Book Review: Dark Rise by C.S. Pacat

Hey guys! Today I thought I’d tell you a bit about Dark Rise, the new book by one of my favorite authors.

Will’s mother is brutally murdered in front of him. Since then, Will is in hiding, working on the docks of London trying to figure out who’s behind his mother’s death. Long ago, in the old world, there was a Dark King who threatens to come back, and if he does, he’ll bring the end of the world as Will knows it. Will is captured by the people who are trying to bring the Dark King back, and he starts to look for the part he plays in this battle to stop the Dark King from rising.
By this poorly executed summary you can probably pick up at least three plot archetypes in fantasy: the dark lord, the chosen one, and the battle between good and evil. There are many other subplots: romances, betrayals, mentors, family drama, special artifacts, and more.

This is not an“OMG I loved it so much I’m screaming” sort of book (like Captive Prince was). Through the first 100 pages or so, I was pretty bored and a little disappointed. It’s still too good for me to give it less than four stars I think, regardless of the parts I didn’t like.
I want to say I’m very tempted to add hidden spoilers to talk about some specific parts, but I don’t want to tempt you if you haven’t read it because being spoiled in this book would really ruin it for you. So, if you’ve read it and you want to discuss some spoilers, message me!

In short, I found the beginning boring and the ending amazing. If that’s enough for you, go read the book. In case it isn’t, I’ll be a bit more specific.

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The beginning:

I think it was roughly the first 25% of the book that had me bored. I did not connect with Will, and the setup seemed to be overcomplicated at first. Too many characters, too many promises. It feels like there are too many plot points being juggled around, and it would be easy to lose some along the way. So much is happening to so many characters that it’s hard to follow at first. Mind me, this is at first when you have no idea where the story is going. It pays off to know all these things in the end.

The characters:

James, James James. You came around and created this fog over all the other characters (which are a lot), and since the moment I saw you, all I could think about was you. I think this was intended but it also backfired, because James was present for so little and the boring parts felt so much more boring without him, and all I could think of was I couldn’t care less what’s happening to Will right now, let’s see what James is doing. CS Pacat is great at creating blond perfect boys, elegant tigers that can stand perfectly still and attack at any moment, who will kill you both with their looks and their knives given the chance. Is James Laurent? No, nor was he supposed to be. Was he my favorite part of this book? Of course yes. I’m sure he’ll appear much more in book 2 and I’m thankful for that.
Will was, sadly, very much the opposite. Let’s say with James it was love at first sight, whereas with Will it was a very slow burn. I found him plain. In every scene he was in except at the end, Will blends with the background. Even if you’re seeing things from his point of view, even if things are happening to him, you kind of forget he’s there. I have a theory on why this happens but I can’t say it cause spoilers. Knowing this, I kind of forgive his boringness.

I liked Violet since she appeared. Her character arc in the book was my favorite one because it was handled so beautifully. We immediately understand how important her brother Tom is to her. We know what she wants, what she can’t have, and what she loses if she makes “the good” choice. The most emotional sections of this book come from her POV, and a couple of those happen in the middle of that beginning I’ve been bashing so much. (It’s not that bad then, you see? You can survive through it.) I’d talk about her more if I could spoil, so when you’re done reading this please come back and text me so I can get it all off my chest.

The secondary characters are there to tell you that you might like them. They are also there to say they could be killed at any minute. Or not. Who knows? I guess that’s the fun of it huh? Be careful who you give your heart to. You’ve been warned.

The scary YA promise:

I’m tired of YA guys. Like, really, really tired. I don’t want to be, because I have SO FREAKING MANY young adult books I still need to read, and I love them. I do! Don’t look at me like that, I swear to you I do enjoy them most of them while I read them. It’s just lately I feel like I’ve read the same YA book over and over: underdog character needs to do something. They don’t know how to. They learn how to, something goes wrong and there’s a secondary (but who are we trying to fool, it was always the main) romance plot. There are always very dark discussions but it’s always just mentioned, you never see people dying grimly or people having sex, which should be pretty normal right? I have a specific YA in mind now, Wither, where the main character manages to stay a virgin for so much longer than would be realistic considering her situation.
I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’ve been reading more adult stuff now, but I really hate when these things happen. The point of this useless rambling was that I was scared when I learned this was going to be a YA book. I should’ve known to give CS Pacat some credit. I heard her describing the genre as a young adult with adult crossover, and I agree. There are some tropes of the YA genre (parents are dead, protagonists are young kind of,) but it’s darker than a YA. I’d almost confidently say it’s the darkest YA I’ve read so far. She managed this crossover brilliantly, is what I mean.

