The Darkness Before Them (The Soulfire Saga #1), by Matthew Ward

4 Nov 2023

The Book

The Darkness Before Them
Series: The Soulfire Saga
Pages: 576
Age Group: Adult
Published on 7 Nov 2023
Publisher: Orbit Books
Epic Fantasy
Available on:


The first in an exciting, action-packed new trilogy from epic fantasy author Matthew Ward, The Darkness Before Them introduces readers to a world ruled by a dangerous immortal king, where souls fuel magic, and a supernatural mist known as the Veil threatens to engulf the land. 

These are dark times for the Kingdom of Khalad. As the magical mists of the Veil devour the land, the populace struggles beneath the rule of ruthless noble houses and their uncaring immortal king.

Kat doesn’t care about any of that. A talented thief, she’s pursuing one big score that will settle the debt that destroyed her family. No easy feat in a realm where indentured spirits hold vigil over every vault and treasure room. However, Kat has a unique gift: she can speak to those spirits, and even command them. She’ll need every advantage she can get.

Kat’s not a hero. She just wants to be free. To have her old life back. But as rebellion rekindles and the war for Khalad’s future begins, everyone – Kat included – will have to pick a side.

My Review

The Darkness Before Them is the initial novel in the epic fantasy The Soulfire Saga series, written by Matthew Ward. From the start, Ward proposes an overly complex worldbuilding, woven together with political intrigues, epic action and a plot that doesn't stop surprising the reader; creating a story that keeps you glued to the page.

The novel starts explosively, in the middle of action, following Kat (Katija) and her girlfriend Azra, trying to steal the biggest prize in the entire kingdom of Khalad, in order to pay the debts Kat's father left to her; however, plans have a difficult encounter with reality, failing and getting caught. Kat is sent to death, but fate's intervention changes all, putting her in the middle of a rebellion against Khalad and its tyrannical system.

While Kat's story takes most of the narrative weight, Ward introduces a second POV, Castellan Damant, giving us an insight into the dysfunctional Bascari family, rulers of a province, which helps us to understand the reality behind the Fireblood, the ruling class of Khalad. It slowly prepares us for the revelations that will end intertwining all the plots together.

Ward's worldbuilding is extremely ambitious, featuring a vivid world, with an unusual magic system based on extracting power from souls. The kingdom of Khalad is heavily skewed towards favouring the Fireblood, the nobility that is the ruling class under the power of the immortal king; lower classes barely survive in poverty. The Veil, a supernatural mist, is threatening to engulf the land.

There's a complicated equilibrium between the prose and the pacing, as sometimes this book can be felt as slow, due to Ward's writing style; but it balances with thrilling action scenes and tense moments (especially the sky battles are incredible).

If you are in the look for a great epic fantasy novel, which sets the world for a really ambitious plot, The Darkness Before Them is an excellent choice for you. Can't wait to see how Ward continues the Soulfire Saga!

The Author/s

Matthew Ward

Matthew Ward

Cat-servant and owner of more musical instruments than he can actually play (and considerably more than he can play well), Matthew Ward is an author, creative consultant and VO director.

He lives near Nottingham with his extremely patient wife – as well as a pride of attention-seeking cats – and writes to entertain anyone who feels there’s not enough magic in the world.