By Darkness Hid: A Review (CSFF Tour, Day 2)

Pressure filled his head again.

This time the insight that followed was not dread but kinship and hope. Achan paused at the entrance to the kitchens and turned, seeking out the source of the sensation. His gaze was drawn to the armory.

A knight stood leaning against the crude structure of the armory, watching Achan with a pensive stare. He wore the uniform of the Old Kingsguard — a red, hooded cloak that draped over both arms and hung to a triangular point in the center front and back. The knight pulled his hood back to reveal white hair, tied back on top and hanging past his shoulders. A white beard dangled in a single braid that extended to his chest.

Achan Cham. His first name means “trouble”; his animal surname, referring to a mythic wild bear, marks him as a Stray — a boy without family or protection, branded by an “S” on his left shoulder, doomed to a life of servitude, beatings, and bullying in Sitna, estate of the wicked Lord Nathak. Achan has just turned sixteen and so is officially a man, but manhood promises little but heartache for him.

When Sir Gavin Lukos, the legendary “Great Whitewolf” of the Old Kingsguard, arrives in Sitna, it changes things. Achan’s position, firstly, for Sir Gavin decides to take the Stray as his squire and train him. Achan’s perceptions, secondly, for Sir Gavin’s interference provokes the unleashing of Achan’s powerful gift of bloodvoicing — telepathic communication and insight — a gift that Nathak has long taken pains to suppress. His faith, because one of the voices in his head is not human, and it tells him that the gods he has always worshiped are nothing but idols. And his future, for his duties and training as a squire bring him to the unwanted attention of Lord Nathak and his cruel protege: Prince Gidon, soon-to-be king of Er’Rets.

For Achan, the changes are a mix of gratifying and excruciatingly unwelcome, especially once Sir Gavin is sent away and Achan is taken into Gidon’s service instead. But they are only the beginning of a journey that in the end may change everything — even his name.

While Achan learns to handle a sword, Lady Averella of Carm is learning to be a boy. Gidon wants her as his bride, and she wants him as far away as possible. Nathak and Gidon are not above bribery, hostage-taking, and warfare to get what they want, so it’s judged safest for Vrell to go into hiding as a teenage boy — and a Stray, for that matter — by the name of Vrell Sparrow. The plan is working fine until Vrell’s bloodvoicing gift is co-opted into the service of Macoun Hadar, an ancient schemer with political designs of his own.

Achan and Vrell will eventually cross paths as their journeys take them far from home, drawing them both toward revelation, new purpose, and the frightening land just across a supernatural border of mist — to the shadowed, godless place called Darkness.

By Darkness Hid is making waves in the world of Christian speculative fiction. Library Journal, a prestigious industry publication, compared it to Tolkien and Donita K. Paul. It’s been nominated for a Christy Award in the “Visionary” category and also for the new Clive Staples Award. It’s not hard to see why. Jill Williamson has told a classic adventure story. If the end is a little predictable (we who read fairy tales have seen it before), the characters and plot are so engaging that we don’t care. She writes with great attention to detail, but keeps the story moving at all times: this is a cinematic novel, with a wealth of swordplay, herb lore, strange cultures, and intriguing mysteries.

Reading By Darkness Hid brought back memories of evenings as a young teen, curled up on the couch with books like The Black Cauldron or Nightpool. It’s great fun. I’m eager to see what the rest of the series has in store.

I may not have to wait long. Book 2, To Darkness Fled, has just been released by Marcher Lord Press.



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8 responses to “By Darkness Hid: A Review (CSFF Tour, Day 2)”

  1. […] its newly released sequel, To Darkness Fled. The CSFF bloggers toured By Darkness Hid back in May (my review is here), and Jill was kind enough to grant me a late interview. Below, we talk about Jill’s amazing […]

  2. Phyllis Wheeler Avatar

    Loved your review!

  3. Rebecca LuElla Miller Avatar

    As to the end, I thought I new how it would go … with the Big Reveal that would set everything to rights. When what I expected didn’t happen, I was surprised! So I loved the story for those kinds of twists as well as for the sympathetic characters and intrigue and action.


  4. […] Fellowship John W. Otte Crista Richey ? ? Chawna Schroeder Andrea Schultz James Somers ? ? Rachel Starr Thomson Steve Trower ? ? Fred Warren ? ? Dona Watson ? ? Phyllis […]

  5. R. L. Copple Avatar

    Great review! Great to get another perspective and thought process on it.

  6. Jill Williamson Avatar

    Thanks for the review, Rachel! I’m glad you liked the story.
    I also like the little exerpt you gave.

  7. Rachel Avatar

    Why thank you :).

  8. Jennifer @ Quiverfull Family Avatar

    Thanks for coming by Rachel. It’s always a delight to read your reviews, it makes me want to dig into the novel all over again; it WAS incredibly enjoyable!

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