One Dark Window
- Author: Rachel Gillig
- Genre: Fantasy
- Publication Date: September 27, 2022
- Publisher: Orbit
- Series: The Shepherd King #1
Thank you to Orbit and Angela Man for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
CONTENT WARNING: blood, violence
Elspeth needs a monster. The monster might be her.
Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom of Blunder—she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets.
But nothing comes for free, especially magic.
When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure Blunder of the dark magic infecting it. Except the highwayman just so happens to be the King’s own nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in Blunder…and guilty of high treason.
A maiden must unleash the monster dark within to save her kingdom in this dark, lush gothic fantasy debut.
It took me about two chapters to discover that this was a book that I was going to fall in love with, and once I hit chapter three, I was absolutely hooked. I couldn’t put this book down, and was completely pulled into the story.
It’s a dark and atmospheric story that had such a fascinating and unique magic system. In Blunder, the magic is based on Providence Cards, which are limited and come with a heavy price. In addition, there’s a mist around the kingdom, and if exposed to it, people become infected and can develop magical powers of their own, for which they are killed. People who have magic as a result of infection are on a countdown, because they suffer from varying forms of degeneration as a cost of their powers.
“But, just as there were two edges to every blade, there were two sides to every Providence Card. Magic came at a cost.”
Elspeth was infected as a child and has her own magic, but it was kept hidden. She’s managed to keep it a secret for most of her life, but a select few know about it. And the Nightmare in her head has kept her safe this long. But her encounter with the highwayman changes everything as she gets drawn into a treasonous plot with none other than the nephew of the king and one of the most dangerous men in Blunder—the Captain of the Destriers, or the men charged with keeping order in the kingdom. A man who is actively committing treason and gets Elspeth to join his cause.
There’s an enemies to lovers subplot in the story, and it’s done perfectly. The connection between Elspeth and Ravyn feels completely natural as it develops, yet it doesn’t overshadow the story. In fact, it dovetails perfectly into the story as it goes, making it a beautifully done addition to the story that actually adds to the emotional depth of the main plot.
The dark, gothic elements of the story stand out, and this is gothic fantasy at its finest. Between the mist, the countdown towards Elspeth’s degeneration, the race to collect Providence Cards, figuring out the mystery of who the Nightmare really is, and trying not to get found out, I was constantly on the edge of my seat. The lush, engaging nature of the story, combined with the beautiful writing and the perfect pacing had me ignoring everything just to read this book. I loved Elspeth’s self-sufficient nature and inherent kindness, even as she’s fighting against a clock to her own destruction, yet she still worked to do what she felt was right.
Overall, this is a standout debut novel, full of action, an atmospheric setting, and a romance to dream about. The cliffhanger ending will have me preordering the sequel as soon as it is available, because this is a series to watch! Don’t miss out on this book.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 13
Categories: Book Review