The World Building:

*Can I say it was awesome and leave it at that? No?*
Well then, when I started reading the book I was worried. I’ve had bad experiences before of fantasy books taking place in our world. Some authors I think (won’t mention anyone specifically because I don’t want to be mean), don’t want the job of coming up with a whole new world. I’ve found that this often leads to lazy writing. You still need to research the shit out of whatever time period you’ll set your book in, you still need a believable magic system, a well-structured plot, and it can almost be harder because you need to keep in mind aspects from the real world while also being true to whatever you’re creating. In a fantasy world, if something doesn’t work you can make it work by changing the world as you wish. You can’t do that with the real world. A young girl wearing pants in Rome during the 1500s without any explanation would sound a little weird, it might take you out of the story.
Dark Rise was obviously very well researched, and the world-building is spectacular. Really I thought I’d hate it, but it ended up becoming one of my favorites. Nothing is said or shown or done by chance.

The inevitable Captive Prince comparison:

It’s not better than Captive Prince. I’m sorry. It was great, I really enjoyed it, I’m REALLY looking forward to the next one, but guys. Captive Prince is just too high of a bar for me. I’m writing this section mostly because many of you have asked me the question is it better than Captive Prince? so there, that’s my answer.
I’ve read one or two books in my life, and I don’t think there’s a story I go back to more than Captive Prince. The plot is so complicated, the characters are SO complicated (so much so in fact, that it’s made it highly controversial among our community). I love everything about it. I still need to write an appropriate review for it because I want to take the time and explain what’s so great about that series, especially for the people who get scandalized by the dark themes. But more on that some other day. Dark Rise isn’t like Captive Prince. It didn’t grip me since the beginning, I didn’t finish it in half a day.
But before I keep boring you, let’s play a little compare and contrast, shall we?

– In Captive Prince, the most important things are not said to you. You know how Laurent feels in a scene because of how he moves, how he reacts to what surrounds him, and not because you’re told Laurent looked sad. There is not one single “I love you” in Captive Prince. Did you know that before I said it? That’s how good it is at letting you infer. This isn’t absolutely true for Dark Rise. Even if there are many things left to the reader to imply, there’s a lot more than they tell you about what’s happening or how characters feel about this thing.
– Both Damen and Will are unreliable narrators.
– The way characters are crafted is similar in the sense that you feel you know them even if they just appear in one scene.
– There are multiple POVs in Dark Rise, so you get a breather from Will (I’m sorry. He’s really not so bad. He gets better. Omg I’m so sorry).
– The impossible tension between Damen and Laurent doesn’t exist in any character of Dark Rise (at least so far). There is some tension, but nothing that compares to those two.
– Dark Rise is less graphic. By that I mean there’s no sex. Nevertheless, the blood and violence in Dark Rise exceeds that of Captive Prince, at least in my opinion.
– They are both so well thought. I know for a fact CS Pacat thought about these stories so hard, it’s going to be very hard for you to find a plot hole.
– Some of you are worried about the triggers for Dark Rise. If you’re one of these people, you can rest easy. There’s no slavery, rape, or anything like that in Dark Rise. Okay while I was writing that I remembered something. Let’s try it again. Don’t worry, there’s almost no slavery and rape (none that happens in the present.) It’s definitely much less than in Captive Prince.

The question of romance

I’ve seen plenty of you complain about the fact that there isn’t much romance in the book. (I think what you mean is you’re sad that Will and James didn’t sleep together, but maybe I misunderstand you.) Knowing CS Pacat, I wasn’t expecting to find even a little kiss on the cheek between two characters, so I personally wasn’t disappointed. If this is your case though, I would advise you to read certain scenes again, maybe parts where the characters you’re shipping interact with one another, and read between the lines.

The writing:

I think it won’t surprise you by now that CS Pacat is one of my favorite authors. Her writing is fascinating, from the way she transports you to a setting to the way she makes you fall desperately in love with non-existent people. Her writing is, simply put, magical. She masters the art of creating beautiful sentences, and as a fan of aestheticism, I find this very satisfying while I am reading. If your enjoyment of books is mostly measured by the quality of the writing, you are going to love Dark Rise.
Overall, I’d say this book didn’t disappoint me. Of course, I didn’t expect to like it more than Captive Prince, but I did enjoy it a lot. I hate that we have to wait for the next one because I have a feeling it’s going to be even better.

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