The Brilliant Dark
The Brilliant Dark
Saskia squinted, but she needed more to go on. “So what? I already knew all that. About Project Crossover. But what I can’t get past is why Grant wants to open a Bloodgate at all. What’s he expect to get out of that?
Solomon sneered. “What do most people dig holes for? To bury something.”
The sweat at the back of Saskia’s neck froze. “He wants to send Denizens … to the other side?”
“The moon!” Dannika was still shaking all over, as Amanda tried to keep her from thrashing. “The moon will stop all of this!”
The priest turned away, troubled. “The Darkling Moon’s movement means something. It wills the Bloodgate to open. The Narrative demands it. The Cluster exists to observe the consequences Denizens and Mundanes have wrought.”
“Observe and do nothing?” Saskia flared, absolutely done with the empty rhetoric. “Then what do you want with me?”
The priest opened his hand. “Step into the circle and find out.”
The Brilliant Dark is the final book of “The Realms of Ancient” trilogy, a fantasy about gods, demons, and humans with powers in modern-day Winnipeg. It begins seven years after the end of Children of the Bloodlands. Roan and Eli have not been heard from since they disappeared into a spirit world to search for Ancient. The world now knows about Denizens and their supernatural powers based on the Fox, Owl, Rabbit, Deer and Seal deities. People without powers, called Mundanes, have created the Elemental Task Guard and established martial law to protect themselves from Denizens, and Denizens must either collaborate with the Task Guard or have their powers removed. The protagonist is Saskia, the Mundane child who helped Roan when she was fighting against Urka at the end of the last book. She has been raised by Denizens Phae and Barton, and she wants to fight against the Elemental Task Guard and protect Denizens, even though she has no special powers herself.
The Task Guard builds a machine to open a Bloodgate into the spirit realm and sends Barton through to test it. Saskia pretends to collaborate so that she can go through the Bloodgate herself, rescue Barton and find Roan and Eli. She finds the land of the dead in turmoil, locked into a battle between Fox and Owl forces led by Roan and Eli who have forgotten all about their past life. Saskia reminds them of who they are, and the three of them, with the help of some gods they release, find Barton trapped in a giant tree where Ancient has been sent to sleep. They awaken Ancient and release him, only to discover that his plan is to destroy all of his creation.
The giant tree erupts into the real world, and Denizens, Mundanes and deities unite to defeat it before it can join with the Darkling moon and destroy the world. Roan and Eli sacrifice themselves to enable the final victory.
The Brilliant Dark has some exciting action scenes, and Saskia is an interesting character struggling to understand her place as a Mundane in a world of myths. The Denizen-Mundane conflict is compelling with its resonances of real-world repression and the individual stories of conflicted loyalty and betrayal.
The novel is hampered by its length and by an overly complex mythology that bogs the narrative down with confusing explanations and far too much backstory. Saskia’s character and her relationships and loyalties are engaging, but their development is smothered under the weight of convoluted world-building.
The humour that enlivened Scion of the Fox is entirely missing in The Brilliant Dark. There are some fun action scenes with characters using their particular skills to overcome enemies or obstacles, but much of the action is told rather than shown. The Brilliant Dark is a disappointing conclusion to a series that had a lot of potential.
Kim Aippersbach is a writer, editor and mother of three living in Vancouver, British Columbia.