Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway is a hard nut to crack. Steeped in World War II era inspiration and saturated with political intrigue, Dark of the West is certain to appeal to fans of Historical Fiction. But what about those of us who picked the book up for the forbidden romance, betrayals, and plane battles? That’s where it gets tricky.
Rating: 4 Stars
Dark of the West
Author: Joanna Hathaway
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: February 5th, 2019
Synopsis: Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.
Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.
The first thing you need to understand about Dark of the West is that it is not a fast read. This does not mean it isn’t good. It just means that it is DENSE. Clocking in at 480 pages, there is no shortage of world building and political schemes. My problem was that I was never able to quite grasp all the machinations. There is the North and the South and each of those have various “countries” and no one seems to like each other much for various past wars and/or betrayals. It’s almost overwhelming and it takes a lot time to wade through it all. Honestly, I stopped trying to figure out the political aspect of the story about 200 pages in. I just rolled with the story and was able to get through it a bit quicker. Though, I’m still a bit bitter that it took 340 pages to get to a plane battle scene.
I did like the romance aspect of the story quite a bit. It’s very sweet and grows over time. And then you remember the prologue of the story and realize that things are going to get very, very bad at some point in the future (GIMMIE ALL THAT TRAGEDY!). Athan and Aurelia are both young and naive in their own ways, but it’s never in a way that grates my nerves. Both are written perfectly. Really, everyone is written well in this story. I truly appreciate the time Hathaway put into her characters and the research for building the world they live in.
There is no denying that this book reads very slow at times. But it kept me coming back for more. I wanted so desperately to have more action in this book but having now finished it and let myself read the synopsis for book 2, I see that this book was setting up a more action-packed future. That’s not going to work for some readers, but I hope they all give the book a chance.
I keep going back to the prologue. That’s where all the promise of tragedy and betrayal is. It’s that promise that kept me going and makes me long to start the second book in the series. Dark of the West may be a lot of set up, but it’s set up that will ultimately lead to what I think will be a dramatic and enthralling story. I for one, will be keeping my eyes on the horizon.