5 Star Review
Darkstorm presents Book One in the Rhenwars Saga: several more in this series are to be expected. Two nations teeter on the brink of war, each backed by powerful forces, and it may take an unholy alliance with black magic to achieve the positive goal of thwarting an apocalyptic event.
Being the prequel to the series, Darkstorm is a perfect introduction for newcomers and, for prior fans, fills in much information about the setting and people of this dark fantasy world; but readers anticipating a light, entertaining leisure read should be cautioned. As events play out, social and moral issues revolving around magic's use and its ultimate effects are highlighted, offering much depth, detail, and much food for thought.
Spencer's descriptions are sharp and pointed, drawing connections between characters, their physical attributes, and their moral and psychic abilities: "Arden Hannah was just as alluring as she was vile. It was a powerful and frightening dichotomy."
There are few clear-cut delineations of good and evil offered in the story and, as a result, choice is depicted as a changing (and sometimes questionable) set of options in a series of scenarios in which good intentions lead to bad results.
There is much temptation to become a 'darkmage', and even when a goal seems to lie in the realm of what is noble, the end results are often anything but good. As Braden and Quin struggle with magic, their choices, and their roles in their world, so readers are drawn into a story line that delivers powerful action but offers unexpected side dishes with introspective examinations of motivation, circumstances, and consequences.
As the plot evolves, readers come to see that the real struggle is not just between competing magical forces and methods of wielding them, but between different moral concepts and values systems.
The female characters of Sephana and Merris are as well-drawn and mercurial as their male counterparts, moving neatly from vixen and seductress to authoritative women both in charge of their destinies and, alternately, helpless against events that cascade over them all.
Intrigue, political alliances, and differing methods of displaying power and authority often come together through passages that expose the inner thought processes and relationships of protagonists as they interact with each other and with their world's social and political constraints: "Gazing at her former mentor, Merris was reminded of exactly why she had never liked the woman. Sephana had a way of positively exuding competence; it was a trait that made others trust her and turn to her for guidance. It lent credence to her gentle arguments and weight to her quiet authority."
Readers who enjoy political intrigue, psychological suspense, and military action will appreciate the attention to detail in Darkstorm that brings a magic-infused world and its peoples' struggles to life.
5 Star Review
Confronted with the loss of all they know, the powerful Mages of two warring factions band together to appeal to dark forces to save their world in Darkstorm by M.L. Spencer. In this cataclysmic time, Braden Reis, Ambassador to Aerysius from Caladorn and Grand Master of the Sixth Tier of the Lyceum, is the only one who seems to be in a position to prevent the rise of Xerys, God of Chaos. Unfortunately, no one can be trusted and it is only the love he shares with Sephana Clemley, a Third Tier Master from the Hall at Rhen, that gives him the strength to try. Faced with shadowy beings and the results of secret dealings, Braden and Sephana stand firm in their refusal to allow the combined council of Mages to open the Well of Tears, gateway to the Netherworld, to balance the power of the magic fields so that they can maintain their hold over the rest of humanity. Braden himself holds terrible secrets and a fractured relationship with his brother is at the root of most of his issues. Will the end of times bring them together or will the powers of darkness cloud everyone’s judgement?
In classic epic form, M.L. Spencer has written an engaging and heart wrenching tale of love, loss, deceit and desperation in Darkstorm. This prequel to the dark epic fantasy series, The Rhenwars Saga, details the divisions of power in the realm and how the power of the Mages affected the course of human events. There is tremendous passion on both the personal and universal levels that draws you in and breaks your heart as you cheer for the good guys, but then realize you can’t really tell who is who at times or even if bad is really good. Vivid descriptions, deep emotions and a well-defined world make Darkstorm a story that you find yourself believing is quite real and all the more intense.
5 Star Review
Darkstorm by M.L. Spencer is a fascinating blend of fiction, mystery, and fantasy, a combination powerful enough to create a world where readers will want to escape. Set 1000 years ago at a time when magic reigned and conflicts were common, two powerful people are threatened by an imminent war that could completely wipe out all they have worked for and those they cared for. While the wielder of a very dark magic, Zavier Renquist makes recourse to a very dark energy, Braden Reis must find a way of saving his people, but with his own secret vulnerability, will he be able to lead the small group against the dangerous darkmage and his cronies?
“Now, start over from the beginning. This time, take your time and try to elaborate as much as you possibly can. Details, my dear. As many details as you can remember.”
Darkstorm is a book that will receive a nice welcome by fans of fantasy and fiction, a well-crafted story of love, betrayal, intrigue, and heroism. Spencer has the knack for creating characters that are compelling and that readers can easily sympathize with. She seduces readers with the beauty of her prose, a dialogue that is as vivid as it is real, but most importantly, it is the magic of the world she creates that is irresistible.
Darkstorm is a work of finesse, a story that readers of Tolkien may find interesting. The author transports readers into a world of dream, a world filled with characters they would love to meet, and an impressive clash of powers. The plot is so carefully crafted, the suspense as powerful as the magic world of the book, and the action breathtaking. This one is a thrilling read, fast-paced, and bitingly entertaining. Spencer writes about magic in a way that is absorbing and seducing, as though she were casting powerful spells on her readers.