Given the chance to train as a squire, kitchen servant Achan Cham hopes to pull himself out of his pitiful life and become a Kingsguard Knight. When Achan's owner learns of his training, he forces Achan to spar with the Crown Prince--more of a death sentence than an honor. Meanwhile, strange voices in Achan's head cause him to fear he's going mad. While escorting the prince to a council presentation, their convoy is attacked. Achan is wounded and arrested, but escapes from prison--only to discover a secret about himself he never believed possible.
--image and summary from Goodreads.com
By Darkness Hid is the first in the Blood of Kings trilogy by Jill Williamson. It is told in dual points of view, chronicling the adventures of Achan Cham, a lowly Stray who dreams of a better life, and Vrell Sparrow, a young noblewoman fleeing from a disastrous match with a despicable prince. Their stories intertwine in very interesting ways throughout the course of the novel.
It is very difficult to find Christian fantasy that has it all: faith, adventure, a dash of mystery and romance. The first book had it all, in varying amounts. While the story it tells has been told before in different ways, I enjoyed the characters and the author's realistic outlook on love. Though the main character, Achan is thwarted time and again and your heart breaks along with him. However, this is only the first book in the trilogy and there is lots of room for his character to grow and come into a happier ending.
Vrell, on the other hand, was just my type of girl--a girl who did what she had to do to survive, without embracing the mindset that often comes with it. She stayed compassionate while also being brave and practical.
One thing I am slightly concerned with are the amount of tropes used--the girl disguised as a boy, the return of the king, etc. However, I definitely still enjoyed it, because those archetypes are still powerful time and again. Well, the return of the king one, at any rate. Personally, I would have hated being in Vrell's position.
The author has put a lot of work into this book, and it shows. She's mapped out her world very well visually, though some of the details included bogged down the pace of the book tremendously. The number of chairs in a given room isn't something I'm usually concerned with. But I loved exploring the various corners of Er'Rets with the characters; I felt as though I were in Skyrim or one such other of my younger sister's fantasy video games--the world was very easy to immerse oneself in.
By Darkness Hid is a wonderful read for those Christians who want fantasy that isn't all abracadabra, and gives insight into how to handle the Christian walk as though it truly were an epic adventure. The characters struggle just like any real person would. That being said, non-Christians may enjoy this series too, if they don't mind the obvious Christian worldview of the story.
All in all, a promising start to a series that I hope will only get better!