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Summary

Winner of the IndieReader Discovery Award for Fantasy 

Darien Lauchlin has already lost everything. Now the only thing he has left to lose is his soul. 

When his own brother unseals the Well of Tears, Darien is the last Sentinel left alive to defend his homeland. Now he is faced with an impossible decision: either watch everything he knows shatter - or forsake his oath of peace to become an instrument of pure destruction. Accompanied by Naia, a priestess of Death, Darien embarks on a harrowing journey to save the people of the Rhen. But will he lose his own soul in the process? 

Darkmage is the first novel in the epic fantasy series The Rhenwars Saga. If you like morally gray heroes, addictive action, and mind-boggling plot twists, then you’ll love Spencer’s award-winning series. 

Pick up a copy to begin this epic adventure today! 

“Absolutely fantastic.” (Chris Fischer, Readers' Favorite)

“A masterful story with incredible depth of emotion.” (Melinda Hills, Readers’ Favorite)

©2011 Melinda L. Spencer-Crabbe (P)2018 Melinda L. Spencer-Crabbe

What listeners say about Darkmage

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Multiple pov's

I can't stand multiple pov's, it would be good if the author had put that the book has more than one pov in the description. I didn't buy this book so I could read about people who aren't the protagonist.

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Move over Robert Jordan

I'd read the prequel to this story, Dark Storm and enjoyed it a lot so figured why not pick up a copy of the first book of the series. What a mistake... now I'll have to listen to all of them! This was an excellent book and probably even better than the prequel. It's definitely in the category of Epic Fantasy but with a strong Grimdark edge to it, not in the terrible everyone's evil and blood flows like a river way of some supposedly grimdark stories. No. This is a story that gets its darkness and grimness from moral ambiguity and shades of grey. It's complex and compelling. I found the first part of the book very fast paced and listened to about the first five hours in a single evening. After that, I took my time a bit more and I'm not sure whether this was just about my listening habits (cooking, travelling, housework) rather than the pacing of the book. Regardless, if the pace was slower, it was no less engaging.

I'm reminded of the late Robert Jordan. I felt this about Darkstorm too. But there are several things that Jordan used to do which irritated me as a reader, which Spencer does not. The writing is tighter. The characters (particularly the female ones) feel more 'real'. And best of all there's no sign of Brandon Sanderson in sight...

Narration was spot on.

Overall I'd recommend this for anyone who likes Epic Fantasy but is tired of the same old tropes. This is fresh and new, with a sting in its tail. A definite two-thumbs up!

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Pretty good. Definitely worth a listen.

The story was decent and fairly original. I had a hard time getting emotionally invested in any of the characters but I had no problem focusing on the story. Not always the case with non LitRPG books. The narrator puts on a good performance.

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Possible Forward for things to come.

I struggled, Although an interesting listen, I was expecting sooo much more, And perhaps that is to come, Possibly I am old school who thinks Dark Mage would have tonnes of magic, and fantasy, But this was 18 plus hours of talk and the entire start-middle and end of magic could have been summed up in 3 minutes. The narration probably spoiled it for me, although Simon Wright Is clear, he simply reads. I was surprised at one point as I thought His moderation got some enthusiasm, but sadly it was my sat-nav on my phone, telling me to turn left.
Even as I review this, I cannot remember how it ended though I only finished this morning.

Jim

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The start of an Epic YA fantasy adventure!?

I must say that I enjoyed this book a lot more than its prequel! It’s filled to the brim with adventure, magic, battles and intrigue.
It’s still a little tame and cliche’d at times for my tastes but it’s very enjoyable for what it is!
The narrator reads it well, although there isn’t a great distinction between his characters and it’s all read with the same cadence and tone, whether its the description of a babbling stream or narrowly avoiding death in a battle.
I found listening at x1.25 made it more enjoyable and didn’t decrease the quality at all.
The book definitely peaks interest as to what happens in book 2!
This is an honest opinion of a free review copy.

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  • Kevin Potter
  • 21-03-19

This is the very definition of epic Grimdark!

I have the same problems with the narrator here as I did with Darkstorm. He does okay, generally. But his unusual pronunciations are a bit troublesome. 


Now, the first big thing is it took me a while to realize that this book actually takes place about 1,000 years after Darkstorm. 


Some events were a bit confusing until I figured that out. 


