Darien Lauchlin was ready to give up his life to protect the lands of the Rhen and save the soul of the woman he loved. But he damned himself in the process and now he has to pay the price. Even if it means turning against everyone he had cared about.
Set two years after Darkmage, Darklands continues the story by having Darien brought back, but this time in service to the very people he had spent his life training to fight. Given the task of leading the people of the Darklands into the lands of the Rhen to escape a potential cataclysm, he is forced to re-evaluate everything he believed. The more he learns about the Darklands and it’s people, the more he is driven to question his previous perspective on them. At the same time, he is continually confronted by people, particularly his guide, who fear and hate him for the destruction he wrought against the last army to approach the Rhen.
Darien’s conflicts are the core of the book but the supporting characters have their own crises as well. Some are still adjusting to their new abilities, while Meiran, Darien’s former love has to deal with the knowledge that he sacrificed himself to save her and his apparent betrayal of their cause. Their reunion/confrontation towards the end of the book is definitely wrenching for both of them and brilliantly written.
What Darklands does most successfully is challenge the beliefs (and assumptions) of the main characters, by painting the other side of the conflict we saw in Darkmage. But there is still plenty of action and intrigue, as well as an expansion of the world, both by exploring the Enemy and introducing (or re-introducing) some new players in the conflict.
My main problem with the book was where it ended. It was an appropriate place to stop but I couldn’t help wishing there was more. That aside, I really enjoyed coming back to this world as well as the complete subversion of my expectations for it.
Book 4 can’t come soon enough.