Title: THE SHADE OF GOLD
Series: SHADES OF DARKNESS #1
Author: EMILY CHABOT
Publication Date: OCTOBER 30, 2020
WITH THE CAELUM QUEEN DEAD, THE DARKNESS HAS BEEN UNLEASHED
In a world on the brink of war, where queens are murdered, and cities are burned to ash, trained warriors Max and Ariella must choose their allies among those with dark intent. When a mission goes horribly wrong after stealing from a mad king, they discover some prisons are far more deadly than others.
Allied with an untrustworthy prince to stop the evil that scourges the land, they must embark on a perilous journey to destroy a mythical power before it can land in the wrong hands.
But the Darkness doesn’t play by the rules.
As the fate of the world grows bleaker by the minute, Max and Ariella must act quickly as they navigate through a game of power and dark magic to stop a war that could destroy more than just their lives. Fail, and they risk unleashing a force more sinister than they could fathom.
As much as this book has a good plot and storyline, it was very underwhelming. The synopsis made it sound like this is an intriguing book, well it was only on some parts.
I liked the concept of orphaned children being raised by an evil thing and trained to be assassins. I haven’t seen many authors using this concept before, it was so rare to see it. At least the concept is being done right in this book.
The plot was that Max (the hero) and Ariella (the heroine) had to steal something from another kingdom but they got caught, and along with their friends (the Bellators) they were being kept as prisoners. All of them had to go on a journey with Atticus (a prince) to find a hidden magical city, but something sinister is lurking to strike them when the right time comes.
The story wasn’t too long which I really liked, and the pacing was fast so everything that happened are straight to the point without any fillers. I liked it better this way. Most of the time, slow-paced stories bored me that I usually ended up DNF’ing them.
For a first book in a series it was okay to me. And usually first book in a series can be either a hit or a miss, and this one is in the middle; it wasn’t a hit but it wasn’t a miss either. I wasn’t really feeling the story at all, and as much as it was easy to understand, there was just something missing about it. For a fantasy story, it doesn’t have a strong vibe and it was too predictable that the surprises aren’t even a surprise to me.
The surprises like for example; the truth about who Ariella is, what the Malum is exactly, what secrets are Max hiding, what hidden plans do the prince have, who is the warrior that will reveal the location of the hidden city, the Malum actual plans and many more. These are easily predictable, I knew the answers before I got to the chapters that revealed everything. The story made it easy for me to figure out what will happen for the rest of the story.
I liked a strong element of surprise but sadly this book just doesn’t have it. As for the magic, it was just fine to me, nothing too magnificent but it works for this story. I get to learn more about how the magic of the darkness works, and then Ariella’s magic which works differently than the darkness but then again there wasn’t a single solid explanation about her magic yet since she started using it near the end of the book.
This story takes place in a fictional world called Obscurum. It is a realm which made up of three kingdoms; Caelum, Ignis, and Clades. I feel like the explanation about the realm and the three kingdoms should be done smoothly, and it was a bit flawed too. Understanding the explanation about the history of the three kingdoms, and what connection does the realm have with the darkness might be a bit confusing for some readers and even for me because it just doesn’t stick, like it was forgettable and there is nothing special that will make the information stick with you.
The hidden city also known as the City of Michael is like a legendary myth in this book. Everyone speaks highly of it and the story behind the city was a lot more entertaining. I enjoyed reading about this hidden magical city rumored to have a power that can destroy the darkness. I knew that the city will be revealed in this book, I just hope it won’t be revealed this early.
The build up to the reveal of the city was done right but I kind of wanting it to be revealed in the final book when the hero and heroine was about to defeat the darkness once and for all. What was the point of revealing the city this early only to have the heroine destroyed the only weapon she can use to get rid of the darkness? The darkness is still out there pretending to be someone else to set the realm on fire, and Max’s death was meaningless too. His death was only to fuel Ariella’s rage just so she can reveal the hidden city, and then he came back to life as if nothing happened.
