Review: “Windsinger: A Darkhaven Novel” by A.F.E. Smith

Review: “Windsinger: A Darkhaven Novel” by A.F.E. Smith

A review by Vanessa.

Again I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to review this series. This is the third installment of the Darkhaven series, the first of which I reviewed in July 2015, and the second in Jan 2016.

Ayla Nightshade is the overlord of Darkhaven, the ruler of the city of Arkannen and all of Mirrorvale, mother of three small children, and wife to her captain of the Helm, Tomas Caraway. It is a lot to balance, especially when she is the only known Changer left in Mirrorvale, and her enemies are many. But she hopes to have one less enemy, that of the neighboring kingdom who has been the most recent trouble for her, Sol Kardis. After fending off attacks by their assassins a few years earlier, all Ayla really wants is to find a peace treaty with them and move on with living her life and helping her people. She wants to make Arkannen a thriving center for trade and commerce and give all of her people the chance at peaceful and prosperous lives. Indeed, Arkannen will be receiving a marvel of new technology from their neighboring kingdom of Parovia. The Windsinger is a giant airship which Ayla hopes will inspire her people in their own technological advances.

Tomas Caraway is happy to be the father of Ayla’s two small daughters and their adopted son Marlon. Though he still finds doubt in his ability to lead the Helm, he has been successful at recruiting some of the best and most loyal to aid him in protecting Ayla and his family. And he will need them the most when the emissary sent by Sol Kardis dies at the hands of a poison that seems like it could only have come from Ayla herself. Ree, Penn, and Zander have been serving in Arkannen since the events of several years past. Ree is a respected female member of the Helm. Despite his family’s hatred of Captain Caraway, Penn has proven to be a loyal Helmsman as well. But Zander, discovered as the son of a prominent Sol Kardis councilor, didn’t make it into the inner circle of trust or the Helm. But he serves as a fifth ring weapons master, and he has no desire to go home. With the death of the emissary from Sol Kardis, all of these loyal friends will have their own part to play in keeping Ayla and her young family safe, and protecting their home of Mirrorvale. Meanwhile, Tomas has some plans of his own and a spy that might help him along the way. There is treachery within the very halls of Darkhaven, maybe closer than even Tomas realizes. Can they avert war and disaster and find the real culprit in time?

Masterful world building abounds in this third installment to the Darkhaven series. The characters as always are multifaceted and engaging. Ayla’s strength and leadership is not at all hampered by her decision to marry Tomas Caraway. They are as always a team, where he is happy to support her as a ruler and she relies on his support and wisdom as any wise ruler would. Her physical abilities as a Changer make her the bigger, stronger, and more imposing character, but that is not a detriment to Tomas or any other character in the story. Tomas is a wonderfully flawed but lovable strength in Ayla’s life. Ree as the first and best female Helmsman has her struggles. As readers we get to admire her determination and independence as someone who is simply human and makes the best of the life she has made for herself. Even Penn and Zander get their perspective in the story, and we get to learn more about them. Penn is struggling with his separation from his family, and Zander’s experiences as essentially an immigrant in Mirrorvale are as relevant to our own world as any in the book. All of these weave together in a wonderfully fantastic read that does not disappoint.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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BOOK TOUR: Review: “Darkhaven” by A.F.E. Smith

Darkhaven by A.F.E. SmithA 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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Basic information

Book title: DARKHAVEN
Author: A.F.E. Smith
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release date: 2 July 2015 (ebook), 14 January 2016 (paperback)
Price: £1.99/$3.99 (ebook)

Publisher’s blurb

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.

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Author biography

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.

Author photo

A.F.E. Smith

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DARKHAVEN on Goodreads