A spectral war has torn the veils that separate life and death into pieces. Beings of the darkness slip through these rifts as armies of man wage a losing battle against the corporeal invaders.
Dane Tanderes was once a mortal man condemned to an unjust death, cursed to live as a fiend until such time as the gods decree him worthy of forgiveness. Now that he has escaped back to the world of the living he is determined to never again live in darkness. Dane is instrumental in the war against those he once called brethren, fighting to give his people a chance return to the light.
Vanlyn Sarn is the second son of a cruel lord. He lives a life of one of misery and degradation, despised by his brother and father for reasons known only to them. He is tasked by his father to journey deep into enemy territory and escort troops to aid in the fighting. However, Vanlyn knows the true nature of this mission. He is not expected to return.
When Dane takes Vanlyn prisoner, he plans to use the young prince as a pawn to seduce Vanlyn into betraying his kingdom and his people. But passion ignites red hot and Dane is torn between his burgeoning feelings for the young prince and doing what his honor demands. Which decision will lead him to what he desires most?
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Illusion of Night has some great moments and a lovely cover, but I struggled to keep my attention in the story and frequently wandered away. In fact I often did things just to keep from reading since I would get bored too quickly about half way through the story. It does pick up towards the end and the idea itself has some great ingenuity but it’s also plagued with issues.
The plot is your basic humans versus demons in an age old struggle for power, land, and dominance. Dane is the leader of a small island but he also happens to be a fiend. After an act of extraordinary stupidity and selfishness, Dane has been reborn as a fiend from hell. He retains his inherent goodness though and works hard so that his people and land prosper. Of course another lord of the realm has decided to attack the fiends for glory and power. Dane is trying to keep his people out of it and devises a plan to seduce and betray the lord’s youngest son to shame the lord into giving up his war. Predictably Dane falls in love with the son and can’t go through with his plan. That doesn’t stop the war mongering lord though.
The plot is actually pretty complicated and the world building even more so. Some of the world building is truly inspired and unique. The fiends and humans both are given complexity. Some of each side are predictably cardboard evil with cruelty in every pore while others offer equally empty goodness and shinning light. Then there are those humans and fiends that are not fully good but not totally evil either. They’re simply filled with strengths and weaknesses, flaws and virtues. This is where the most interesting characters always lie. The boogies are wonderful and a great inventive touch to the story. The demons from hell are nicely depicted and offer a mythology that is more complex than the simple minions of Satan. Both of these details show the author’s creativity and cleverness. These sorts of concepts kept pulling me back into the story.
The world building has some problems though. It’s high fantasy but never quite manages to stay there. There is the historical feeling with titles and pomp and circumstance associated with high fantasy. Yet there are numerous touches that bring the story into a much more modern age. The writing seems to flip between the two arbitrarily, which throws off the pace and tone of the story. It’s disconcerting to find modern details in the historical setting, which combined with numerous editing mistakes, make the story sometimes awkward to read.
Additionally the actual focus of the book seems to drift frequently. There is a very strong beginning (100 pages or so) where the characters are introduced and basic plot set up. Here Dane meets and later kidnaps Vanlyn and there is a push/pull dynamic between the two. They have an immediate connection yet Vanlyn is a prisoner and wants to go home. Here the story definitely begins to drag and slow quite a bit. Vanlyn spends a lot of time homesick and wishing he could return home. Yet his father and brother have abused and belittled him for years, heaping humiliation after humiliation on him. So Vanlyn’s musings start to feel like immature whining. Vanlyn continues his whining until he falls in love with Dane and the story continues with the two having sex often, while hanging about Dane’s house as he works. Not much happens and this is supposed to progress the romantic relationship but my attention wandered frequently.
The BDSM relationship feels weird to me as well. Vanlyn supposedly submits to Dane, which is all well and good. The sex scenes are pretty hot with only a bare minimum of D/s so it keeps things interesting (which I needed). Unfortunately this thread feels totally lost as Vanlyn gains more confidence and power. The later parts of the story get moving with more action and no sex so that’s to be expected, but the underlying theme of D/s which is always present at Dane’s home is suddenly missing entirely. The complete lack is what threw me off. Not to mention the story feels like it ends unfinished. There is some wrapping up but a lot of issues still to be resolved by the end.
Overall this is an ok story (2.5 to 3 stars for me) but I struggled to keep reading it. There are enough clever moments to keep me reading but this is not a story I’d read again. I’d probably give the author another try if there is a sequel or a non-fantasy novel.
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