I understood she needed to feel the rage because it was the only way to reveal the hidden city, and I also understood her reason for not wanting to defeat the darkness because the realm needed balance. She might regret her decision because the darkness is still roaming free. As for Max’s death, it was really pointless to kill him off only to bring him back. He literally sacrificed himself even though it wasn’t a heroic death at all.
There was plenty of great actions that keep me entertained, especially the fight between the Ignis soldiers and the Bellators. The only underwhelming fight was between the Malum (the darkness) and Ariella. I expected an epic fight, but I just had to accept what I got.
Now let’s talk about the characters because I have a very mixed feelings about the characters in this book, especially Ariella.
Ariella is fierce, doesn’t always back down and always do what she likes, and I admired her for that. Still, I couldn’t connect to her character. She wasn’t a very likable heroine. In fact, I got irritated for the majority of the story because of how she acted.
Fine, I get that her backstory was heartbreaking and she was stolen by the Malum to become one of the Bellators. And I truly understood her anger when she found out Max knew about it all those time and never told her. I would’ve been pissed too, but I won’t be disrespecting someone a lot older than me by screaming in front of their face just because someone else kept a hidden secret about me. She was screaming and yelling at the old witch after she found out about her real identity and that the witch needed her blood to heal Max. There is no need to scream and yell so loud, like where are your manners young lady? Plus, it wasn’t the witch’s fault because she wasn’t the one who hid her secret.
I just couldn’t stand seeing her screaming and yelling for the majority of the book whenever she was pissed for the biggest or smallest reasons. For example: when she was asking Max if he was fine after he got knocked out by Atticus, and Max said he was “okay” and then his facial expression turned serious that has nothing to do with her, and her reaction after that was ”what the hell?” She literally got mad while Max didn’t even do anything to hurt her or piss her off. And when Max needed to see her right after, she yelled ”screw you Max.” Okay girly, no need to be mad. The guy just woke up from his unconscious state after he got knocked out and you can’t blame him for not wanting to talk a lot about what actually happened. Let the guy recover and rest first. She can’t even be an understanding person, and she acted as if everything is about her. I was getting tired of her attitude and her weak personality. I was like, “is this the type of heroine I should root for?”
Her patience is really thin and she was a very hot-headed person, and I just can’t warm up to her character at all. Her screaming and yelling are mainly what made me not being able to warm up to her doesn’t matter how hard I’ve tried. If she can control her temper and stop being irrational, then she might be able to come up with many better plans to defeat the darkness instead of following her emotions which can make her plans failed. I’ve seen many heroines like her in many books before and yet they are likable while Ariella irritated me until the end.
She better be given a proper character development and I hope the upcoming books will showcase her intelligence more because there is no doubt that she is smart but in this book, it was being wasted. She have a lot of potential to become a great and likable character, and I hope the potential won’t be wasted in upcoming books. Let Ariella shine and become the best version of herself and give her a good upgrade instead of letting her scream and yell out her frustration for the majority of the story which can be so frustrating to see. I’ve never seen a character yelling and screaming as much as she did. Her character needs to be mature and not acting so childish since she knew what it was like to live in a very harsh world and was trained to survive.
Max on the other hand is obviously the leader of the Bellators and the Malum favorite Bellator. He has a great leadership skills, always knew what to do, smart enough to make good decisions, and never give up hope even though sometimes he feels like he wanted to. He stayed strong for his team throughout the whole book and he never stop wanting to protect his team. Their safety is his first priority, and to me that was very good of him.
Max has a lot of admirable quality in his character. He was a lot more mature than the others, and he is an overall a very likable person. He has a very pure and genuine heart. I feel bad that Ariella and the rest of his team left him behind even though the reason was so that he can properly heal from his injury and they don’t want waiting for him to heal because it will put their journey on hold since they are running out of time.
I don’t see the rush to find the hidden city, Ariella can just wait until Max is feeling fine to continue the journey. The main reason why she wanted to rush their journey was because she was pissed at him for keeping the one secret about her from her and she doesn’t want to be on the same journey as him. I get that she was mad but stop letting your emotions control your action. I just feel sorry for Max the most, he doesn’t deserve to be left behind like that. They can just wait because what is the rush to find the hidden city? The city won’t go anywhere, it still stay in its place anyway.
