When C.S. Pacat introduces the two sixteen-year-old protagonists of Dark Rise, each embodies elements of the Chosen One archetype, but with a clever riff: Will Kempen works as a humble dock boy, despite his bearing and patched clothing hinting at him belonging elsewhere in society… but it’s not that he doesn’t know where he came from, it’s that he steadfastly does not think about it. Violet Ballard, a biracial Indian bastard raised in her father’s London household, envies her half-brother his allegiance with revered businessman Simon Crenshaw… but he’s not the only one who has the strength to become Lord Simon’s right-hand man. In short, Will and Violet each know something that the reader doesn’t, yet they also have a lot to learn about how their respective heritages relate to the centuries-long, otherworldly war between the Stewards of the Light and the Dark King with his revenant army of shadows and Reborn.
This saga is both endless and ending; the last of the Stewards are pushing back against the Dark King’s long-planned return, and depending on how these new players affect the cyclical fight, they could either prolong the epic stalemate or finally push things into either blinding hope or black despair. The first in a new young adult historical fantasy series from the author of the beloved Captive Prince trilogy, Dark Rise relies heavily on the light-versus-dark shorthand, with not quite enough time spent in the gray areas—because when Pacat does acknowledge the lure of dark desires and the problems with purity, the story is at its most engaging.