Review: Dark Sun

Dark Sun
Dark Sun by M.J. O’Shea
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a fan of dystopian fiction, I was pretty excited to read Dark Sun. The story has a very nice urban fantasy setting that fulfilled that craving I always have for the genre while the characters and plot are decent. They’re not great unfortunately, partly due to the short nature of the novella, and the entire story rushes from start to finish. The characters feel unfinished and somewhat empty as they stick close to pretty well known stereotypes. There is a vague Romeo and Juliet feel to the star crossed lovers from warring families while one character is a pretty typical Robin Hood by stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Because of these obvious tropes, the story never quite satisfies and moves into something wholly unique but the various elements included are enough to make an interesting enough story if you’re a fan of urban fantasy.

The plot starts with Lynx, the middle son of a rich powerful ruling family, out on the town one night semi against his will. He stumbles incoherently into the lair of his archenemy and encounters a beautiful young man, Orion. Both hiding who they really are the two spend one amazing night together, prompting Lynx to search for his lover again. Yet matters are complicated as Orion is also a thief known as Katana, stealing from both families to give medicine and food to the poor. Together the two young men have incredible chemistry but their warring families and Orion’s true mission may come between them.

The plot itself is pretty basic, if pretty rushed. The two men meet and have some light star-crossed lover angst as they realize they’re from different, opposing families. There is a definite nod to the Shakespeare classic here as the two seem to follow along many of those same lines. Towards the end of the novella though, the plot takes an incredibly fast (and somewhat ridiculous) turn into the dramatic with an evil scheme between the two families and both Lynx and Orion rushing to save the world. It’s too much packed into too short a story without the necessary background to have it make any sense or for the reader to really care. There was enough tension between the young men already without tacking on a somewhat silly evil plot towards the end.

Besides that issue, there are a few others. The characters are engaging enough and they held my attention while reading. Yet they feel somewhat bland and empty. They should be very dramatic and exciting, racing around the city trying to evade capture while sneaking sex scenes in but instead they feel somewhat predictable and placid. Part of this issue is the tropes I mentioned previously obviously at work with the characterizations. There is little depth offered for the characters, even though the reader is told again and again how much they care and want to do the right thing. I believe it in an abstract way but it never made a significant impact as the main protagonists and the story itself stays pretty light and breezy.

What does work is the urban fantasy setting. It’s set in the future after some war/catastrophic event and the details used to create the world are pretty thorough and interesting. It feels very familiar to most urban fantasy books I’ve read, which isn’t a problem as it fits well within the genre. The plot and tone of the writing keep the story pretty light but the world building feels mostly complete and engaging. The numerous details are continued throughout the story so you never forget the setting, which is a touch I always like and appreciate. Combined with the super fast pace, this is an easy story to read in one sitting if you’re an urban fantasy fan and want something light, easy, and romantic.

Overall Dark Sun isn’t a homerun by any means but it’s an entertaining and enjoyable enough story to read. It feels somewhat too familiar in many places but the setting is good and should please urban fantasy fans. If you’re not into that genre, I’m not entirely sure how well this story will resonate but the characters are decent and definitely romantic with a solid happy ending but room for a sequel should the author choose.

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