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Into the Dark Lands

Into the Dark Lands, September 2005
Sundered Series Book 1
by Michelle Sagara West

Benbella
352 pages
ISBN: 193210058X
Trade Size (reprint)
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"...the rich, complex style seen in her Sun Sword series are evident..."

Fresh Fiction Review

Into the Dark Lands
Michelle Sagara West

Reviewed by Christine Bertz
Posted February 28, 2006

Fantasy

The war between the Dark Heart and the Bright Heart has been raging since the start of the world, and many warriors have fought and died on both sides; but among those who serve Lernan and stand against the darkness, Erin, half-mortal great-granddaughter of the Bright Heart, is unique. Warrior and healer, her nature is conflicted, for she feels the pain of ally and enemy alike; and though she is called to heal pain where she finds it, she is unable to tap her true potential save when her life is in peril.

Nonetheless, when the First Servant of Lernan bestows upon her the office of Sarillorn, sole vessel of the god's power, Erin accepts. She cannot know that even the First of Lernan pities the path Erin must walk: She is captured by Stefanos, First Servant of the Enemy, a being who derives power from the pain of the victims he tortures. Mystified as to why Stefanos continues to leave her alive, she gradually learns more than she wishes about the immortal man who is slowly engulfing the world in darkness. Taken into the heart of the dark city of Rennath, she sees the evil delivered by Stefanos' hand. Nonetheless, Erin fears for the conquered slaves, not for herself -- except when she is in Stefanos' presence, for she is drawn to him despite the darkness at his core... or, perhaps, because of it. As time passes, Erin begins to learn of the light within the heart of darkness... and of the darkness within the light.

This re-publication of Mrs. West's first novel is a particularly interesting read for those familiar with her later works. The beginnings of the rich, complex style seen in her Sun Sword series are evident in Into the Dark Lands, as well as her thematic exploration of the blurred line between good and evil. Although her style has clearly matured over the years, readers will find little with which to take umbrage in this "younger" work of literature. Though Erin, as a heroine, is less moving than she might be, the story in which she is caught up is sufficiently intriguing to make up for any awkwardness on the part of Erin's character. Stefanos is far more compelling, and masterfully presented to be both protagonist and antagonist simultaneously.

Be warned: This is not a light read, and Mrs. West does not pull punches. The world she paints is a harsh one, and the tone of this book is very dark. However, in keeping with its theme, the darkness is not unmitigated, and the final pages mingle hope with dread. It is a recipe sure to bring readers back for the second and third installation of the trilogy.

Learn more about Into the Dark Lands

SUMMARY

A gifted healer and fierce warrior, Erin has been a Servant of the Bright Heart her entire life, fighting for millennia against the enemies of her people, the Servants of the Dark Heart. After she has a life-altering vision that reveals that the end of the world is quickly approaching, Erin is chosen to be the champion of Light--and the enemy of Darkness. Embarking on a difficult journey into the stronghold of the Dark Heart, Erin discovers that no magical sword can save her, and hers is no simple quest. An epic battle begins here, with her personal struggle upon which the fate of a world rests.


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