Light in the Gloaming by J.B. Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'd put this somewhere between a 3 and a 4 star - it was interesting enough to catch my attention and I did like the story very much. It's classic fantasy - bad prince usurps the throne, good prince fights to win back his throne and his bride (though his bride wasn't really in any danger, I think?)
Throw in family relationships and make it convoluted - Andor is a half-brother to Tryst, though there was a mention of an orphanage and adoption - so he could just have been an adopted brother. Ravien is Tryst's full sister... Lorien is (somehow) a half-sister? At first, I interpreted this for her to be Andor's full sister, but this didn't quite make sense, and also they were... betrothed? This was one of the things that confused me actually - how everyone was related to everyone else, and a family tree would have helped. Or them not being related at all might have worked better, because Andor's lineage apparently has some repercussions for the second book...
The weakest point in this novel, I think, is the constantly changing point of view. Simmons jumps from third to first between chapters, changing viewpoints from Andor to Tryst to I think Lorien at one point. There's no indication of this in the chapter headings (I checked because I was confused) so that doesn't really help you along.
At any rate, Andor makes for a good, complex character, even if he plays into the trope - the broken prince trying to reclaim his own, walking the tightrope between strength and weakness. Ravien is full of intrigue - I would like to know much more about her, actually. Tryst is pompous, proud and idiotic - he felt almost one-sided, but not quite. There were a few glimpses into his character that proved otherwise, but we don't know much more about him.
Of the other characters, I like Jon and Wren quite a lot. Father Yates was quite annoyingly preachy, but I suppose, in character. The Gloaming could be a character on its own, though it's a place, and exploring its origins and its purposes would have been fun.
So yeah. I guess somewhere about a 3.5 star.
Breaking the Gloaming by J.B. Simmons
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Prince Andor has much to do to rebuild Valemidas in the aftermath of Tryst’s coup. With Tryst languishing in the Gloaming and Ramzi dead, Andor must forge a way forward in the midst of an uncertain nobility and the threat of war from Sunan. Secrets are being revealed and plans are being laid bare - how true is Sebastian and what is his true motive? In the background, the priests plot - from the still-preachy Yeats, to the tandem Sunan priests, Malam and Ilias.
Simmons ups the complexity in Breaking the Gloaming, with many little mysteries and allusions in Light in the Gloaming now coming to light (or fruition?). Redemption is a recurrent theme - from Andor’s to Tryst’s to the smuggler.
The changing point of view is still a weakness in this sequel, with the story jumping from a third-person point of view to first person (usually Tryst, sometimes Andor) without indication, though this seems to happen less than in the first book.
All in all, Breaking the Gloaming is a pretty solid 3-star story. It doesn’t push many boundaries and there aren’t any spectacular twists to look out for, but it plods steadily on to a satisfying conclusion.
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