The Darkest Magic: Morgan Rhodes

Last night I finished The Darkest Magic, sequel to A Book of Spirits and Thieves by Morgan Rhodes, which I’d reviewed earlier. TDM follows Cryst and Becca Hatcher, their dysfunctional family, and how they tie into Adam and Farrell Grayson as well as the mysterious Hawkspear Society. And, of course, there are appearances from the enigmatic Markus King, leader of the Hawkspear Society and a very bad man; also, we go back to Mytica to recoup with Maddox, Barnabus, and the newly-introduced Leina and Al.
Al is a talking head.
I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s quite a bit to discuss about this novel.

So first off, I want to say that this book was a little slow. I got distracted a lot while reading it and kind of had to force myself to keep turning pages, but this seems to happen a lot with Ms. Morgan Rhodes’s books. They always pick up at the end, and this one delivered as well—the ending was a lot more interesting than the beginning, which is a lot of building up to a climax point, but very slowly. You have to suspend your disbelief while reading about the stories of all these characters though, especially with the ones that are in the real world, modern day Toronto. It’s kind of strange to think that there’s this entire secret society made of the rich and cultured, and they murder people, and no one has caught onto them yet… and also that no one has witnessed rich, famous kids like Farrell Grayson murdering people… and also how every crazy action scene in this book takes place in the same city. You’d think that the cops would have them on some kind of radar, right? Because so much stuff happens to the rich in this city, and I mean, if there’s anyone you want to protect it’s the rich people. But cops are nonexistent in this universe. Also, in this book, there’s a scene where armed gunmen storm a charity event that’s being held by the Grayson family, attended by a bunch of important people, half of whom are members of the Hawkspear Society… but there’s no security? Or their security is at least, super-sub-par, because this group of gunmen just waltz right in. Although the main gunman is revealed to be some kind of ancient mythical person that is even older than the immortal Markus King, and he’s powerful enough to kill people by looking at them, but you have to wonder how no one noticed this guy living in the city. He claims that he’s been around for long enough to watch Markus and know what he cares about so that he can complete his goal of destroying everything Markus loves—and no one’s realized that he’s here in all this time. I mean, the guy’s got eyes that are completely black. I would think that this would warrant some suspicion or concern from anyone but… nope.

Okay, but I think I’m nitpicking. It’s important to remember that this is the same universe that has mythical planes of existence parallel to the real world, and there are doorways between our world and Mytica, and there are gods and goddesses and all kinds of crazy powerful people traversing between the two worlds, so it’s not out of the question for all the stuff that I mentioned above to be happening. It’s just funny to me that Toronto, Canada is this hub of magical conquistadors.

What did I like about the book? There were some really good things. The story of Crystal Hatcher and Farrell Grayson was interesting; he’s bound to Markus King, who gives him the order to kill Crystal. Obviously, Farrell doesn’t want to do that—he claims that she doesn’t deserve to die, but we all know that there’s a lil ~something~ brewing between those two. Ms. Rhodes seems to have a fondness for hate turned love relationships; if you can recall, Magnus and Princess Cleo have a very similar relationship in the Falling Kingdoms series. There’s this theme of the bad boy turned good and the sacrificial, pure-hearted heroine falling in love—not that it’s a bad thing, just interesting to note.

Anyways, I liked the twist that Leina was actually Goddess Cleiona. She and Barnabas fall for each other as the spirited witch and the roguish mercenary (?? I’m not really sure what Barnabas is) but as her trickery comes to light, things collapse into a downward spiral. Barnabas hates her with supposed magnification, and Cleiona is aloof and indifferent. You can tell through various interactions, though, that she still holds some feelings for the man—and it seems that these are reciprocated. The final twist was really unexpected though; the discovery that Cleiona has possession of Eva’s body, untouched by decay or time, and carefully preserved within her castle. Maddox has the ability to bring her back—but of course, this is where the book ends and we’ll have to follow the sequel to see what happens from there.

I think the last character that I want to cover is Maddox. To be honest, I skimmed through a lot of the story that took place in Mytica; it didn’t interest me. The adventures of the Mytica crew isn’t nearly as detailed in its treachery and emotional appeal as the story taking place in Toronto, and the characters seemed pretty flat and uninteresting. Besides that, Maddox and Becca’s love story is really basic and one of those typical “love at first sight” situations, so I felt like I knew exactly how it was going to end. I have to admit that I was starting to get tired of this crew when in the final pages of the book, Maddox witnesses Goddess Valoria’s man, the same assassin who murdered his mother, snapping Becca’s neck. In his fury, he murders the thousands of soldiers that Valoria has stormed Cleiona’s castle with, simply by using his necromancer magic. Apparently this is a Really Big Deal, because Valoria immediately begins to beg for her life.
This is when Maddox gets interesting.
Something happens when he kills all those men; Barnabas and Cleiona claim earlier in the book that magic has corrupting qualities, and it appears that for all intents and purposes, Maddox has been truly corrupted. His eyes are as black as the night sky and, since we’re reading from his point of view, we can see that he feels indifferent to everything that’s happened. He resurrects Becca Hatcher but without all the relief that we would expect, simply offering her a small smile and mentioning that he’s glad that she’s alive.

I like this Maddox.

Everyone’s kind of antsy around him after that. He just drifts along like a god, blank and emotionless and wondering why he feels so cold. I’m going to state that I probably have a biased interest in him because this version of Maddox reminds me of the Outsider from Dishonored, the game. The Outsider is an immortal creature that exists before eternity and through eternity, one of those mythical curiosities that can see into the past and the future and simply watches from above, once in a while meddling with the affairs of mortal men to cause chaos for his own entertainment. I wouldn’t be upset about an Outsider-inspired Maddox; in fact, I think that I’d look forward to that in the next book.

So in conclusion, the book was slow but it was okay. It seems that with Morgan Rhodes’s books, you have to struggle through a few dragging parts to get to the really good stuff. She makes you work for the entertainment, though I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. On the other hand, the events that take place in her stories are spaced really well; it doesn’t happen all at once, nor does it take forever for the next major part of the story to advent. I think I’ll probably read the next book if I happen upon it, whenever it comes out; this is the kind of series that I would read on my downtime and keep up with casually, which is probably a good thing.

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