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Publisher's Summary

Compelled to obey the dark god he pledged his soul to, Darien finds himself tasked with delivering the people of the Black Lands from under the curse of darkness which shrouds the skies. With the enemy mage Azár, Darien sets out across a barren landscape to assume his place as the leader of a people who despise him.

As he journeys deeper into the shadowed waste, Darien is confronted with difficult truths that force him to question every loyalty he has ever held. For there, in the brutal proving grounds of the north, Darien will be inexorably forged into the most dangerous adversary the Rhen has ever faced.

Darklands is the second installment in the darkly epic fantasy series The Rhenwars Saga. If you like morally gray heroes and mind-boggling plot twists, then you’ll love Spencer’s award-winning series.

©2017 ML Spencer (P)2019 ML Spencer

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  • MelHay
  • 25-11-2019

Return to the Rhen, with a different view

*I was given this free review copy of this audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

Simon returns to voice the second book. Yes! I've found he fit Darien and the other characters for me in voice and accent. I do enjoy listening to him vocalize the story here.

Two years since the Well of Tears was opened and closed. And the Well is opened again, to help a people raise to the place they should be.

We get the story from a few different POV's, which is great as there are things happening around The Rhen at the same time. We see all the actions and events unfold. One of the characters we get to spend time in their head is Meiran. Hmm. I liked her. Wanted to like her more. But she shows a prejudice that rubs me wrong. She doesn't want to believe what Darien or Quinlan have to say, because they are demons. She doesn't want to be open to what could be possible with a nation of people either. She feels as though she is a hypocrite in what her power focus is and what she won't do, heal. I like that she's written this way. She has seen different things than Darien has seen, and that affects her differently.

We get a view of a different part of the world compared to the first book. And of the people that were seen as the enemy in the first book. There is more to the world and story than what people believe or know. We get to see that.

We see how the actions taken in the first book leave relationships and the consequences that need to be faced. It's interesting seeing the Well of Tears opened for what was thought to be the enemy in the first book. This "enemy" has been suffering for a thousand years with the curse created in the prologue story.

I was surprised to see Darien and a few others return in this book after the ending of the first book. I was thrilled to see Darien back though. There are moments in the book that I wasn't 100% sure as to why something was happening. This could be because it's audio and I missed it, or maybe not clarified yet. I'm not sure which one.

We learn of why the Well of Tears was created in the first place. There is a new danger for all things made of magic, and that includes the mages. Darien also gets placed with the people he saw as an enemy due to the way he was raised. Darien sees how the others live, and has to defend and help them.

I'm ready to journey with our characters to see what the outcome is with the magic and the people in the darklands.

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  • C.T.
  • 05-06-2019

Amazing work

DARKLANDS is the third novel in the Rhenwars series that is sort of an inversion of the Wheel of Time. The story begins with the protagonists doing their absolute best to fight the various forces of darkness as well as prevent the end of the world as their methods become more extreme, only for them to gradually come to sympathize with the so-called evil doers as their understanding of the universe expands.

in the previous novels, we've had protagonists Branden and Darien break out all the stops in order to prevent underworld god Xerys' forces from overrunning the world. However, Branden's brother Quin and now Darien were both forced to swear unbreakable oaths to serve the hellish deity that have forced them onto the other side. Transformed into, essentially, Ringwraiths, they have been given the task of leading the people of the Darklands from their life in the eternal night.

Rather than find a bunch of Satan-worshiping evil doers, they find an advanced culture which is always living hand-to-mouth due to the fact they have been forced to live in a desert with no sunlight. They can only survive due to the presence of magic and wish to escape their hellish domiciles. Darien's sympathy soon swells, especially as he discovered he's murdered legions of people who just wanted to secure a better life for their descendants.

Dairen's former lover, Meiran, is troubled by this development because she has a one-dimensional view of the conflict as one between good versus evil. She's very much Wrong Genre SavvyTM in that she thinks she's in a Tolkien-esque story where the evil doers are one side where the good guys are on the ther but it's actually a grimdark tale by an author much more interested in questions those assumptions.

In fact, the "good" guys have always been incredibly hypocritical and self-righteous in the Rhenwars books. With the invasion of the world on the horizon, the lesser kingdoms and religious orders are more interested in letting their defenders bleed themselves out rather than offering an ounce of support. The fact the mages have been reduced to almost nothing is a sign the other factions can strip them of their authority as well as power to influence them.

There's romance in this novel but it's an interesting take on the whole "destined lovers" which we normally see in fantasy. Darien sacrificed everything, including his soul, for Meiran and she's disgusted by what he's become. Naia deeply loves Darien despite what he's become but he honestly just sees her as a friend. Quin's lover has been dead and gone for a thousand years but he still holds a torch for her. It's all nice, dark, and well-written which subverts a lot of common cliche.

The only problem I have with Darklands is that it ends on a cliffhanger and it is the first book which doesn't give a definitive conclusion to its storyline. I was quite fond of the fact the stories were "one and done" beforehand.

9/10

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  • Mary Karowski
  • 16-05-2019

Think Robert Jordan’s wheel of time but darker

I made a mistake. That mistake was not getting the first book. Listening to this left me entering the story in the middle of so many storylines and character developments that while I enjoyed it, I was left knowing that I was missing much of what brought them to this point and made these changes and decisions so important to what happens. GET THE FIRST BOOK. Then get this one. Be aware that it is dark. It is not your feel good fantasy story. Be ready for that. That being said, get the first one listen to it and then settle in and enjoy this one. I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audiobook by the author, narrator or publisher

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  • Kevin Potter
  • 22-03-2019

The series keeps getting better!

