Presented as a combination horror/fantasy story, debut novel Into The Darkness by A.M. Rycroft delivers the fantasy goods.
The novel is quick paced and a quick read, following young Aeyrn Ravane on her self-imposed quest to discover the secrets of the Black Caverns, a legendary abode of a long ago adventurer. Along the way she gathers companions, including a magic-using shade of the adventurer himself, a very young want to be thief, and a vampyre, as well as the prerequisite enemies who want to do away with her. And her world, of course. Although she has doubts and her own dark secrets, she’s the one who can save them all.
Rycroft has built a world populated with twists on standard fantasy fare. Her characters, while young, have enough flaws to be believable. There is sympathy for them and their struggles—even if their struggles are against a power-mad demon god. She created backstories and myths for this place called Cathell, paying homage to the genre along the way. She’s obviously an author who is familiar with fantasy.
It is lacking a little to call it a horror novel. The idea of world-wide destruction is horrifying. The idea of a force so alien that it drives people to madness, violence, and eventually involuntary submission (alive or dead!) is certainly a well-known horror element, but it didn’t invoke the sense of dread or disquiet that a straight-up horror novel would. As a fan who seeks out horror on a consistent basis I just wanted more.
As a matter of fact, that was a major feeling I had while reading Into The Darkness. I’m a greedy audience. I wanted more. I wanted a deeper history of Cathell. I wanted more of the mythos of the land. I wanted the action to take longer, be more drawn out. I wanted the struggles to be more arduous, so my own feelings could be stronger. I wanted more information on the characters: I wanted to really get inside their heads. The story is straight-forward, but the teasing hints of backstories for the main characters were there, and that presents the opportunity to revisit and make their world and lives richer.
I’m not sure if this is the first of a series. I hope it is, because then my selfish wants of more, more, more! can be fulfilled.
Into The Darkness by A.M. Rycroft, available through on-line sellers in digital and print formats.