Taken in the Dark of Night is Daniel Howard's first story in his coming series of dark fantasy writings about James of the Darkwood. I met Mr. Howard on twitter and he gifted me a copy of his novella for an honest review. The book is available on Amazon, and Mr. Howard's website is here.
Daniel Howard's debut novella brings James of Darkwood out of the shadows to the pastoral Eastlands: a land of magi who commune with the Source to protect the realm and simple folk who work hard to build themselves a better life. But dark things dwell beyond the lights of town...
They come in the night. They come for the children. Slavers.
Tabitha is a girl who dreams of vanquishing monsters and rescuing the innocent. Then she is sold to a mysterious man of grotesque appetites. She discovers that monsters are very real and innocence
is a fragile thing.
James of Darkwood is an Eloria'an with a dark secret. Brutally trained as an assassin by the House of Knives, James may be the only hope for children bound for slavery – and worse – as he leaves a wake of death across what was once a peaceful land in his search for vengeance. Can James rescue the children, and with them a small part of his soul? Or will the Void take them all into dark oblivion?
Mr. Howard's novella (about 100 pages long) is a middle story between the author's planned first two full length books. Children are kidnapped from their village homes by slavers and it's up to someone to save them.
Taken in the Dark of Night sucked me into the world Mr. Howard created. I found myself curious about James' dark background, and I appreciated Mr. Howard's description of his world. The novella felt like a solid appetizer to get me ready for what I expect is a fully realized world with rules, cultures, histories, and the like.
I am most intrigued by the origin of the mystical "Source" and the magi who deal with it. Mr. Howard gives just enough taste to keep me guessing and wanting to learn more though his planned stories.
I also found myself rooting for Mr. Howard's anti-hero protagonist, James the "elf." He felt believable, even though he was not always the most likable - most likely by design.
Mr. Howard is a skilled writer. His prose is easy to read, clean, and exciting. Still, I continue to be convinced even the most skilled writers need skilled editors. There are several points in the story that could be improved by a fresh set of trained eyes. The most jarring is a middle chapter with a point of view change mid-scene, but most other issues are minor and did not take me out of the story.
The tone of the novella is very dark and violent, with dark themes and very dark antagonists that deal in kidnapping and trafficking children. Mr. Howard does not shy away from the reality of this evil, though I welcome that he stays away from gratuitous or vulgar descriptions in the tale.
I highly recommend Taken in the Dark of Night to readers who enjoy dark fantasy and good world building. I am interested in what James of the Darkwood will get caught up in next!