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.
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The summary of this book, focusing the fantasty world the author created, and the romance between the two main characters, really interested me in this book. I was looking forward to learning more about this world and see the chemistry between the characters.
The character’s of this book, including the protagonists Aurelia and Althan, were all intriguing and memorable. Aurelia, the female main character, was the more interesting to me. She’s strong and fun to get to know. She also goes through the most amount of growth throughout the book. Althan is a bit more subtle than Aurelia, but is still a unique narrator and protagonist. They have great chemistry and I enjoyed watching their relationship flourish. The supporting characters, including the protagonist’s family, were well rounded and engaging as well.
Since the book is an alternating P.O.V. narrative, jumping between Aurelia and Althan, it slows down the pacing of the story. However, there is a lot of tension and intrigue to help. While there are some high-intensity moments, such as when Althan’s mother is killed, but much of the action that takes place is less action-oriented and more subversive. There’s a lot of political drama, which isn’t my favorite kind of plot to read, but would be very interesting to people who enjoy political, less-action-oriented, conflicts.
This book was billed as a fantasy story, so I was really looking forward to seeing the world that the author created. The setting is very similar to WWI/WWII Europe, which fighter jets, military boats and similar technology. I was expecting so more fantasy elements, because of the way this book was described, and was sad to find them lacking. While I understand the book can be considered fantasy because the countries are fictional, but other than the names of the countries and rulers, I felt like it could have been a historical fiction novel.
Dark of the West is Joann Hathaway’s fantasy debut. If you’re a fan of political and espionage drama, you’ll love the subtle tension and conflicts in this book. The two main characters, who share narration, are interesting and have great chemistry. I was hoping for more of a fantasy novel and might appeal more to those who enjoy historical novels.