Katy Rose Pool’s “Age of Darkness” trilogy keeps getting better and better with “As the Shadow Rises”, a thrilling middle installment that will leave you wanting more.
Much like its predecessor, it’s a relentless and exciting ride that readers will struggle to put down once they’ve started. Its characters remain complex and compelling, and each (well, almost) goes through significant changes, ending the novel in an intriguing new place in the story. And it leaves us all desperately wanting more.
Sure, As the Shadow Rises ends on what is essentially a(nother) cliffhanger, and the darkness that floods the end of the story is enough to make anyone wonder how the final book in the trilogy can possibly wrap things up in a way that feels satisfying. Further, there are so many near-misses here that it seems as though it should already be impossible for every major character to survive this part of the story, let alone the next one. So, we should probably start preparing ourselves for that eventuality now.
Pool’s “Age of Darkness” series is a complicated high-fantasy tale of religion, faith, prophecy, war, death, and more. As As the Shadow Rises begins, kingdoms begin to fall to the doomsday cult known as the Witnesses, the Order of the Last Light attempts to stop an age-old prophecy that foretells the coming of a new age of darkness.
Much like There Will Come a Darkness, this sequel continues its deft balancing of five different POV characters – Beru, Jude, Anton, Ephyra, and Hassan. Though several of these characters’ stories have begun to intersect – and all do so by the end of the novel – they’re each on their own journeys, with goals and agendas that don’t often align with one another’s.
Hassan, now a king in hiding in the occupied city of Nazirah, is willing to do anything to get his kingdom back. Even if that means betraying those closest to him. Ephyra is on a search for a mysterious item that can allegedly restore her undead sister Beru to life. But Beru herself is busy trying to atone for all the lives her zombie-like existence as a revenant has taken from others. And now that Anton is officially the Last Prophet, what does that mean for Jude – who’s lost his Grace – and for the other followers of his Order of the Last Light?
Elsewhere, the Hierophant and his creepy Witnesses still seek to oppress or exterminate the Graced and are on their own hunt for a series of magical objects that can supposedly help unlock the gate to the end of the world. Several of our lead characters are also prophesied to play key roles in this apocalyptic coming of darkness, and though they try their best to fight their fates, some are not always successful.
That Pool manages to so easily balance these different voices and stories is as commendable as ever, particularly as the world of this series begins to get messier and additional characters – from infamous treasure hunters to presumedly abandoned characters from the first novel and even old gods – begin to take on larger roles within its canvas.
The story is full of secrets, twists, and surprising alliances, along with a handful of unexpected romances. You’ll likely have favorites, stories you care about more than others, and some character decisions you question. For me, Jude and Anton’s growing closeness is particularly charming, as is their undercover trip to the city of Endarrion to chase Jude’s lost sword. Beru’s story is one of both acceptance and tragedy, and Hassan’s is full of well-intentioned if utterly avoidable mistakes.
Unfortunately, Ephyra’s story is the weakest of the lot, and she alone feels a bit as though she’s stuck in a holding pattern for much of the novel. She gets little to do besides obsess over her sister, but in such a way that doesn’t really allow her to confront much of the wrong that she’s done or grow from it. (Particularly when her impulses seem to take her right back down the same dark paths over and over again.) Here’s hoping there’s a more satisfying arc for her waiting in the third book of this trilogy.
In a YA landscape that’s full of multi-arc fantasy stories, the “Age of Darkness” series is a true stand-out, and one that’s well worth your time to dig into this Fall.
As the Darkness Rises is available now. Have you read Katy Rose Pool’s series? Let us know in the comments!