The Dark Side of Fantasy

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Wyrd and Wonder is a celebration of all things fantasy. The format of figurative consumption doesn’t matter. You can read, watch, game, puzzle, etc. anything fantasy! To learn more visit my introduction post, which includes links to the hosts and more information about this month-long appreciation of the fantasy genre.

Today’s Wyrd and Wonder prompt is “dark:”

Time to celebrate a subgenre – choose your path wisely, whether you love grimdark, dark fantasy, or horror.

When I stop to think about the type of fantasy I read, it comes down to either fantasy with romance or dark fantasy. Usually there’s some of both subgenres in a fantasy book that I pick up.

What is dark fantasy? Fantasy Book Fanatic describes this subgenre as “typified by a deliberately ominous tone, reinforcing what is commonly perceived as a “gloomy” atmosphere. Standard features of fantasy are deliberately intertwined with a sense of terror and dread to create this sinister subcategory of fantasy.” FBF lists characteristics often found in dark fantasy books, which can include a deliberately ominous tone; the possibility that evil can win; themes of good vs. evil; a lack of heroes; elements of horror; and a gloomy atmosphere.

Continue reading “The Dark Side of Fantasy”

Monthly Book Blog Wrap-Up: February 2022

Hi and bye, February! I don’t know how I found the time, but I feel like I was as productive as ever in February. February was the month of the blog tour for me. I also managed to squeeze in a few pleasure reads for myself. (That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the blog tour books, which I did.) Here’s what I accomplished in February.

Book Reviews

For a short month, I surprised myself by posting six book reviews. I’ll happily take a pat on the back for that. From earliest to latest, here are my recent book reviews.

Book Memes and Other Posts

I posted four book memes.

Though not a book meme in the traditional sense, I also participated in the Support Book Bloggers Challenge. I chose the 10 new-to-me book bloggers prompt. Check it out for some potentially new-to-you book bloggers to follow.

I also posted a list of recommended and TBR books for Black history month.

And I can’t forget about my January monthly wrap-up.


I’m now a smidge over half way to my goal of 100 blog followers by the end of 2022. A big thank you to my new blog followers!

Since posting more frequently over the past several months, I’ve noticed an increase in monthly views and unique visitors. The numbers will be small to some, but it’s a steady trend upward nonetheless. Amazingly, more unique visitors checked out my blog in February than in January, which surprised me because February is a shorter month. February also had the highest number of views and unique visitors compared to previous months. This increasing trend makes me happy because it means (I hope) my reviews and my love of books are reaching more people. I think this is mainly a result of signing up from so many blog tours in February. That’s not sustainable for me, though, so I don’t anticipate hitting these numbers every month.

In February, my top five posts were:

  1. 2022 Support Book Bloggers Challenge: 10 Book Bloggers
  2. Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian
  3. Blood of the Lost Kingdom by Kristin Ward
  4. The Broken Heart of Arelium by Alex Robins
  5. Castles in Their Bones by Laura Sebastian


Lisa at Owl Be Sat Reading started the hashtag #BeatTheBacklog to rally those who want to make a dent in their TBR list. I only read one book in my backlog in February, The North Wind by Alexandria Warwick, which was in my NetGalley queue. I definitely want to make more progress, but one book is certainly better than none! You can find my progress list here of all of my #BeatTheBacklog reads.

Other Book-ish Progress

I made a little progress on my NetGalley queue (The North Wind), though not as much as in January. As I mentioned earlier, most of my attention was on blog tours this month. I also read A Dance with the Fae Prince by Elise Kova, which was not a NG read.

In March, though, I plan on making more progress on my NG approvals. I was pleasantly surprised that publishers approved me for A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland; The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah; The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh; and Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel. I’m quite behind, but I’ll read everything eventually!

I also won a couple of book giveaways. Thanks to Jill at Myth and Magic Book Club for a copy of House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas. And thanks to Nick at Out of This World SFF for a copy of Rise of the Mages by Scott Drakeford.

Last, but certainly not least, I created a bookstagram. Please feel free to follow me on Instagram at alitescape!

Blog Tour: The Broken Heart of Arelium by Alex Robins

Author: Alex Robins
Publisher: Bradypus Publishing
Publish Date: March 16, 2021
Print Length: 232
Links: Amazon* and Goodreads*

*This is not an affiliate link and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using this link.

Official Synopsis
None can resist the ravages of time. Knowledge is lost. Memories fade.

But some things must never be forgotten.

Over 400 years ago, twelve great warriors united the beleaguered armies of men and scoured the war-torn lands of evil, pushing the enemy back into the underground pits and caverns from whence they came. To ensure their legacy, each of the Twelve founded fortress monasteries to impart their unique knowledge of war and politics to a select few, the Knights of the Twelve.

But now the last of the Twelve have long since passed from history to legend and the Knights, their numbers dwindling, are harbouring a dark and terrible secret that must be protected at all costs.

Merad Reed has spent half his life guarding a great crater known as the Pit, yearning for some escape from the bleak monotony. Then the arrival of Aldarin, one of the few remaining Knights of the Twelve, sets off a chain of cataclysmic events that will change Reed forever.

