by Joanna Hathaway
Series: Glass Alliance #1
Published on February 5, 2019 by Tor Teen
He was raised in revolution. She was raised in a palace. Can their love stop a war? Code Name Verity meets The Winner's Curse in Joanna Hathaway's Dark of the West, a breathtaking YA fantasy debut.
Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.
Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.
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I’m. . . torn on Dark of the West. This book took me MONTHS to finish (when most books I read in a few days tops) and frequently lost my attention. Whether that was due to my reading mood or the book is a bit fuzzy because by the end, I knew I’d definitely read the sequel but it took so long to get to that point.
The book alternates chapters between Aurelia, a princess living in a world where royalty is slowly transitioning out in parts of the world, and Athan, a pilot and son of a general hellbent on tearing everything down. I liked the contrast in perspectives between the two, though found I preferred Athan’s chapters. Aurelia read too much like the stereotypical rebellious princess in the making and her character as a whole fell a bit flat for me. Athan, on the other hand, went through a number of moral dilemmas as his resolve was tested to the point of near-breaking. That growth made me want to root for him, to look forward to his scenes and the trouble he was bound to get into. Athan spends so much of the book between a rock and a hard place, and I enjoyed watching how he’d work through each situation. But at the end of the book, I liked both characters pretty equally and it was actually because of the prologue.
Dark of the West opens with a scene set in the future beyond what the book will take you and, at first, once I got into chapter 1 and beyond, I didn’t really understand the prologue. It wasn’t until near the end when I realized its significance and it was like WHAM! I need the sequel! I actually went back and re-read the beginning as soon as I finished the last chapter. Talk about pre-planning. And it suddenly made Aurelia’s character much more interesting too.
I think where I really struggled with this book was the world. Let me start by saying I LOVED the WWII vibe it had. It’s definitely its own fantasy world and all that but filled with guns and planes contrasting with riding horseback and using carriages and the mashing of the worlds (which fits for the era I think this was inspired by) intrigued me to no end. It also made Dark of the West stand out compared to other YA fantasies. So I was here for it.
But WOW was the pacing slow. This book is heavy on the political intrigue and scheming which, while great and all, made it slow going for me. I really struggled to get into the story and everything going on, and for a while the only thing saving Dark of the West from a full-on DNF was the romance subplot (it wasn’t like the BEST relationship but, again, that opening scene made me want to know more about Aurelia and Athan).
When it comes to first books in series, especially debuts, my biggest deciding factor is whether or not I would pick up the sequel. For Dark of the West and the Glass Alliance series, I can say with absolute certainty that YES I will definitely be reading the sequel. This book wasn’t a total win for me and I definitely struggled to get through it but the ending and everything starting to come together made up for it.