And honestly, even now I'm not 100% certain about how things actually ended in the prequel. It seems likely that the "Big Plot" orchestrated by the Dark Mages turned out to be successful, in spite of all Braden and Quin's efforts. Too bad for Quin, I suppose. 


Here we are introduced to a new cast of characters who are battling against a circumstance extremely similar to that which faced the brothers in Darkstorm. 


Unfortunately, these characters don't have nearly the resources or advantages that Quin and Braden did.


Which does have the added benefit of making the story feel far more desperate. A quest standing on the edge of a knife, as it were. 


All the characters are very well written and have their own needs and desires that color their actions, perceptions, and motivations. 


The one down side I have is that I didn't really personally connect with any of them. 


But don't let that discouraged you, it's a problem I have frequently. 


In this book we get something much closer to the "start out weak and build up to greater power" journey that I love to see, in Darian and his progression throughout the novel. 


Herein, you will find a wild array of twists and turns, an interesting mix of attempted nobility and malevolence, brilliantly imagined characters, environments, and set dressings, as well as a fascinating mythology with an impressive array of intriguing ephemera. 


With this one, ML Spencer has proved that she knows how to take a huge plot, tie together dozens of plot elements, and bring it all together into a fantastic, satisfying ending that has left me on the edge of my seat as I jump into the next book. 


I can't wait to see where this is going! 

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  • linda arnold
  • 01-05-22

Good book but lacking about 80% of backstory

I did like this book and just got #2 but it didn't give barely any history of characters. just kept getting the feeling of something missing. I would still recommend it and hopefully the second book will address this issue

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  • Rainbo Tims
  • 28-03-22

Finally found another good fantasy series!!

I have read a ton books in fantasy genre and have been struggling to find something that really excites me. At least for the first installment, I really enjoy this series so far.
The cover turned me off a bit looked like a romance novel cover but it is actually quite good in my opinion. I would definitely recommend to anyone struggling to find a new fantasy series like myself.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 02-04-19

Starts with a bang!

Darkmage really got started with such ferocity, action, and quick, elaborate worldbuilding that I was superexcited to see what would happen next. After that, however, the pace slowed quite a bit, and while the story was never boring and had some intriguing characters, it never quite reached that peak again.

The main character, Darien, quickly became a brooding sort whose intentions were never quite clear (I believe this is intentional). I found myself not able to be very sympathetic for him because I didn't get enough of a glimpse of who he was before all of this misery befell him. The romantic interest that developed partway through the book helped with this a little, but I still found myself rooting for other characters more than Darien by the book's end.

Kyel and Traver and even Naia and Craig turned out to be easier to sympathize with. Traver especially got more interesting as the book progressed and he came into his own.

Still intrigued enough to have started the next book to see how it goes and wonder if some points that were touched upon (such as the people who aided Traver) will be developed more as the series continues.

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  • Drew McVittie
  • 09-03-19

The Scribblings Review of Darkmage

Darkmage is set in a world where the only things standing between the (mostly) peaceful kingdoms of the Rhen and the Black Lands of The Enemy are the desperate men guarding the border and the Mages of Aerysius.

The novel has a number of point of view characters, moving in and out of the story, taking the reader around the kingdoms, drawing the story together in places, expanding it where necessary. The bulk of the story though is told through the eyes of Darien Lauchlin. He begins the novel as an acolyte mage but in rapid succession is elevated to full mage and possibly the most powerful in history. He is betrayed, loses his home and just about everyone he cares for.

A very strong part of the novel is Darien’s progression from young, relatively innocent soldier to a haunted man, equally revered and cursed by those he wants to help. The reader is led through what he will do, to others and to himself, in order to do what he believes will save the lands from the agents and armies of the enemy. It’s often easy to be simultaneously appalled by his arrogance and the way he treats people but also understand why he’s doing so.

The world building in the story is very well done. There is a sense that there is a long history in the kingdoms, and pieces of that history are given out as needed. You learn everything you need to follow the plot without any large info dumps, but there is more than enough to suggest a lot more is in place, possibly being held back for future instalments. The same is true of the way magic works in this world. Again, some aspects like the passing of abilities are detailed, while others, like the orders of mages, are only alluded to.

