ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Cover art illustrated by: Felix Ortiz
Cover art designed by: STK.Kreations
Blacklight Born by Alexander Darwin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: The Combat Codes Saga (Book #3 of 3)
Genre: Science fiction, Dystopia, Martial Arts
Pages: 379 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 14th July 2021 by Insight Forge Press (Self-published)
To my own bafflement, I finally finished reading a series for the first time this year.
Yes, I’m shocked at this revelation myself. I used to be a binge reader, and I used to be a reader focused on finishing a series before moving on to something else. But lately, with so many new books/series I want to read, it’s hard for me to stay put. But, for the second half of this year, I’m determined to finish more series I’ve started; Blacklight Born by Alexander Darwin is the first kill. Also, I would like to first mention that the cover art and design of this trilogy are striking and distinctive. Kudos to Felix Ortiz and Shawn T. King.
“We’ve got to move forward… Some days are good, some bad. Doesn’t matter; we keep moving forward. Sometimes, though, we need to take one step backwards to fix what’s wrong. Sometimes, what’s weighing us down needs fixing before we can move forward again.”
Blacklight Born is the third and final book in The Combat Codes Saga by Alexander Darwin; an MMA inspired sci-fi trilogy I’ve enjoyed. What started as a very straightforward underdog story has definitely changed now. Whether it works for the readers or not, Darwin is an author that’s not afraid to try something different with his books. Admittedly, there were some storytelling structure decisions made by Darwin that didn’t click with me. The first half of Blacklight Born is told almost exclusively through Murray’s perspective, and this section was one of the great parts of the novel. However, there’s repercussion from the previous installment that made the longevity of Murray’s section slightly backfired on me, and that’s Murray’s flashback and my disconnection with Cego.
“Sometimes, we need to pick our fights. Sometimes, the fight isn’t the one in front of us.”
It’s not that I have problems with Murray’s flashback, but the constant back and forth between the past and present in every Murray’s chapter didn’t seem to add anything for me other than narrative disjointed. But Murray’s flashback and the present story itself were good on their own, so there’s that. As for Cego, Cego was the main character of The Combat Codes, and he still played a role in Grievar’s Blood. But his appearance in Grievar’s Blood was so minimal in comparison; the second book of this trilogy was more about Sol and The Slayer. By the time the story in Blacklight Born shifted to Cego as the main character again, I must say that I’ve lost quite a lot of interest in his character due to being separated from his POV longer than I preferred. I personally think that The Slayer was more intriguing, and I wish we have more POV from him after reading his story in Grievar’s Blood.
“There are many middling Grievar who blame others for their failures. These Grievar are blind to their own weakness, they cannot see their failures as fault of their own, and so they are forever confined to mediocrity.”
As for the actions, the high quality of the combat sequence is something that Darwin maintained throughout the trilogy. Darwin knows his martial arts, and the accessible prose enhanced the quality of the flow and immersion in the fight scenes. Throughout the trilogy, there has been a lot of buildup leading to the final confrontations that occurred in the last few chapters of this novel. And the battle did live up to the expectations; Darwin delivered the most climactic setting in the entire trilogy. However, the conclusion of this final battle itself was, in my opinion, incredibly anti-climactic. I totally expected more out of the climax sequences, and I do believe that the ending could’ve used one or two more chapters for it to feel more satisfying.
“A musician in training may believe there only to be seven notes on their lyre, and an apprentice painter might only see twelve central colors. But the masters see beyond that, they can decipher the myriad of mixtures to produce harmonious melodies and glorious artworks. Each Grievar has only four limbs and a head, and yet using these appendages in combination, an infinite number of techniques are at a master’s disposal.”
Overall, despite having some mixed feelings towards this novel, I do believe that Blacklight Born was a good conclusion to The Combat Codes Saga, a series about friendship, identity, and redemption. I have faith that Darwin’s next series will be superior to The Combat Codes Saga, and I’ll be looking forward to it.
“Though one often returns to the past to learn from mistakes, they must remain feather-footed there. Treading too heavily in memories, dredging up either joy or regret, will only serve to impede the path of progression.”
The Combat Codes Saga: 11/15 stars
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
I also have a Booktube channel
Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing!
My Patrons: Alfred, Annabeth, Ben, Blaise, Devin, Diana, Dylan, Edward, Ellen, Gary, Hamad, Helen, Jimmy Nutts, Jennifer, Joie, Luis, Lufi, Melinda, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas, Sarah, Sarah, Seth, Shaad, Summer, Wendy, Wick, Zoe.