As with the previous two, the audiobook narrator is skilled, but leaves something to be desired. Particularly when it comes to pronunciation. Quite a few words just sound... odd.

Now, I'm thrilled to report that we're finally seeing a few things come together (or have a full explanation) that have been unclear to me prior to this one.

In fairness, that lack of clarity might be my own fault (I listen while driving and doing other things that sometimes require my attention, so inevitably I miss things from time to time), but this one definitely answers those questions.

I love the development of the people of the Black Lands, and the whole idea of the Black Lands in the first place!

More than that, though, I absolutely love that we get to spend some more time with Quin! He is without doubt my favorite character in the series. I think that's partially because so far he has had the widest arc with the most room for growth, but also because people keep confusing him for a man with ideals or honor and the shenanigans that result are utterly fantastic!

That being said, in this one we get to spend some more time with a few other characters that get a whole lot more development, and several of them are really growing on me. I'm really starting to like Darian and Kyle, and the women as well (apologies, I have no conception of how to spell their names, so I'm not going to try).

There are some truly tragic, heart-wrenching moments in this one that are really drawing me further into the world and these characters' stories in particular. I am a little disappointed with some of them, as there are things not turning out so well for these wonderful characters that were totally avoidable if they'd just suck it up and deal!

As always, this review is completely spoiler-free, so I won't go into details on any of that. Suffice it to say, this book had me tearing up a bit at some points, and had me wanting to throw something at certain characters at others! And in contrast, there were other moments that had me busting up laughing!

The fact that I can have all those responses in this one book is utterly fantastic!

Similarly, let's talk about the romantic entanglements for a moment. I have a tendency to avoid books where romance is a major part of the plot because, well, frankly those sub-plots are usually very poorly written, in my experience. (very few things have the ability to annoy me as quickly as "These people met and there was tension." then we skip a week or two, and suddenly we're hearing about their heartfelt expressions of undying love and adoration. UGH! I need to know how and why those feelings developed if you want me to believe it)

So far, in this series there has only been one romance that didn't feel genuine, and was because (drum-roll please) **gasp** it wasn't genuine. But all that is explained in the book it takes place in. And apart from that one, the romances that happen in these books actually feel real! And even the tragic ones (which, let's be honest, is most of them!) are wonderfully presented and evoke some real feelings when reading them.

Especially in this book! Oh my gosh, talk about ripping my heart out!

M. L. Spencer, you are a horrible human being!
Thank you so much for everything you've written!

Now, while I do have some ideas at this point as to where the story is actually heading in this series, I'm reasonably certain that I'm going to end up being wrong (which is one of the things I love about these books)! And I can't wait until the next two books are released in audio so I can see where this is all going and how it's going to play out.

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  • Robert
  • 04-04-2019

Too dark for my taste

It's in the title, Darklands, for me the story is too dark. Don't get me wrong, it was a good story but not to my taste

"I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review."

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  • S. D. Howarth
  • 03-10-2019

A classy example in character torment.

Audiobook provided for honest review (having sat on the ebooks). A solid continuation to the Rhenwars Saga while once again torturing reader and character alike with power plays and casual brutality with neat, fluent prose and a nod to the middle east.

Having read the arc of the new series it was interesting to go back and read the origin and backstory of numerous characters with their strong backstory and individuality - despite of a circular nature of events in the vein of WOT.

Of the three books I’ve read, I found this the weakest - more due to the prequel and book one being stronger stories and the ending here being an inconclusive pause after some drama.

Naia and Kyel are once again (hilariously) out of their depth and in effect they become a backstory to the evolved relationship of Meiran, Darien and Quinlan. They also need to learn the use of rope and chains...
Darien does remind me of Sam in Supernatural, but I think it’s the combination of floppy hair and not staying dead.

The last two are intriguing and thoughtful in deed and plot and complement each other on how to cope with the darkside. Meiran has a tasty moment of ruthlessness at the end to show her character, yet of the Rhenwars characters to date she’s my least favourite. It is easy to see why the mage class is now a triumvirate in the privvy as I find her a bit feckless and wait to see how she develops by the end of the series and in the next audiobook instalment.

The strong story and narrator once again work very well together and highlight the author’s ability to put together a tight package that does everything the tin says and leaves you happily wanting more and seeing if the curve balls twist or stick.

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  • luke
  • 30-05-2019

High quality but slow moving.

It's taken me some time to write this review as I have listened to this book then listened to some other books and come back to it again.

The reason for this is that I couldn't quite put my finger on what bothered me about this book.

The characters in the book are varied have individual personalitys.

The description of the environment and characters is eloquent and detailed without being drawn out.

The whole book has a feeling of good quality writing about it and the story is interesting... However it does take a long time for the characters to move from one location to another. I think with fantasy you want to be taken on an adventure to strange new worlds and with that exploring the world is a big part of what fantasy is for me.
This world seems very much to be 2 types of location where as with many other fantasy worlds they are anywhere from 4 to dozens of types of location each with its defining characteristics that we explore with the characters.

This could be just my opinion of fantasy but it's the thing that I feel the story needed.

(I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review)

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