Port Lewis, a coastal town perched on the Washington cliffs, is surrounded by dense woods, and is home to quaint coffee shops, a movie theater, a few bars, two churches, the local college, and witches, of course.
Ryder is a witch with two secrets—one about his blood and the other about his heart. Keeping the secrets hasn’t been a problem, until a tarot reading with his best friend, Liam Montgomery, who happens to be one of his secrets, starts a chain of events that can’t be undone.
Dark magic runs through Ryder’s veins. The cards have prophesized a magical catastrophe that could shake the foundation of Ryder’s life, and a vicious partnership with the one person he doesn’t want to risk.
Magic and secrets both come at a cost, and Ryder must figure out what he’s willing to pay to become who he truly is.
Book – Darkling
Series – Port Lewis Witches, 1
Author – Brooklyn Ray
Star rating - ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 101
Cover – Stunning!
POV – 3rd person, one character
Would I read it again – Yes!
Genre – LGBT, Contemporary, Witches, Trans (FTM)
Content Warning – blood-letting, death, necromancy, minor drug-use
** COPY RECEIVED THROUGH NETGALLEY **
I loved this! It fitted perfectly into my demon-kick reading mode of the last month and, after reading the blurb, I just knew I was going to love it. And I did.
The story is set up with a witch circle which means that the series could contain stories about all or just some of the characters: Ryder (the POV MC), Liam, Christy, Tyler, and Donovan. There are also the side characters of Ryder's family: his sister Jordan, who is a hoot, as well as his dad Gerard, and his mother Ellen. Then there are the two matriarchs of the opposing Wolfe (dark magic) and Lewellyn (white magic) clans, Thalia and Margo. Each character has a role to play, their own detailed background that isn't over done or abandoned into nothingness, and a place within the plot. There was a great mix of straight and gay relationships, as well as gender identities: trans and non-binary.
I loved Ryder. As an MC to take over the POV of an entire book, that was really important and a huge boost. He's a trans-MC, FTM, and 21, who has had top surgery but not bottom. He's got all these secrets that he keeps bottled up – his half-blood genes, his FTM transition, and his feelings for his best friend, Liam. All while trying to control magic that is unpredictable and deadly. I loved that we were made part of his internal struggles, that we knew the secrets as and when it was important to the plot, but we could still feel the shock and surprise of everyone else in his circle when they found out. Yet we still got to feel the anticipation and apprehension running through Ryder as he tried to keep his secrets.
Liam was just amazing! I loved his strong, steady support. He's the polar opposite of Ryder, a Water witch while Ryder is fire, but he never let that come between them. His firm friendship and growing acceptance of all that Ryder revealed himself to be was beautiful to watch. He didn't know any of Ryder's secrets, but he worked them out on his own, often by accident and before Ryder had prepared for it, but he never judged. He showed justifiable anger that his best friend had kept such huge secrets to himself and never felt comfortable sharing them, but he didn't criticize or judge Ryder for those secrets or what they could mean.
I really enjoyed the occult elements of the book. They were somewhat familiar, but also originally tweaked in a way that made it something I could follow without feeling too out of my depth. And there was still enough originality to keep me eager to learn more. Just as I've had a tarot reading, it doesn't mean I understand how to read a deck, so having it explained in a way that was both natural and familiar to the characters while being a subtle dummies-guide for me, was awesome.
There was some amazing world building done here, in such a natural, subtle way that I really applaud the author for it. Sometimes there's that awful choice between info dumps or holding onto information until it's relevant, but the author had this take place in the contemporary real world, that is already what we live in, so offering familiarity – again – along with the sort of hidden aspect of witches. Concepts that we're familiar with from novels and movies, but done in a new way.
Just as the characterisation and world building were expertly done, so was the chemistry between Liam and Ryder. I loved every minute of their relationship. From Liam discovering and teasing away Ryder's secrets, to watching Ryder navigate this half world he lived in while trying not to hurt Liam in the process of exploring his birth-given gifts.
Overall, I loved it. It made me smile and cry and feel happy all at once. It reminded me of The Secret Circle books, in a good way, and is going to make a great addition to my favourites shelf.
Can I get Donovan's book next, please? Pretty please?
And can I just say a huge THANK YOU to the author? I can't say how many times I've picked up a book to read or review and not been aware that it was a series until I already had it in my hands. The wait and expense of buying the previous books before I could delve in was torture, but I didn't have to do that here. The book is, both on the cover, on Netgalley and GR, explicitly labelled as a series book. THANK YOU. There's nothing I hate more than having a book I can't wait to read in my hands and being forced to wait until I've caught up with the series so far.
““I could hurt you,” Ryder said.
“I'd let you.””
““If you don't...” Liam choked on the rest of what he wanted to say and skipped it. “You better haunt me, assh-le. You understand that, Ry? You come back and you haunt me.”