ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Cover art by: Books Covered
Of Darkness and Light by Ryan Cahill
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Bound and the Broken (Book #2 of 4)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pages: 710 pages (Hardcover edition)
Published: 31st December 2021 by Ryan Cahill (Self-published)
Of Darkness and Light is a vastly superior sequel to Of Blood and Fire
“There is nothing more important in the darkness than a ray of light.”
The jump in quality felt almost unbelievable, especially considering that Of Darkness and Light is released only nine months after Of Blood and Fire. What happened within these nine months? Did Ryan Cahill go to planet Namek to level himself up to becoming a Super Saiyan? Actually… Cahill is in New Zealand, so he probably had a first-hand experience becoming a ranger in Hobbiton instead. But hey, whatever magical thing you accessed, keep your secrets. I’m just happy to be immersed in a new fantasy book, and immersed I did. Joking aside, though, if you’ve been active in the self-published fantasy community, there’s probably Of Zero and Nihil chance that you haven’t heard about this series. I enjoyed the first book and the first novella in The Bound and the Broken series, but this second main novel is a huge step up in every possible way. It is always a great feeling to encounter an author that improved with each book. Also, just a reminder, Cahill included a detailed summary of the series so far at the beginning section of the novel. And as I always say, that should be a norm in a fantasy series. So thank you so much for that. May your ink never be dried and your pen never dull.
“There will never be a point where you stop learning, young apprentice. That is a simple truth of life.”
The story in Of Darkness and Light continues immediately from where Of Blood and Fire ended. And let me tell you this. The first 10% of the novel has already engaged me more than the entire Of Blood and Fire. You can tell instantly within the first chapter how much the author has grown in his craft as a storyteller. Of Darkness and Light begins with a non-stop battle in the first 10%, and it felt vivid and addictive. And that quality is left intact throughout the entire book. One of the things that made Of Darkness and Light so superior compared to its predecessor is how the series has started to feel like its own. Similar to how The Eye of the World felt so similar to The Lord of the Rings, Of Blood and Fire to me felt like a mix of several popular classic fantasy series blended into one. That is a good thing (or not) based on each reader’s taste. Personally, it is a good thing as I always crave classic fantasy series told with a modern narrative. But what could make this kind of series more awesome is when the author could transform their series into something that felt distinct and their own while still borrowing all tropes and elements from these popular classic fantasy series. And that’s what happened with Of Darkness and Light.
“Fate is fluid. It changes with every decision that is made. It is utterly out of our hands, and completely within our control at the same time.”
Not only Of Darkness and Light feature an expansive world-building that heightened the scope of the series to a more epic scale, but also a larger cast of characters now. If you ever feel confused about who’s who, maybe because some of the characters’ names can get too similar, I think the glossary and character list at the end of the book will be helpful. I think Cahill did a wonderful job in differentiating the characters. Light versus darkness and having hope against all odds are still the core themes of the series. However, one element in this novel that made the characters develop incredibly was how much of their past, present, and accumulated pain continuously shaped their characterizations. Each character deal with pain differently. Some became stronger from it, some became better people, some turned malicious, and many other outcomes. And this is emphasized throughout the entire narrative.
“Because the scars built me. Each one is a reminder of the pain I endured and the pain I overcame. That is what yours are, as well. Cherish the pain. Let it bind to who you are. You will be the better for it.”
Calen Bryer was undoubtedly the main character that developed the most here. It is sad to not see him interact with Dann in this book, but his interactions and deep relationship with Valerys superbly make up for it. It reminded me of the time I read Dragon Mage by M.L. Spencer. The relationship that a Draleid has with their dragons exceed any other form of relationship. They are bounded through their soul, after all. It is also rewarding to see the result of Calen’s struggle in trying to be what everyone hoped him to be.
“Growing up, he had always adored the stories of noble heroes going off to war and hearing of the incredible feats of heroism achieved by one man against all odds. Every time the bards told those stories, Calen hung on every word they said. But now he knew there was a difference between hearing the stories and living them.”
Honestly, the same thing also applied to other POV characters in the book. Other than Calen and Valerys, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying Ella and Farda’s story. Ella was a character that I didn’t care about in the first book, but her storyline here was one of the most unputdownable ones. Aside from Calen, Ella, Farda, Dahn, Rist, Dahlen (admittedly, I didn’t care much about him), and Aeson, we also have Kallinvar from The Fall plus Arden’s POV chapters. I could spend more words describing the narrative that Cahill did right with these characters, but that would make this review even longer than it already is. Instead, I want to gush a bit about one of the new POV characters introduced in Of Darkness and Light: Dayne Ateres.
“We honour the dead not by how we mourn their death, but by how we live on despite it.”
Dayne Ateres has 7 chapters in Of Darkness and Light, but he’s definitely my favorite character of the series; the efficiency and effectiveness of the narrative in Dayne’s chapters were insanely good. I felt thoroughly invested in his character right from the first chapter, and every POV chapter of his made up some of my favorite sections of the entire novel. Dayne returned to his home of Valtara after twelve years (his exploits during these twelve years might be told in The Exile novella) to find things in the Ateres family have deteriorated. Feeling regretful over his absence, Dayne’s determination to redeem himself was so well-written that it tugged at my heartstrings. And these praises aren’t exclusive to Dayne. The entire Ateres family and their conflict plus Mera were immediately compelling right from their first appearance.
“Mera always had the biggest heart Dayne had ever known. It was a large part of why he had loved her. She had been beautiful—still was—but it was not her beauty that drew him in. Beauty faded with age, yielding to the incessant abrasion of time. It was fleeting. The heart’s capacity for love was the true gauge of one’s soul.”
It was never explained in detail what occurred in Dayne’s past, but the characterizations implemented here were enough to make me think of him as my favorite character of the series so far. Have I mentioned that his POV chapters have a lot of wyverns? Now you know. Dayne’s story hasn’t converged with Calen’s yet, but it’s only a matter of time until it happens. I predict that will be in the third novel, Of War and Ruin, but before that’s released, I still have The Exile, a novella about Dayne before his appearance in Of Darkness and Light to read. I am, without a doubt, happy about this. By blade and by blood, I am yours, children of House Ateres.
“You both hide what you should not. You need not smile, nor frown. Those are the whims of emotions, usually born to satisfy the expectations of others. But wear your markings with pride. You have earned them.”
Whether it’s plot, pacing, characterizations, actions, writing, or scope, Of Darkness and Light is simply better than Of Blood and Fire and The Fall in every aspect. I highly recommend this series to readers who love classic fantasy told with a modern voice. Especially even more if you are someone who loves the Ta’veren in The Wheel of Time, crave an adult fantasy version of Eragon, or the riveting pace and actions in The Faithful and the Fallen. Dive into The Bound and the Broken as soon as possible. The author is hard at work right now to complete the series by the end of 2023. And do remember, if you have not started this series yet, you can read The Fall, the prequel novella to the entire series, by subscribing to the author’s newsletter.
“There are demons within us that we must face. They only ever surface when we are at our lowest because they are not strong enough to challenge us at our highest.”
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