Spooks: The Dark Army
by Joseph Delaney3 out of 5
The second terrifying tale in the Spook's spin-off series from bestselling author Joseph Delaney.
Thomas Ward was working as the new County Spook, fighting the Dark with his own apprentice. But a new enemy stirred in the north, and Tom’s calling required him to leave his home and lead an uprising against a legion of beasts: creatures of the dark intent on locking the whole earth in a never-ending winter.
Then something went horribly wrong, and now Tom lies cold in a grave, while those who remain are in despair.
Who can now take up the battle? And how much time remains before the dark army brings the fight back to the County, and the world is changed for ever?
The Spooks, witches and even Old Gods must unite, to head off the threat of the Kabalos and their new god Talkus.
I won a paperback copy in a Goodreads giveaway.
I have to point out that:
a) this is the first book that I have read from Joseph Delaney and the whole Spook's saga.
b) if you haven't already, go read the first book of The Starblade Chronicles, because this book (and every review of it) has a pretty major spoiler about a major event from the end of the first book.
OK, still with me? You were warned.
The main character Tom, dies at the end of A New Darkness. In this book he is resurrected within the first couple of chapters. There, I've said it.
I have to say, coming in at this stage in the Spooks story, I found it very easy to pick up the world that Delaney has created. The characters, their relationships and backgrounds, the rules of magic and dark threats - it all came together very well, and I never felt lost or overwhelmed.
BUT - I would recommend reading at least the first book in this spin-off series. I imagine if you do, the twists and developments will mean a lot more.
Overall I enjoyed this book, it is very creative and entertaining.
Out of all the characters, I have to say that Grimalkin was my favourite. Witch assassin? Yes please. She has a feral nature about her, and seems to be dancing to a different tune. She manipulates those around her, and doesn't always reveal the bigger plan.
My least favourite characters were unfortunately Tom and Jenny, our two narrators.
Jenny was rather annoying, as you'd expect a teenage girl with a crush on her trainer would be. She had fewer chapters to narrate, though I found very little difference between her voice and Tom's, and had to recheck the name at the top of the chapter.
Tom is... a man old before his time and selfish to boot. Again, there could be lots of reasons from earlier books, but this was just the impression I got from jumping in here.
He is seventeen years old (seventeen?! I did a double-take when I read that, he always comes across much older), a qualified Spook; with an apprentice; and enough presence and experience to lead a foreign army against the dark.
Um, no. He was never a hero. He did a few reluctantly heroic things, but because other people were pulling the strings and putting him where they wanted him to be.
Most of the time, all Tom wants to do is go home to the County. And not in the homesick, wants-to-go-home-but-resigns-himself-to-the-bigger-cause way. He has no sympathy for the prince and his people; Tom fully plans to go home and leave them to their fate.
I also felt that the story was quite padded out.
There were sections going into fine detail over one thing or another, at inappropriate moments. For example, when they're facing a charging army and Tom spends a couple of pages musing over the difference in battle approach, in how one army lines up their cannonballs compared to another (pyramids vs lines, what would you chose?); and how the soldiers removed their jackets so they didn't get dirty.
Then there was a common theme in the storytelling to show, tell, and then confirm.
i.e. something happens that has obvious implications. Tom relays the implications within his narrative. Person X confirms that this is indeed the outcome of their plan/comment/action.
Overall, I enjoyed the story and would be interested in reading the rest of the Spooks books.