The Past and the Future in Dark Rise


Dark Rise

By C.S. Pacat

Rating: 5/5

Genre: Speculative Fiction/YA

QUILTBAG Main Character: Yes

QUILTBAG Minor Character: Yes

Main Character of Color: One of the leads is a WOC.

Bechdel Test: Yes

Summary: Will is on the run. A dock worker, Will is constantly on the run from the people who murdered his mother and sent him into hiding. When they finally catch up to him, Will is locked into the brig of a ship, awaiting the same fate as his mother. Violet, meanwhile, is waiting for her brother on the docks when strangely dressed men and women suddenly attack. Violet watches in horror as her brother kills them, sending her to hide in the brig where she discovers Will. The two are thrown into a world of old magic and even older terrors. They are both keys in this strange new world where the threat of an ancient evil is pressing in ever closer. Neither is sure of their real place in this world, only their desire to do right. But is doing right possible in a world seemingly so black and white? And is the duality of good and evil really all that clear?

A Little Bit of a Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader copy (ARC) of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The fact that this was an ARC in no way changes my review or how I felt about the book.

Let’s Get A Little Deep

When was the last time a book made you scream into its pages? The last time you had to get up and physically remove yourself from the room with that book because it had hurt you? The last time you stayed up way too late because you only had a few chapters left? Earlier this year that book for me was My Heart is a Chainsaw. Normally I get maybe one book a year that elicits such strong emotions in me. Not that I don’t love other books, you understand, but it is so hard to get that particular reaction out of me. Well, folks, this year there are at least two books that have emotionally ruined me.

Dark Rise seems, at first, to play into a lot of classic YA speculative fiction tropes. You have the chosen one, the woman warrior, the privileged one who doesn’t understand the world they find themselves in but who is instantly loved by one of the other protagonists; you have magic, you have good vs evil. And for a while, that is exactly how the story plays out. Everyone has their roles and those roles appear fixed, with everyone forever doomed to play their parts again and again, throughout time.

Very quickly, however, it becomes clear that this is not that story. At one point in the book, Will tells James, the Reborn incarnation of the Betrayer, one of the worst enemies of the Light, that Will isn’t all that interested in who James was: “I think what people were is less important than what they are. And what people are is less important than what they could be.”

These two sentences are the central theme of the entire novel. Pacat shows these characters a world where who they were in the past, who their people were, seems to dictate everything. The past, the characters are told, is not only prologue, but the epilogue. It would be not only easy to slip into their assigned places on the battlefield, but comfortable. 

Ultimately, it is the characters who question their place, who fight against what they are told they were and seek to find out who they could be, that make all the difference in this story. It is a novel that tells its readers that the past does not define them unless they allow it. We are stronger than our ancestors, and we need not make their mistakes. Who we are is less important than who we could be.

Dark Rise is out September 28th of this year and I highly recommend that you preorder it. If you can, try and order it from your favorite indie bookstore. May I suggest Changing Hands Bookstore?

Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love Dark Rise? Leave a comment telling me your favorite YA speculative fiction trope. You can also find me on Instagram @booked.with.grace and on Twitter @gwasserst! Special thanks to Yasi (@ynbushehri) for editing my posts.

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