Taught from young that sorcery was a gift bestowed only by the Unnamed God, Aelith’s world is thrown into turmoil when she discovers that she is a sorceress without ever having prayed to the Unnamed. Pursued by friends and family who would now see her dead for a transgression she never committed, she is forced to take refuge with a mysterious cabal of sorcerers.
However, these sorcerers appear to fit every justification ever used to condemn sorcerers to death. They enslave and murder without qualms; with their power they till the soil to produce drugs that plague the land. Although through them lies a path to great power and more importantly, survival, Aelith must consider if that is worth damning herself for.
As Aelith chooses between atrocity and survival, an ancient conspiracy rears its head as the Unnamed God works to free itself from its chains, forcing her to take a side in the conflict to come.
Path of Darkness is the first installment in the Dark Fantasy series Memories of Madness, by C.M. Lackner. The premise of the book is pretty good, and to be fair, I think the author makes an excellent job developing our main character, Aelith, and depicting the story of her fall into the dark side.
Aelith has been part of the convent during five-six years, preparing to become a priestess but without being able to reach it due to her lack of faith. And suddenly, she starts manifesting arcanist powers, adding salt to the wound; sorceresses in this world are being persecuted, so Aelith is forced to run out, as she's hunted by the militia in her town, and even those who she considered being her closest friends are against her.
Forced by the circumstances, she ends up being adopted by Renae and Krusicus, two mysterious and rather dark characters. And honestly, they are not as bad in comparison with the rest of the world, whose only purpose is to hunt Aelith and kill her; they even train Aelith in the use of her powers. But honestly, this new order she has joined is as evil as those who persecute her.
What we have in Path of Darkness is a really well-written character, who is put many times between the sword and the wall, having to take questionable decisions forced by the circumstances. If the path of the hero is a classic figure in fantasy, I would say that Aelith's path is quite the opposite, the path of the villain (sort of what Walter White experiments). In a brutal world that wants her dead, associating with questionable people, and even entering into contact with evil powers becomes the only way she can survive.
The world in this book is witty and cruel. While I wouldn't say it is dark enough to be considered a grimdark novel, it is true that is not for the weak of hearth. Violence and slavery are widespread, and you can't really tell if somebody is good per sé. While it is true that I would like to see some aspects more developed, especially cities, it acts greatly as a narrative mark.
Path of Darkness is a book whose title is pretty accurate. If you want to read how a character is forced to descend into the mud due to circumstances she can't control, this book starts a series that continues in The Chains of Sin.
Born and raised in Singapore, C.M. Lackner much prefers the indoors where he can escape the festering heat, but not the mosquitoes. As a child, he always found villains far more compelling than heroes, who were usually reactionary. And who doesn’t want to be a dark lord covered in spikes?
He has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations, which has sadly little relevance to his present day job.