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A dazzling continuation of Marriott’s urban fantasy series. Previously, in Name of the Blade, three teens in London battled a terrifying creature straight out of Japanese mythology. In Darkness Hidden, the second book of the series, a whole new level of terror is unleashed from the underworld on to the streets, and Mio, Jack, and Shinobu will have to sacrifice even more to keep the world safe. All to protect the mysterious ancestral katana sword – that has a deadly agenda all of its own.
No punches are pulled in this second novel, which ramps up the stakes of the urban fantasy genre into a dizzying burden of responsibility for our heroine Mio. Combatting a foe she doesn’t understand, with a weapon that seeks to control her, the reader feels for her plight. Marriott has an innate sense of the struggle between wants and needs – as Mio is torn between her deep feelings for Shinobu and the reality of their situation. The romance is sizzling throughout and tensions run high as the plot spirals away from their control, slamming them into inescapable corners that will make them reconsider all that they hold true.
My favourite character in Darkness Hidden is Rachel, Jack’s older sister, whose role is significantly expanded. In her early twenties, Rachel juggles the role of responsible adult with terrified innocence in the face of the unexplainable mystical world that has infiltrated her ordered life. Family ties are a strong theme in this series, with Mio’s ancestral past driving the narrative forward. Yet it is in the bonds between sisters Jack and Rachel, and the friction with Rachel’s role in Mio’s life, that the family balancing act is most obvious. It is here that Marriott forces her characters to make hard choices about trust and loyalty. Things come to a head when fun loving Jack is caught in the crossfire of the fracturing worlds.
In Darkness Hidden, Marriott creates a shiver inducing plague of monstrous women who infect their poisonous disease in a flight across the landscape, hovering forever in the periphery of every page just waiting for the reader to be lulled into a false sense of security. Their constant presence means that a sense of dread is never far away. This is a seeping horror which mounts in tension until the breath taking finale which had me reading furiously in the hopes to keep everyone safe by the end.
Fans of supporting characters, Jack and Hikaru, will be on the edge of their seat to reassure themselves of their fate. However may be left wanting more – I did find myself hoping that their wise cracking presence would appear more prominently (maybe in the next book?) It is Mio and Shinobu who really demand the most attention in Darkness Hidden, and the reader shares their reliance on each other to survive and the almost claustrophobic inevitability of their passion. As a central heroine, Mio is unapologetic in her flaws and her strong spirit and determination perseveres.
Darkness Hidden is a devastatingly good read, and an admirable sequel. I wait with bated breath for the next part of the series, with the hope that Zoe fixes the thing and makes everything better. Somehow I think she’s got us in for another rollercoaster ride of emotions. This is the perfect series for fans of a action, romance, horror and mythology and with its cast of nuanced Japanese/English characters in leading roles the series as a whole is an excellent contribution to We Need Diverse Books.