Despite it being billed as the 1st book in the Rhenwars series, Darkmage can be read as a stand-alone novel. Both the writing and the world are strong enough to support this and I certainly had no difficulty enjoying the novel on its own terms. Having said that, I would eagerly visit the Rhen again…

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  • Anonymous
  • 31-12-18

Well done War Fantasy

Compelling narrative and an interesting world where the war against Darkness and Evil has taken too much of a toll on the world of the story. The narrative primarily follows Darien and very much feels like an origin story for him, and to a lesser extent, his apprentice Kyle.

I like how this world handles magic, as in its not something that comes from within, but is something bequeathed from wizard to wizard and is governed by serious life-or-death rules. I’m looking forward to the subsequent books explaining and delving deeper into the workings of magic in this world.

The political intrigues between the different kingdoms was also interesting, though like magic, I feel we just scratched the surface in this book.

My only real criticism of the story has to do with the female characters, namely they are all pretty much two dimensional archetypes. They are either the Mother, the Lover, or Woman in Refrigerator with no arcs of their own that don’t center around the main character. Even the villainess is a seductress who (spoiler warning:) gets killed the minute after she has sex with the main character. There is a section where we follow the Mother’s POV for a little while and I was really interested in her journey, but then she disappears from the book and (spoiler warning:) gets killed off screen 2/3 of the book later. None of these things are inherently bad, but I did find them disappointing.

Otherwise I would very much recommend getting this book on audible as Simon Wright’s voice and storytelling is very easy to listen to as he has the kind of sound that makes medical disclaimer notices sound sexy.

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  • Author Leila Kirkconnell
  • 09-11-18

Brilliant!

This is my first time delving into the world of fantasy. I loved it. From the first scene, ML Spencer's magic with the pen wove a story I quickly became part of and lived through the eyes and souls of her characters. Though it was a world built in fantasy, it was real. Life with its struggles was real -- from the sounds and smells of daily life to the beating hoofs carrying soldiers into war.
Spencer brilliantly deals with real-life conflicts may they be environmental or internal.
I'm hooked and so very much looking forward to reading the rest of Spencer's novel.

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  • Al
  • 18-10-18

Dark Fantasy at its finest

You may (or may not) remember I wrote a review for Darkstorm, the precursor to Darkmage, a while back. As far as I know (yell at me if I’m wrong), Darkmage was actually written (or at least published) before Darkstorm, so this is essentially book one, and Darkstorm is book 0.5. I liked Darkstorm, but most of the first 70% or so definitely wallowed in the YA range. Darkmage is very different.

AUDIOBOOK WARNING

Standard Young Adult fare tends to be less satisfying for not Young Adults (or me anyway), as it tends to skirt over issues that less young types find appealing . ML Spencer has skilfully crafted a novel that appeals to the broader audience by dealing with the likes of morality and loss, while maintaining well drawn characters and using a writing style that will appeal to younger readers (as in 18, not 8).

Darkstorm started hard, then softened for a significant chunk of the novel, although it still entertained. Darkmage, on the other hand, starts off dark with the death of the hero’s mother, and destruction of his city. From here, it’s all downhill.

The story revolves around two men, Kyle Archer, just your average Joe, or Kyle, who gets arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, and sent to Greystone Keep to guard against invasion. This sounds bad enough, but just after he arrives, a huge army shows up ready to attack. Out of the frying pan, and so on.

The other is Darien Lauchlin, a mage and son of the Prime Warden. When his brother Aidan kills their mother and open the Well of Tears, Darien finds he is all that stands between the end of the world. Or is he?

This book has it all – friendships are made and ended, political intrigue, epic battles and most importantly, hard choices and sacrifices must be made. As mentioned earlier, I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator did a terrific job, narrating the book as if the weight of the world was on shoulders, while capturing the tone and humour.

Want to check out a new series, or interested in checking out one of indie publishing’s finest authors, look no further. But don’t take my word for it, just read the darn book.

1 person found this helpful

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  • KD
  • 07-10-18

Dark Fantasy

Not your typical sanderson or tolkien in terms of tone. Nor really in terms of quality. But what we have here is a dark story no one seems to win. It kind of draws on my mood reading stuff like this. a lot of popular fantasies have the good guys always winning, this story subverts that seems like nothing good come of anything.

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  • Ulices
  • 08-10-18

Confusing

It’s confusing to me and has other characters that aren’t the best and of screen deaths that confuse you, it’s not my cup of tea but the narrator did a good job, just a boring story

1 person found this helpful