A review by Vanessa.
First I would like to thank the author A.E. Smith for allowing me the wonderful opportunity to read this book.
The Changers of Darkhaven have ruled over the country of Mirrorvale for centuries. Their family’s rare ability to change their form into an elemental creature has secured their reign. But despite that, Florentyne Nightshade has run into a problem. His two grown up children aren’t fit to rule. Myrren, his pureblood son, has never shown any signs of having the gift. Ayla, his half-blood daughter, can change but being a half-blood isn’t her only flaw… her creature form is not one of the five pure elemental forms. But Changer blood is Changer blood, and Florentyne wants Ayla to rule.
Ayla Nightshade has never wanted to rule over Darkhaven. She loves her older brother. Myrren is the only one who never looked down on her for being a half-blood. But her father is ruthless in pursuing want he wants, even if it means locking her up until she agrees to his demands. Myrren Nightshade cares for his little sister. He knows what an utter disappointment he is to his father; he will not fail Ayla. But when he helps her escape, that same night his father is murdered by a Changer. The only one left is Ayla. Ayla knows that she must find a way to prove her innocence, to prove that there must be another Changer among them. But she just might find herself looking for help in the most unlikely of places…..
By far my favorite aspect about this book is the full contingent of rich characters. This book shines with all of the best facets of a great ensemble cast of characters, which can sometimes be difficult to achieve. Each character has their own background and motivations but the fullness and depth of the ensemble is not at all overwhelming. Readers will get a bad guy they will love to hate; Ayla is a heroine who is strong and likeable but still flawed; there is an antihero who doesn’t realize he is actually a hero; the most legendary warrior around is a woman; and Myrren is a reluctant leader who does not know his own worth.
All of this is set against the backdrop of the city of Arkannen, at the center of which resides the Darkhaven stronghold. The city is almost a character in itself. It is described as six concentric rings, each within the next, surrounding the center castle. Each ring is described in detail and carries it’s own personality and attributes that would make for a very fascinating place to visit surely. The reader cannot help but be drawn in by such an amazing world in which the characters wander. The city runs on symbolism and ritual. Each person has a place, and each place has a meaning. The backdrop is beautiful, the characters are engaging, and although you might see the third act twist coming, Smith still provides plenty of surprises and intrigue to leave me eagerly waiting for what’s next.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
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DARKHAVEN by A.F.E. Smith
Book title: DARKHAVEN
Author: A.F.E. Smith
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release date: 2 July 2015 (ebook), 14 January 2016 (paperback)
Price: £1.99/$3.99 (ebook)
Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.
When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?
Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.
A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.
What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.