Game of Thrones Meets Christian Fantasy - Jill Williamson Returns on an Epic Scale!

The Artist Librarian reviews Darkness Reigns:  Jill Williamson's latest epic fantasy features a sprawling cast of characters, and political intrigue that gives it a scale comparable to the wildly successful Game of Thrones series!
(c.) 2015 by Bethany House
Title: Darkness Reigns (The Kinsman Chronicles #1, Part 1) 
Author: Jill Williamson

Published: 2015 by Bethany House

About the Book:
"Part 1 of Jill Williamson's Epic Fantasy Series, The Kinsman Chronicles.

The god of the soil is furious. Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, earthquakes--everything points to his unhappiness. At least this is what the people of Armania in the Five Realms believe. Amidst the unsettling state of the world around them, the princes of Armania live their lives focused more on who will claim the throne after their sickly father, King Echad, dies. That is until Prince Wilek's concubine turns up dead--beside her, a bloodied message that seems to have come from the mother realms."

The Artist Librarian Review:
I've been following Jill Williamson's work ever since reading her Blood of Kings trilogy --a Christian fantasy series which instantly struck me for it's older target audience (upper teen - adult).  Set in the same story world as the Blood of Kings books, this prequel series has a more mature and grittier feel. Not to mention a sprawling cast of characters, political intrigue and such that give it a scale comparable to the wildly successful Game of Thrones series!

My favorite part of Williamson's books are her characters.  Darkness Reigns does not disappoint --the beginning of the book lists over 60 characters, though I don't think all of them appeared in this ebook.  Perhaps this character list is for the entire series?  Thank goodness for the list --I constantly referred to it while reading.  It can sometimes take a while for me to acclimate myself to a large cast and the world-building for this type of epic, high fantasy series, but I love being immersed like that.  However, this won't be everyone's cup of tea, so to speak. 

The third-person narrative switches between four characters: Wilek (the eldest son of King Echad), Mielle (a maid), Charlon (a woman searching for freedom), and Trevn (the youngest son of King Echad and my favorite).  Ironically, I was drawn to the teenage characters rather than the adult ones closer to my age --I don't know if that's just a reflection of me and my YA lit obsession or the fact that Williamson is known for strong YA characters.

The weakest point for me was the spiritual content.  There's definitely spiritual content, but most of it focused on multiple gods and goddesses followed by many of the populous.  I guess I was just looking for more "light" because it definitely felt like "darkness reigned."  Though not gratuitously graphic, the world these characters live in is a place where it is common for noblemen and royalty to take multiple wives and concubines and King Echad sends people to be sacrificed to his god, just to name a few.  A part of me was unsettled that this didn't feel like what I'm used to reading in the Christian fantasy genre.  However, another part of me was excited that Williamson and Bethany House are publishing for an older, more mature target audience. 

One of the things I've always admired about Williamson is that she doesn't shy away covering topics other Christian authors might avoid (e.g. her dystopian Safe Lands trilogy touched upon STDs, abortion, and teen pregnancy).  I heard that Williamson drew inspiration from the kingdoms of Judea and Israel in Old Testament --if so, much of the content that initially set me aback makes sense.

Darkness Reigns is the first of three e-books that will be collected into a print version next April, so  it does end without a complete conclusion.  However, I have confidence in Williamson's writing and  hope that there will be more light from Arman and perhaps other characters that will bring about a change in their world's ideals and mindsets.  Despite my little quibbles, I think Williamson's return to epic fantasy is off to a great start! 

The Heir War, Part II reviewed here!
The End of All Things, Part III reviewed here!

About the Author:
"Jill Williamson writes fantasy and science fiction for teens and adults. Jill grew up in Alaska, staying up and reading by the summer daylight that wouldn't go away. This led to a love of books and writing, and her debut novel, By Darkness Hid, won several awards and was named a Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror novel of 2009 by VOYA magazine. She loves giving writing workshops and blogs for teen writers at www.GoTeenWriters.com. She now lives in Oregon with her husband, two children, and a whole lot of deer. Visit her online at www.jillwilliamson.com."
[Disclosure: I received an ARC of this novel from the author for review purposes.]

What are some of your favorite fantasy series?  Would you prefer to get a novel in parts as e-books as they release or wait a year to get the print version?
Game of Thrones Meets Christian Fantasy - Jill Williamson Returns on an Epic Scale! Game of Thrones Meets Christian Fantasy - Jill Williamson Returns on an Epic Scale! Reviewed by The Artist Librarian on 12/01/2015 11:59:00 PM Rating: 5

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