As the Shadow Rises: The Age of Darkness, Book 2

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
As the Shadow Rises: The Age of Darkness, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Love, religion, and magic mix in twisty, satisfying sequel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Series combines magical powers and made-up religions, and readers can compare it with other books that do the same (Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Golden Compass, for starters) and think about how the magic is tied to faith and how both are distorted by evil forces.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of having faith in yourself and embracing who you are. Loyalty, empathy, selflessness, bravery help in the fight against prejudice and genocide.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Six major characters get a turn at narration: Hassan, Jude, Anton, Ephyra, Beru, and Hector. Jude has the most positive change as he begins to believe in himself more, allows himself to love. Ephyra, once again, changes for the worse. She lets power overcome her, does horrible things to keep it, including more murder. LGBTQ+ characters are represented. The main love story of the three is between two men. Talk of lesbian couples.

Violence

Lots of deaths by the magical stealing of someone's life force, by sword, by falling into a pit. Possession and blood sacrifice. Fistfights, some in an arena for profit, some in heated arguments, one brawl in the streets when people are subjected to a mood-altering vapor. Talk of torture and two suicides. Talk of how forces would like to bring about the end of the world.

Sex

Kissing and groping, straight and LGBTQ+. A straight couple has sex repeatedly, not described beyond kissing passionately and being pulled down on a bed. Innuendo.

Language

Rare, but includes "horses--t," "s--t," "bastard, "d--ks," and "piss."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine and hard liquor drunk by 19-year-olds. Jude gets very drunk once. A few scenes in taverns with drinking. A mention that Anton's father "drank himself to death."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Katy Rose Pool's As the Shadow Rises is the second book in a fantasy trilogy for mature teens about prophets, kingdoms, magic, and possible end times. This sequel has more sexual content than the first book, There Will Come a Darkness. Straight characters have sex repeatedly, though it's not described beyond kissing passionately and being pulled down on a bed. Other straight and LGBTQ+ characters kiss and grope. Violence is less intense -- only mentions of torture this time -- but there are still a lot of deaths by the magical stealing of someone's life force, by sword, and by falling into a pit. There are also a lot of fistfights, some in an arena for profit, some during heated arguments, and a massive brawl breaks out in the streets when people are subjected to a mood-altering vapor. Drinking is prevalent for the main characters, who are all around 19 years old. Usually it's wine or liquor in moderation, but one character gets very drunk. Swearing is rare but includes "s--t." Some characters fare well in this book. Jude learns to believe in himself and embraces who he is. Other characters fare worse. Ephyra lets power consume her and does horrible things to keep it, including murder.

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What's the story?

In AS THE SHADOW RISES: THE AGE OF DARKNESS, BOOK 2, Ephyra's sister, Beru, has deserted her, but it doesn't make Ephyra any less determined to find Eleazar's Chalice. The chalice can restore Beru's life force without forcing Ephyra to commit murder to do it. Ephyra hires a team of thieves to follow her into the desert on a mission that no one has returned from before. At the same time, Beru is hiding out in a desert town, helping heal the losers in the fighting pits. That's when she spots one of the winners: Hector, the last man Ephyra killed for Beru. In the Kerameikos Fort, Jude is awaiting trial for disobeying his religious order. He's also avoiding Anton, the Prophet he recovered for his order, and not just because Anton has dark visions, but because Jude has feelings for him that his chaste order would not approve of. Before the trial, though, the fort is attacked by zealots called Witnesses, and Jude and Anton are on the run. If the Witnesses catch them, they'll be brought before the Hierophant, a religious leader determined to burn the graces (magic) out of all the graced and bring about the end times. Prince Hassan is the first to face the Hierophant after he threatens all the graced in his kingdom.

Is it any good?

Fans of the first book will be thrilled with this sequel, which combines ample helpings of romance, magic, and twisty dark prophesies. There are six major characters here that each get their turn narrating. The most compelling narrators are Jude and Anton. Their forbidden romance heats up, Jude questions his rigid religious beliefs that keep him from what he desires, and they both run from zealots that want to strip them of power and destroy the world. They are very easy to root for. Ephyra, on the other hand, is hard to root for. She thinks murder solves everything and starts a disastrous sexual relationship with someone she doesn't trust. Her treasure-hunting escapades are exciting, though.

The other two storylines also add intrigue. Prince Hassan falls in with the wrong rebels, who have more violent aims, and uncovers some important relics. Beru and Hector find a little romance and an evil force in the desert. Because they are all part of the Prophecy, you know the storylines have to come together eventually, and they do in dramatic, twisty fashion. Some of the twistiness is hard to follow -- like whose side the Hierophant is really on -- but the thrilling conclusion sets up the finale well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about unrepentant killer Ephyra in As the Shadow Rises. When she narrates the story, do you feel for her? Do you ever read stories from the perspective of someone who does unspeakable things? What would the story be like if it was all in her voice? Would you like it as much?

  • How does this story incorporate religion? What do each of the main characters believe at the beginning of this book? The end? What other stories that you've read combine spiritual beliefs with magic?

  • Will you read the finale of this series? What do you think will happen to each of the main characters?

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