Series Name: Give the Dark My Love

Number of Books: 2

Publication Dates: September 25th 2018 & September 24th 2019 from Razorbill (Penguin)

Genre: YA Fantasy/Dark Fantasy

Format: Personal copy & Library audio books

Overall Synopsis: We follow two characters in this fantasy duology. First, we follow Nedra Brysstain who goes to Yugen Academy in order to learn medicinal alchemy. There’s a fast moving plague called the Wasting Death that’s terrorizing her island (Lunar Island) and she wants to learn all that she can before it’s too late. We also follow Greggori “Grey” Aster, a nobleman’s son who also goes to Yugen and becomes interested in Nedra. As the plague keeps spreading, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. When she tries to dabble in forbidden arts, Grey wonders if he can prevent Nedra from succumbing to darkness.

I really excited about this series when the first one came out last fall. I had seen great early reviews and hearing the word “necromancy” attached to this series, I was SO on board! But then the first book stayed on shelf for about a year. Part of me got so busy with life that I didn’t have time to get to it and the other part of me wanted to wait for the series to be done before starting it. So once the release date of the final book started getting closer, I picked up my physical copy and an audio book from my library to start it. I read/listened to the first book within a few days and luckily got the audio book for the sequel and mainly listened to that one. This is quite the series that doesn’t pull punches!

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Book 1: The book begins with Nedra saying goodbye to her parents and twin sister Ernesta as she prepares to go to Yugen Academy. Her father, encouraging her talent for alchemy from his books and her grandmother’s journal, kept writing letters to the school to accept Nedra. Then, a mysterious benefactor financially allows her to go. Since from Lunar Island and isn’t noble blood, she doesn’t fit in at the school from the start. People look down upon her simple belongings, writing everything down and more plain clothes. But she’s determined to find a cure for the Wasting Death and doesn’t really take time to make friends. Her personality attracts Greggori “Grey” Astor, a young man who admires her stubbornness and fierce spirit.

The book begins with an eerie prologue that really sets the tone for the series. This duology honestly isn’t for the faint of heart; there’s major content warnings for: grief, death of loved ones, medical experiments, some animal cruelty and amputation. This book really shows the bleakness that a plague brings with it. As the body count started rising and people start freaking out over this plague, they’re trying everything they can for the patients. But not only that, we see how the poor are treated like cannon fodder while the rich get preferential treatment, difference in class and even questions on morality as Nedra becomes drawn to the dark arts. I admired Nedra for her good intentions to find a cure to this Wasting Death; it really felt like so many of the higher up people didn’t believe this threat was a problem and it’s so reflective of our own reality. We do ignore things that may occur in one place in the world, but totally forget that it can happen to us. I loved how she used as many resources as she could when others only stuck to what they know. Also, her love for her family is so fierce and true that the fate of the final half of the book is truly raw and heartbreaking. While I didn’t 100% connect to Nedra’s grief, I know some people will see it and feel it deep in their souls.

While I really enjoyed Nedra’s chapters, Grey’s chapters happen less often and he isn’t built up very well as a POV character. He isn’t a political man like his terrible, power hungry father and he’s trying to prove that he’s not like his family. He also really falls for Nedra due to her mind and her skill and I think his attraction to her happens fairly quick. I do appreciate that he tries very hard to help Nedra not be consumed by the darkness and how he sees how it could possibly futile. I do admit though that I never fully believed the romance between them, since she didn’t really show much back. But this first book is very compelling with how it shows how a plague can make people question their morality, their choices and even how they determine the fate of others. Be prepared for a dark book that doesn’t hold any punches. There was a scene where there was a hint of using a kitten in a crucible (the pain goes from the patient and into the crucible, where the animal takes all the pain, often sadly fatal), but I’m SO happy that it doesn’t happen! I personally don’t like that rats are mainly used and how the book can describe the agony that animal can feel as it fatally takes that pain. This story element alone was hard to read/listen to and if it had gone even further, I would have DNF’d it and never looked back, since that kind of stuff doesn’t sit well with me.

