Under the Cover of Darkness, A.K. Barr’s first entry in her new fantasy epic series, shows promise but buckles under its own weight. (Link to the book below)
Long ago, the evil Virticus seized the world of Zabashi. The prophecy told of 4 different women, goddesses of the 4 elements, stepping forward to end his reign and free Zabashi. In order to realize the prophecy and protect them from Virticus, the 4 babies had to be released from their parents and sent to Earth where they lived for 20 years. A group of Knights is sent to Earth to find the children, and train them to fight the Dark Lord.
As someone who played role-playing video games growing up, I can always appreciate the creation of fictional worlds and the creativity behind them. This saga, with its creativity, can certainly work as an escape. However, the first 20-30 pages of the first entry are crammed with too much exposition and character introductions. In my experience, gradual exposition works best. Plant a seed and let the sprout grow. If you have multiple characters, plant a couple seeds and let them grow individually. Start small and grow as the story progresses.
The novel’s high points came when we were given insight into the 4 individual goddesses and Virticus. It was also intriguing to see the relevance of the goddesses’ respective elements had on them. (Sasha, the fire goddess, grew up around firefighters and wants to be one. Raya, the water girl, wants to be a marine biologist, etc.) I felt a sense of relief when reading a character’s solo chapter because it felt like I was finally getting to know them.
The story’s main weakness comes from its narrative structure. Because too many characters were thrown in at the beginning, I felt somewhat lost when reading their scenes. I kept asking myself, “Wait, who’s this guy and what does he do?” “Is this person one of the Knights or one of the goddesses?” “Who is Ty and what’s his purpose to all of this?” “What’s this person’s special power again?” There were quite a lot of names being tossed around, too. I feel if we were introduced to the 4 goddesses first, and then the Knights, it would’ve flowed better.
Also, another hiccup is the occassional lack of line breaks. We sometimes see a line of dialogue spoken by one character, with a different character’s reaction to it in the same line. The novel could use a little more polish and minor grammatical fixes. ‘Tis a common issue among independent writers. I myself am guilty.
Under the Cover of Darkness has potential to be an effective, enjoyable story. My advice to the author would be to restructure the whole story and reorganize the chapters so we get to know the characters better. Start with solo chapters and gradually work them into scenes where they meet and interact with other characters. Gradual exposition.
As for score, I will give this 4 stars on Amazon and Goodreads because I know quality is subjective. I can see that other readers have given this a 5. And that’s cool, to each their own. I also have faith that Barr can improve this story in the future, should she choose to do so.
Buy Under the Cover of Darkness on Amazon