it but wanted to make sure people knew not to expect the same type of prose/style that Harrison uses in her Elder Races world. I struggled trying to express my thoughts without spoiling the story.

@Lexi: I think I enjoy writing joint reviews when we don’t have the same opinion more than when we do because it seems to bring out a lot of discussion. You really really really need to start reading her *grin*.

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