As far as any cons with this first book, I think it could’ve been longer by about 100 pages to really show Nedra’s descent into the dark arts. I think her change happens a little too soon and I also wanted to see more of her research into this plague. I also think that another thing a longer book would’ve helped develop Grey more to care about him a bit more than I did. But this is a book that pulls no punches and I really applaud the author for showing how desperate a person can get after losing so much and fearing the worst outcome. I’m not talking much about the plot since I want you guys to really discover it for yourself; there’s a lot I left out since it’s more interesting to find out more by reading it 🙂

Rating:

 

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Book 2: Since this is the last book in this duology, I will withdraw from spoilers as much as possible. I also recommend reading/listening to these books close together to have the full story sink in. I’m glad that I got this sequel not long after finishing the first one, so that I didn’t forget anything. This second book mainly shows the aftermath of all the events from the end of book one. People are trying to recover from the past events and also how Grey is still trying to save Nedra from the darkness. The way this book evolves to the climax was SO well done! There was something at the end that I didn’t see coming and the more I thought about it, the more I give props to Beth Revis for this story.

I will admit that this book is slower than the first one. There’s a lot internal stuff from both character POVs as they deal with what transpired. Nedra is still on the knife’s edge of never returning from the darkness and the slight chance of being good again. Her choices she made in the first book come to have some quite severe consequences in this book. There were times where the slower pace wasn’t working for me. While some of the internal stuff was important for the character building, it still could’ve moved better? I feel like we weren’t really going anywhere until halfway through. Then there was a slow descent into quite a crazy climax and luckily, things were answered and things do wrap up in a complete ending. Also, there’s quite a gruesome scene in this book so be aware of that. It’s very gory and detailed and I nearly felt sick while listening to this scene, but it’s done very well despite my reaction.

This second book also does develop Grey more as a character. His POV chapters are more important because his POV shows all the political and social consequences that the world is facing. I did like that the author took time to show how things from book one really effected book two, since I feel like some fantasies gloss over this. This book continues to show how people in power only care about manipulating the masses, having someone to blame for a problem, etc. Grey has such good intentions for trying to help, but he does fail a few times and this was so realistic to how people want to do good, but sometimes their actions aren’t enough or what was actually needed. Although, I will say that he was too infatuated with Nedra in this book. Nedra has done things in this series that I think would really test people’s trust in her. Grey didn’t show that! Despite things he knows about her and what she’s done, he seems too okay with it. I wish that the author showed his internal conflict with his feelings for her.

As far as the actual final ending, I’m not sure how I feel about it. The thing I didn’t see coming was FANTASTIC and I loved seeing how that connected some things in both books and how Nedra deals this revelation. But I do think the final outcome is something I don’t completely agree with and that’s all I can say without spoiling it. The epilogue could possibly divide people, depending on their feelings towards Nedra’s actions and how the confrontation should’ve played out. But I do see how this revelation shows how people’s morals can be twisted and how they can be a hero or a villain and if Nedra is one or the other. I think this was a solid finale, but not quite as good as the first book. I think some more editing and moving things around could’ve made it a long standalone book.

Rating: .5 stars

 

Audio Books: The audio book narrators for this series are Bruce Mann and Mhairi Morrison and overall, I wouldn’t exactly recommend them. Mhairi Morrison, who voices Nedra’s chapters, is the best narrator of the two and really brings some pain and depth to Nedra. Her accent is also very nice to listen to, although I’m not sure if it is an Irish/Welsh or English accent. The main reason why I’m hesitant to recommend the audio books is because of Bruce Mann’s narration, who does Grey. His voice sounds very dry and pompous at times and can really throw people off. I did get used to his tone of voice enough that I got through the audio books okay, but I wish they had gotten someone else to read his chapters. I would suggest listening to samples online to see if you like the narrators.

Overall Series Rating:

This is a standout YA fantasy series that really explores grief, desperation, death and moral choices. It is bleak, sad and full of raw emotions and dark magic. This isn’t for the faint of heart, so if you’re more of a sensitive reader, I would pass on this because of the content warnings. But I really applaud for what Beth Revis pulled off very well and I think this series is great overall. While I wish it could’ve been a little better, there’s so much to unpack and think about with this series. This was one of those stories that really made me examine the philosophical stuff that this book brings up. Revis is a fantastic writer and I can’t wait to read more from her in the future.