Turning Darkness Into Light

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
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Turning Darkness Into Light by Marie Brennan

Writing Reviews on New Year's Eve eh. You animal...

Look sarky alter-ego, this review is very overdue. I got this one from Netgalley and read it months ago, and what better time to complete tasks I should have done a long time ago? I probably should have done this before Christmas so you could know how awesome it is so you could have all asked for it for as a gift. But hey, at least I got my mum it, so that's one person who gets to know.

Besides, what better title than 'Turning Darkness Into Light' for the end of a year like this?

Explain the Awesome.

Turning Darkness Into Light is the story of a young scholar asked to translate recently discovered and politically sensitive texts belonging to an ancient Draconian accent. And it's told in the form of diaries, letters and translations.

And it is written incredibly well.

Sometimes when reading a book, I feel like I can almost see the author smiling in satisfaction at just how much they're nailing the story. Like they're an athlete showboating. That's almost certainly not what's happening but it's what my mind's eye sees anyway. And Turning Darkness Into Light reads like Marie Brennan's completely utterly confident about her brilliance. I mean, she'll write the same passage of translated text twice, but once as poorly translated and once as expertly translated. How utterly boss is that? This is a difficult format for a story and Brennan makes it look easy.

Is this more than just awesomely written and smart?

Yes. I don't buy my mum less than excellent books. The characterisation is sharp and while perhaps a tad reliant on stereotype, it's well done enough that not many people who like the stereotypes will complain. The plot in particular is really good though. It is slow moving - as if Brennan is perfectly confident the quality of her writing will keep people invested enough for it to get going - but compelling and a little twisty. The last minute reveal in particular got me.

The ending did feel a tad on the nose for me, and the subplot maybe a little too rooted in romance, but these are minor gripes. And the subplot's more about a failed one than a beginning one, which makes it more interesting.

That said, I am mainly just here for the writing and the idea.

Any other weaknesses?

There's a long list of things Turning Darkness Into Light isn't but those are authorial choices, not weaknesses. And it looks like everything Marie Brennan did set out to do, she did. She did it really well. I feel confident that 9 out of 10 readers who are up for the diary written account of a not-Victorian Fantasy academic will really enjoy this book.

And that sums up everything I have to say. Turning Darkness Into Light is one of the most astonishingly well executed books I read all of last year.
 

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