In Peter David’s latest original fantasy novel, the Damned World is home to the Twelve Races, who ruthlessly vie for power and for control of the legendary Orb of Light.
Darkness of the Light
By Peter David
In a previous entry, I wrote that I was thankful that author Peter David was so trustworthy. What I meant was that so far everything that David has offered up has been good, real good — be it a Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica expanded universe novel or a comic book run of Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk or his original series Fallen Angel. That’s why whatever concept the author puts forth, I’ll instantly give it a chance.
Luckily, once again, David does not disappoint. In his recent fantasy novel Darkness of the Light — the first in a planned trilogy titled The Hidden Earth — the author creates the Damned World, formerly Earth. On the Damned World, the Twelve Races, the lowest of which are the near-extinct enslaved humans, ruthlessly vie for power amongst each other using any means possible.
Trustworthy is not a word that could be used to describe any of these races, which — along with the humans, referred to as Morts — include vampires, lizard men, cyclopes, minosaurs, mer-people, and several other creatures of myth, all of whom it turns out were banished to the realm they currently occupy.
The one thing they all fear: the all-powerful Overseer, who along with his cloaked minions The Travelers, is seeking to find out why a hotstar — an important source of energy — has gone dead.
Meanwhile, a band of scavenging Bottom Feeders traveling with the unique human female Jepp are ordered to infiltrate the underground dwellings of the neutral Trulls to obtain the Orb of Light, an artifact some believe can bring an end to all the in-fighting and destruction throughout the land.
Darkness of the Light is a fast-paced page-turner that successfully does in 400 pages what typical fantasy novels do in double that amount. The author’s ambitious attempt to present multiple characters and numerous plotlines, many of which eventually intertwine, pays off and is done without the redundancy often present in other works in this genre. Even though it does take about half the book to fully develop the various characters and present their respectively storylines, it’s well worth the wait.
While there are characters reminiscent of those in other famous literary works in the genre — like The Overseer’s initial Sauron-like mystique and the Ringwraith appearance of The Travelers — it doesn’t take long to realize that David’s creations are far from carbon copies.
For instance, at the first mention of a pale-skinned subterranean blood-sucking race, one might instantly think “typical vampires.” But David’s vampiric Piris are anything but. Yes, they feed off blood, but they are neither mindless animals nor typical gothic stereotypes. The end dialogue between Piri Queen Sunarya and her daughter and reluctant heir Clarinda is enthralling, and was more captivating than even the greatest of plot twists and reveals, of which this book has many.
In sections where there’s less intensity, David appropriately infuses humor without camp into his narratives, letting each character’s true personality shine through, even when in perilous situations — again, of which there are many. But the scenarios presented are cleverly crafted and interwoven, and not reliant upon lofty monologues, pretentious swordplay, or easy-out plot mechanisms.
Darkness of the Light perfectly sets up the Damned World for the two planned literary installments to follow without sacrificing any of the adventure, intrigue, or, most importantly, resolution necessary for great storytelling.