Following on from yesterday’s review of Spooks: A New Darkness, we bring you it’s sequel The Dark Army.
*Spoiler alert! *Although the synopsis on the back on the book itself gives quite a lot away, if you haven’t already read book one and would like to find out what happens in real time, keep this review for afterwards! ☺
The Dark Army is the second instalment in Joseph Delaney’s The Starblade Chronicles series. The first book in this series, A New Darkness, finished with a particularly gripping cliff-hanger. The fates of both protagonists, Tom Ward and Jenny Calder, were left hanging in the balance. The opening scene of The Dark Army will not disappoint any reader who desperately wants to see what will happen next. The story continues, almost seamlessly from the last page of the proceeding book. A gripping prologue is the only interruption, presenting what appears to be our new leading protagonist Jenny, fighting the darkness on her own, aware of the prematurity of this situation, and perhaps of her own end as an apprentice.
“She would never live to become a spook now. She would die here alone in the darkness.”
The Dark Army introduces Jenny as the leading lady and apprentice Spook without her mentor and teacher Tom Ward, who died trying to defeat the Kobalos, a wolf-like army intent on waging war on the human race. Jenny is still joined by Grimalkin, the witch assassin who fought beside her and Tom in the quest to save the human race. Nothing can be trusted, not even the reason for Tom’s death. Dark magic is interfering in their quest, making Tom, Jenny, and Grimalkin pawns in a larger game.
“The levels of scheming were like the layers of an onion, and I was right at the centre, the puppet of them all.”
Delaney’s creative voice continues to conjure up magical creatures and lands, and develop an historic tapestry as he explains more and more about the history of these characters and their world. The tone of Delaney’s writing is old fashioned. This is a world of parchment and great old magic. The style of language reflects this. It is not written to try to sound like the modern young person, in contrast to series’ which use colloquial, rather Americanised language. Delaney’s voice is more stilted and formal, akin to the Enid Blyton style of writing (I wouldn’t quite rank Delaney’s writing with Blyton’s, she still ranks very high in my book, however this feels like the right comparison to give the reader a sense of his style).
Jenny and Tom continue to share the book, with chapters dedicated to them, told through their voice and perspective. This is a very effective way to get to know each character and understand where they are coming from.
The plot thickens as Tom is pulled back into this quest, alongside Jenny and Grimalkin. Friendship and loyalties are tested, because they are not the only players now in this game. Old friends emerge alongside new enemies, and the line between good and bad becomes ever more difficult to distinguish. The cliff-hanger is not quite so thrilling at the end of this book, however it leads very definitively onto the next instalment, and continues to invite the reader to join this exciting quest.