A New Darkness is the first book from Delaney’s The Starblade Chronicles series. Delaney has already made his mark as a serial fantasy fiction writer. This book is proceeded by The Wardstone Chronicles series, which comprises 13books. This sense of familiarity with his characters and this magical world emanates from this book, and will capture the young reader’s attention and imagination from the beginning.
“Without doubt this room was haunted by somebody or something. And that’s why I was here, summoned by the land-lord to sort out his problem”
This new chapter in Delaney’s feat of storytelling follows Tom Ward, a Spook who is charged with keeping the county safe from ghosts, monsters, and any number of other supernatural creatures who appear from the dark to threaten the community. As the seventh son of a seventh son, this is Tom’s birth right. However, being a supernatural monster fighter does not shield Tom from the pain and loss of being a human. Struggling to cope with the death of his master, and mentor John Gregory, who died performing his duty as a Spook, Tom must bear the weight of taking up a post he isn’t quite ready for, and the grief of losing a friend.
Expecting to continue his days training and eating alone, with only his boggart-turned-cat-turned-Chef for company, Tom’s plans are turned on their head with the arrival of Jenny. Claiming to be the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, Jenny is the apprentice he never expected, and perhaps the new beginnings he hadn’t dared to hope for.
“I attacked immediately, driving the beast backwards. But it was very skilful: the sabre met each blow of my sword, filling the room with the clash of metal upon metal.”
The book is divided nicely between Tom’s and Jenny’s version of events, as Jenny’s voice takes over half way through. Delaney shows a commitment to character building which is one of the many essential elements of series writing. He also includes enough information about events past to allow the reader to drop into Delaney’s world at a late stage (I was one of these readers!), and still feel a part of it.
Delaney has created a whole cohort of monsters and mystical creatures, all with their own names and histories. It is ghoulish and at times scary, and provides all of the twists, turns, and cliff hangers that a series needs to keep the reader wanting more. It is also a story of friendship, loss, and hope, offering a satisfying combination of the human and the magical.