Joelene Reviews: Jonathon K. Benton's - "A Wicked Kind of Dark"
Seven years ago Robert lost his parents in a fire that was caused by a freak storm. He also lost the entire winter that went with that storm. At seventeen, a mysterious phone call mentioning the blood moon and the name Luthien liberates something in his fractured memory bringing events of that forgotten winter back. Soon he is searching for Luthien, the girl he once loved. And across the city graffito begins to show up, warning of the coming blood moon.
As he tries to unlock the secrets of his past, Robert finds unlikely allies in an artist, an entrepreneur and a homeless girl. In a dual world, the enemy is gathering its forces as well, and Robert will need all of his friends to survive the coming battle.
There’s a lot of charm in A Wicked Kind of Dark. It is full of lush intertextuality, giving younger readers a myriad of other books to add to their reading lists (it’s also good to read a book about a character who is a reader and actually knows about books). In atmosphere, I’m reminded of a lot of other books. Enid Blyton comes to mind as the children are thrown into worlds full of adventurous possibility. The vividly realized description is evocative of Tolkien. Not that A Wicked Kind of Dark is derivative; it just nods to a lot of the classics that I grew up with, making me kind of nostalgic.
Despite the novel’s old-school atmosphere, A Wicked Kind of Dark explores some gritty and very modern settings. A doorway to the dual world exists in the London Underground and Robert’s allies, having previously been homeless, run a soup kitchen. Merging the fantastic with the mundane does more than create gripping urban fantasy here. It puts forth the homeless and addicted as heroes in their own right, something that is not done frequently enough.
One thing that made me sad was that, while familial love was portrayed as a bond that was near impossible to break, it is still trumped by romantic love. This is my gripe with pretty much every book, ever, but here it was more poignant because there were some amazing family members around Robert and Luthien. Robert’s brother, Gabriel, and Luthien’s mother, Lady Buchanan, are two of the strongest and most faceted characters in the novel, and I would have loved to have had more page time with them.
Young fantasy readers will love this imaginative new series. Its exploration of modern teenage issues like depression and isolation works well within its classical literature framework, making it a lyrical and significant read.
A Wicked Kind of Dark – Jonathan K. Benton
Odyssey Books (September 3, 2013)