Fantasy, Young Adult

Dark of the West – Joanna Hathaway

I just has to use my grandmother’s distribution cards she used in World War 2 for this picture

Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway was quite a suprise for me, it feels like I have discovered a hidden pearl and now need to show it to everyone because it’s so awesome! I honestly can’t understand why people are not talking about this book, for me this has everything I could possibly want. 

I have to start with the writing style… it’s been quite a while since I read such beautiful prose… the sentences were all profound and I felt myself reading slower just to savor the words, and it seems like the entire book is quotable. I was really sad when I read the last page because I was so emerged in the writing and I didn’t want it to stop. That doesn’t happen often, as I like to speed read. I’ll demonstrate with my favorite quote (I’m not sure why it’s my favorite because there were so many stunning other ones but here we go). 

He believes me. Which is actually a lot more terrifying than the cold and simple expectations of my father. Expectations can be worked around. Negotiated, if you’re clever. But loyalty – and I know this better than most – is what you die for.
Loyalty is deeper than blood.

Next up: worldbuilding! It’s in a low fantasy setting with no magic, and there are kingdoms that feel very fantasy-like, but there are also planes and cars and heating systems. It’s very unique, and I absolutely love the addition of (relatively) modern warcraft. It doesn’t feel like World War 1/2, because Joanna manages to make this an entirely new world, and while you can see what it’s based on, the stakes and overall feels are very different. The theme of colonialism is very much present, and very well thought out. What I love about this world is that there are so many cultures and views, and cultures within cultures, it’s very rich but also it makes you see the world very grey, as every view actually makes some good points, and all the time we found out there are other and bigger stakes at work too. It’s just as confusing as real life! 

Oh, and our poor main characters, Aurora and Athan, they are properly confused. So much is going on and I felt all the feels. I wanna give Athan a big hug, with his dysfunctional family he definitely needs one. But yes, that family also makes things very interesting. Just like the world, the characters are multi layered, and we see that especially in Athan’s dad and older brothers. I loved Athan’s mom, too, she was just afraid for her boys and with good reason. And how we slowly see Arrin, the eldest brother, go from a mischievous boy trying to appease his father to something… else… well, that was something. But Athan is the best, a sweet cinnamon roll who just wants peace and fly his airplane for fun with his best friend Cyar (another cinnamon bun). His inner monologue is very relatable and he has a lot of dark humor. 

Aurelia, the princess of a small kingdom that’s gonna play quite a big role in the grander scheme, wants very much the same. Peace and going to university and study art, that is. No airplanes for her, she only pretends to be interested in them because there is a handsome pilot. And against all odds, being on opposite sides, they are drawn closer together. And they click so well! My ship is sailing and despite the depressing prologue I’m here for it, I shall go down with this ship. Both characters have grown so much since the beginning of the book, and I’m not sure it’s for the better, but it’s needed to survive. Also, special kudos for the queen, she’s sooo badass and has many hidden layers, I can’t wait to see more of her! 

Which brings us to the plot… we have Athan’s dad, who is basically in charge of a country, but has no noble blood – and a lot of warcraft available, who is trying to gain more power. You know he’s the antagonist, but he suprises you at every turn! Which is why I can’t say much about the plot. But every time it gets bigger and bigger. There are so many twists and turns! At times the story is quite political, but not in a boring way, because an entire world is on the brink of war. The north is basically losing control over the south they once conquered, so the south is rising up against their oppressors, but there are many more sides. There are many characters who all want something different, and that makes for a very intruiging plot that leaves you guessing – and gasping at the finale! 

I have to admit, the only downside to this was that there were quite a few names to remember, as many characters also got nicknames. But that’s honestly the only downside I can think of. 

This book surely will be one of my favorite books ever, and after a few days I’m still thinking a lot about it. The writing, world, characters and plot, they are all very strong, and it all flows beautifully together. This book deserves more hype in my opinion and I can’t recommend it enough! 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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