Max’s death was what caught me off guard the most because I didn’t know it was going to happen. Killing him off so early while he is the only impactful character in the book was a bad move, and then bringing him back to life after his death was so pointless too. Since he came back to life, I will not have him being treated poorly by Ariella again. She really did him dirty in this one by screaming and yelling a lot at him just because she was mostly pissed at him for the either the smallest reasons or not. Poor guy was afraid he might say the wrong thing while he was never wrong to begin with, except for when he kept Ariella’s true identity from her. That was so messed up.
Max does have some flaws, everyone does actually but there is no denying that he is the only one who acted like an adult, the only one who made good decisions, the only one who think rationally, and the only one who made a sacrifice to save the lives of his friends. No wonder he’s the leader. His character was great from the start to the end. I just hope he will stay consistent in the upcoming books and maybe get some good upgrade too for his character.
Atticus on the other hand is a really shady prince and I was right to be suspicious of him since the first time he appeared. How much of him was actually him and how much of him was actually the Malum pretending to be him? I can’t pinpoint the exact time the Malum took over him, it was quite confusing. I just don’t trust him at all especially after how it was proven that he had a hidden agenda. I do wonder if the real him would come back to his body, and letting the Malum stays in his body just doesn’t feel right at all.
Now the real villain here is the Malum, also known as the darkness. It is actually a dark magic that happens to be a lot powerful, and the only way it can survive for long is if it has a human body as a host. It can possess anyone who doesn’t have a strong mind or will, and it can pretend to be whoever it wants to. I knew why the Malum is so dangerous and threatening, this type of villain is really hard to defeat especially now that the only weapon to defeat it is destroyed by the heroine. It would take the remaining Bellators a lot of strength to defeat the Malum in the upcoming books.
As for the romance, it was obvious that Max and Ariella would become a thing but sadly I just didn’t feel their connection or see their chemistry. Both knew they had feelings for each other but they had to fight it because if they did fall for each other then things might get complicated or a lot worse than it already is. Well, I’m not surprise when it was proven true later on.
I liked the friendship between Max and Ariella and how it slowly become so much more than just a friendship. It was bound to doom the moment Max kept a secret about Ariella regarding her birthright. I’m tired of seeing characters keeping secrets from each other because sooner or later, their secrets will come out and the result won’t be good. I’ve seen this happened in a lot of books; many characters kept secrets for the sake of protecting the ones they have feelings for and when it blew up, they got into a huge fight with one another. This thing was repetitive, and I wasn’t even surprised when Ariella got mad at Max.
I get that she was mad but no need to scream until you were about to lose your voice. I just can’t stand Ariella and her never-ending temper. I would be mad at Max too if I were her but I’m not going to scream until I lose my voice at him like a crazed person. I feel like she doesn’t really appreciate Max and all that he did to protect her. If Max doesn’t talk to her, either because he doesn’t know what to say to her or he doesn’t want to let her know some things yet, she got pissed and yell at him. She basically spend most of her time getting pissed in this book. It was so infuriating that I’m just so done with her.
Not to mention she left Max behind to follow Atticus because she was angry at him. Max never left anyone, he is the Bellators leader after all and it was his responsibility to make sure everyone is safe. I get that he was injured and she was eager to continue their journey but can’t she just wait until Max recover, it’s not like it would take too long for him to recover especially when there’s a witch to help heal him. She was irritated and it led her to making a poor decision by following Atticus who was already possessed by the Malum at that time, and then got shocked when Atticus tried to kill her. She was lucky Max got to their location on time to save her life. Honestly, Max deserve so much better than her. She was being ungrateful and only regretting her own action when Max was on the verge of dying. They are so not compatible together, I can’t see how they would work out as a couple after this.
Overall, this wasn’t too bad but not too good either. I wasn’t impressed by many things and majority of it is because of Ariella’s character. I can’t fully enjoy reading a story when the female lead has a lot of toxic traits. I do admired the concept but not the overall story. I’m not even sure I want to continue reading the next book.