Title: Dark of the West
Author: Joanna Hathaway
Pub. Date: February 5, 2019
Pub: Tor Teen
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.
Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.
This will be a spoiler free review. I listened to the audiobook via Audible. This has been sitting on my shelf for quite a while, and thinking it was going to be a romantic war time romance, I decided to read it, even though it wasn’t on my TBR. I really just wanted something romantic and this wasn’t really it.
I think I built this book up in my head, so it’s honestly on me that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I would. Don’t ask me why I thought wartime and romance would pair nicely and I would be simping after these two characters, but I wasn’t. I was bored for like 80% of this book. I also didn’t quite get the “alt history WWII” element. I had to keep reminding myself that, that was the premise. It felt purely fantasy, with like a steampunk element.
Did I love the vividness of the world? Yes.
Did I enjoy the MCs individually? Yes.
Did I enjoy them together? Yes.
But it took 50% of the book for them to even meet, and then she doesn’t even know who he really is, so she falls in love with an idea, which doesn’t feel fair. So, this really didn’t hit the romance mark that I wanted. I think they had great chemistry, and maybe in the next two books something changes, but I don’t know. I was just kind of disappointed.
I will say that the ending was the most interesting part, and the part that had me most invested in the story. The only other part that had me utterly captivated was the letter Athan writes at the end, if you’ve read it you know, but omfg. If a guy were to write me that, I’d melt. That letter was the romantic romance I wanted.
I wanted to be swept off my feet and that letter did that. So often the books I read have romance, but the relationships are built on snark and running for their lives and slowly falling in love while denying their feelings. And don’t get me wrong, I love those books. But I was kind of in the mood for something sweeter, something romantic and while it’s wrong to romanticize wartime, a princess falling for a pilot?? Like, come on.
Too bad it didn’t live up to my hype.
Jfc, why’d I screw myself over?
I honestly haven’t decided if I’m going to read the next books – based on how this one ended, I kind of want to, but I’m not rushing to finish them. I think Joanna did a wonderful job telling the story, her writing is lovely, and the world really does come to life. Her characters are complex and their reasonings are their own and they make sense. Like, you can understand why a character does whatever they do – even if you don’t agree.
While I didn’t enjoy this as much as I expected, I’m glad I finally read it.