3 reasons Dark Rise belongs on your Fall fantasy must-read list

Dark Rise by C.S. Pacat. Image courtesy HarperCollins
Dark Rise by C.S. Pacat. Image courtesy HarperCollins /

This Fall is an embarrassment of riches for readers who love complicated fantasy stories. From retellings of popular fairytales to complex adventures in magical new lands, there’s truly something for everyone who looks to the pages of a good book to take them away from the reality of our own world.

Dark Rise is the latest fantasy novel from C.S. Pacat, the author of the popular Captive Prince seriesAnd while the book may not feature a groundbreaking new setting or overly complicated new characters, this is a good versus evil fantasy saga done extremely right, with a few gut-punching twists thrown on top.

The story follows sixteen-year-old Will Kempton, a young boy who has spent months on the run, trying to avoid the pack of mysterious men who killed his mother. Young tomboy Violet wants nothing more than to follow in her brother’s footsteps and go work for Simon, who controls the docks with an iron fist. But when their paths cross unexpectedly, their lives will change forever as they’re introduced to a hidden world where light battles dark, and a band of Stewards are charged with protecting the modern world from a threat of a much more magical one.

The novel is almost shockingly dense, clocking in at over 400 pages with a sizable cast of major characters involved. Yet, the story is also fabulously propulsive, a tale of destiny across time, friendship across pre-determined boundaries, and the desire to become something more than what you’ve been told you must be.

Here are just three reasons you should make sure to add Dark Rise to your winter must-read list this month.

Dark Rise features tremendously detailed worldbuilding

Though the story of Dark Rise is set in a normal nineteenth-century magic-less version of London, that world is built on top of a much older one, where magic existed, unicorns were real, and a dangerous Dark King was trying to subjugate the world using all manner of terrifying creatures and artifacts.

That Dark King is now trying to return, and Will may well be the only one that can stop him – but first, he’ll have to learn all about a world he never realized existed – the monsters who hunted it, the Stewards who kept it safe, and everything in between. Pacat deftly builds a fantasy world that feels rich and lived-in, part unbelievable, part terrifying, and part something you wish you could see for yourself.

The Stewards – and their mysterious out-of-time Hall where they train and live – are especially intriguing, and if Pacat wants us to give us a prequel about Justice I would not say no.

Dark Rise has a compelling friendship at its center

The heart of Dark Rise lies in the friendship that blossoms between Will and Violet — two people from very different circumstances, and with very different connections to the old world of magic. Both desperate to prove themselves, both searching for a place to belong. Their friendship feels as though it’s preordained and I suppose it is, in a sense…just maybe not quite in the way you think.

But their friendship is effortlessly compelling and you’ll fall in love with both characters – separately and as a unit fairly quickly.

Dark Rise isn’t afraid to take narrative risks

Dark Rise is a classic story of good versus evil, and it’s full of recognizable character types and narrative tropes. There’s nothing wrong with that – tropes are tropes for a reason and the power of a good tale lies primarily in the telling of it. And Pacat is very good at the telling, despite the fact that this story contains many familiar beats, and manages to pull out several genuine surprises along the way.

Moreover, Dark Rise is a rare YA fantasy novel that is willing to feature real stakes. Characters die and others turn out to not quite be who you thought they were. The novel leaves real questions about how the story could possibly continue – even though we know this is a trilogy and more books are coming. And it leaves you wondering what on earth will happen next.

Next. The Wolf and the Woodsman is complicated and evocative. dark

Dark Rise is now available. Let us know if you’ll be adding this fantasy to your TBR pile!