To the north, Jelaïa del Arelium, heiress to the richest of the nine Baronies, must learn to navigate the swirling political currents of her father’s court if she hopes one day to take his place. But the flickering flames of ambition hide the shadow of an even greater threat.

And deep within the earth, something is stirring.

My Review
Thank you to The Write Reads and the author for providing me with an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Broken Heart of Arelium is a relatively fast-paced fantasy adventure where monotony mutinies into more than the characters ever desired. Merad Reed, a member of the Old Guard, has served the majority of his life on the wall keeping watch over the Pit. Now middle-aged, what seemed like a great honor now feels dull and everlasting. Centuries have passed with no excitement for the Old Guard to show for it. The wall slowly continues to deteriorate and the arrival of new recruits dwindles. But then something stirs and comes forth from the Pit. Suddenly the expected trajectory of Merad’s life changes and life throughout the nine Baronies becomes endangered.

The action starts almost from the first page, during which we encounter the very beings who threaten human existence. I thought the pace slowed a bit in the middle; but this is understandable in order for the characters to teach the reader about the world in which they live. However, I read the last 40% or so of the book in one sitting. It’s action-packed and the pages host quite a few curve balls. When reading fantasy books I, more often than not, try to guess who the characters can trust. I had my suspicions about one person thanks to some subtle hints written into other characters’ reactions, but the plot twist of another blindsided me.

The dialogue is more formal than I usually read, so that took me a little time to adjust to. This type of writing made me think about the romanticization of medieval knights. Moreover, the main male characters, Merad and Aldarin, a knight of the Twelve, exude chivalry and duty, hearkening back to legends of old. Merad undergoes the most character development. He starts as a subdued defender in the Old Guard to someone who gains confidence and earns respect as he helps Arelium prepare for an inevitable invasion. I feel that the development of other characters was not as defined, though. I chalk this up to the pace and shorter book length. This book is more plot-driven than character-driven. However, the ending leaves little doubt in my mind that plenty of transformation is around the corner for everyone.

One of my favorite things about this story is the history we learn from Aldarin, as he tells it to Merad, about the original Twelve Knights and their followers, or Knights of the Twelve. The Broken Heart of Arelium definitely whetted my appetite to learn more about the original Twelve, over whom is a cloak of mystery. This is a personal preference, but I do wish there was more female character page time in this book. But it’s important to also acknowledge that this book sets the scene for the rest of the series. I have a feeling our female characters will feature more prominently later.

Lastly, the author pays careful attention to detail when describing surroundings and buildings. I don’t know much about stone construction or battle gear. That said, it seemed to me Robins did due diligence with his research. So this type of detail could thrill some and perhaps not others.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The ending surprised me and, for that alone, I do want to continue with the series, my TBR-willing. I’m very curious about the Knights of the Twelve and the elaboration of a magic system in the next books.

Rating: 4/5
Content warnings: gore, death
Reading format: Kindle e-book

About the Author
Alex Robins was born in Norwich, England back when it was still trendy to wear lycra tracksuits and bright pink headbands. Norwich School Library was where he first discovered his love of reading, an old converted undercroft packed to the rafters with books. The first fantasy series he read was The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracey Hickman, quickly followed by The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and David Eddings’ The Belgariad.

At the age of twelve Alex moved across the channel to Nantes in France. Speaking very little French, the first few years were difficult and sometimes lonely as he scrambled to get a grip on the intricate grammar and vocabulary of the French language. His taste in books branched out from epic fantasy to science-fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and historical fiction, but he always came back to his favourite fantasy authors when looking to escape the outside world.

After degrees in agronomy, project management, and computer sciences, Alex founded his own company dedicated to online voting. He met his wife during a game of badminton and they spent several years getting trounced in various regional tournaments before getting married. Alex now lives in the sunny Loire Valley in western France, surrounded by imposing castles, sprawling vineyards, and two children. After reading fantasy books for the last thirty years he decided to write one. The Broken Heart of Arelium is his first novel, and the first in the War of the Twelve series.

WWW Wednesday: January 26, 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme revived and hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The idea is to answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses.

What are you currently reading?

What have you just finished reading?

What are you going to read next?

Currently Reading: Right now I’m reading an ARC via NetGalley of Castle in their Bones by Laura Sebastian. Apparently this has been sitting in my NG queue for a little while. I didn’t realize it’s by the same author who wrote Half Sick of Shadows, which I loved. This hits bookstores on February 1. I’ll probably finish it by then, but I don’t think I’ll be able to write my review and post it on the blog by that date.

Recently Finished: The last book I finished is To Bleed A Crystal Bloom by Sarah A. Parker. It’s not the first “dark fantasy” I’ve read, but it’s certainly the darkest. I loved it. Right before that I finished Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith, which is a YA “meet cute” type romance. I wrote my reviews for both of these books, but just need to decide when to put them in the blog queue.

Reading Next: I’m either going to keep reading The Cicada Tree by Robert Gwaltney, or start The Broken Heart of Arelium by Alex Robins. The latter is for a blog tour with The Write Reads, so keep an eye out for my review next month.