Jan 15, 2009: First and foremost: Darkside is fun. It’s a rollicking fantasy adventure that starts with a bang and doesn’t slow down. It has humor, likable characters, and an engaging first person narrator.
The summary sums up the story well (I know, who would have thunk it, right?) so there’s really not much for me to recap. I will comment that Darkside’s plot isn’t really anything out of the ordinary—when you boil it down it’s a pretty straightforward fantasy quest. Regular guy learns he has powers and is far more important in the grand scheme of things than he ever imagined, joins up with a motley bunch, and sets off on a journey to save the world and/or the damsel(s) in distress. The story’s strength isn’t in breaking away from the mold, it’s in presenting it in such a way that you embrace every element because you’re just having too much fun to not enjoy vampires, faeries, troll, ogres, and goblins (oh my). The main character is an "Eternal"—someone who "dies" only to discover that he can’t die. And yes, I waited for a Highlander reference and reveled in it when it finally came.
This is not to say that Darkside doesn’t have its serious moments, however. The end of Chapter 16, in particular, is heartbreaking. For the most part, though, it’s pretty lighthearted. There are lot of moments of "we’re doomed" and "I have a bad feeling about this" but the characters rarely let it really get them down. I did sometimes find the character of Josh to be a little too jocular, considering it’s his wife or daughter who are in mortal peril for about 90% of the tale.
When I reflected on the story, in preparation for review, I noted that the author did a very good job of presenting a main character that is strong enough to carry you through the story. I mainly cared about the secondary characters because James cared for them. Everything is filtered through his lens and done so effectively that I don’t really stop to think, "Hey, would I care about Leanne all that much? Meh, probably not." Instead I was completely in James’ mindset and felt real concern when Leanne was in danger. Even though I expected the story to turn out well, I felt James’ concern when things weren’t going so hot. Moral of the story: an engaging narrator/main character is gold.
On the technical side: the writing is very good. I only noticed one typo in the entire thing. The site is readable and chapter navigation is a breeze.
But wait! There’s more! "Darkside" has a complete sequel, not posted online, but if you email the author he’ll send you a copy. Bonus.
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