Into the Dark Lands by Michelle Sagara West is the beginning of a multi-book series starring Erin, a swordfighting healer, and Stefanos, the Beast to her Beauty. It is literally Light against Dark, Good against Evil, and somehow Erin is at the center of it all. Into the Dark Lands I understand completely the draw of the Bad Boy. And, to be fair, Erin doesn't go running into his arms drawn by his dark, brooding ways. The author expects the reader to somehow know these things through osmosis. Even far more confusing lineages such as in the Lord of the Rings make much more sense because of the author taking proper time to lay things out. Again we have a traditional "young woman becomes orphaned and has to adjust to a new culture" cliche which I literally have read in four of the last five novels I've picked up. But all of that pales in comparison with what happens once she falls into Stefanos's grasp. No woman who had been to war leading troops for years would be unaware of the issues here! Sure, most readers might realize this is wildly improbable and read it as an outrageously campy version of a dream state. Who think that hurtful, pain-inflicting bad boy in their life might be "brought around" if they just endure the pain for a while longer? A man who loves inflicting pain shouldn't be idolized. In this story we have a man who IS heroic and who stands by Erin's side no matter what. Instead, she gets drawn into the pain-inflicting, child-beating bad guy and thinks she can somehow mitigate his actions.
Each has their own God, each has their own purpose: to spread Light/Dark throughout the world. Each Light and each Dark has Servants to fill out that purpose. These descendants are half-mortals and they, too, can communicate with their God but only if they reach their Adult test. The hero is the First Servant of the Dark. In his campaign to take over the world, he's killed countless of people and because of his nature, he would feed off the blood of these people for himself and make blood offers for his God. He enslaves people that he conquors except for nobilities. Since he's First, he's the number one evil person, under only the Dark God himself. She is the descendant of the First Servant of the Light. He's never tasted the blood and life of a descendant of the line before so he humors her and accepts the bargain, though they both know that he didn't have to. However, the tasting is his downfall as when he did taste her, he sees a light in the core of her that he wants to capture for himself. Every night he would come and ask for her company and she offered him food and he refused, though he kicked himself for refusing since it would mean he couldn't share it with her. Once at the city she finally sees how evil he was, blood rites and slaves and killings. So she tries to stop the blood sacrifies that the priests did every night. Hero knows that heroine was unhappy so he made all blood sacrifices stop in his castle. He named her Sara cause he wanted her to forget that she was descendent of the Light.
I felt like I was given a decent idea of the characters but I was also plugging things in from similar types of books. But I was pretty much just waiting for the real story to kick in. The real story being when Erin goes to the other side. From there I enjoyed the story but really wished it could have been more adult. The only problem is, I'm very worried that the next book will have the characters spending most of their time battling against each other.
The book started out with Erin's background etc. I disliked how she was always trying to change Stefanos; she always asking for something, always ONE more thing. The only thing I liked about this book was Stefanos. He was mostly true to who he is, although he loves Erin, he is still evil. One thing though, he always gave in to Erin when she was sullen and started pouting.
After about the first few chapters of this book the style of writing and the whole story itself just started to get on my nerves and I had to stop reading this book.
It's possible that partway through this first book the prophesied doom finally happens, and everyone gets to stop angsting and start fixing things.
However, as she is a powerful healer, her actions on the front line have drawn the attention of the Servants of the Dark Heart and one of them has laid an ambush for her. Profoundly marked by the events, Erin find that she is unable to call a True Ward, thats to say to call to herself the power of her God, the Bright Heart, as she is resentful to him (he let her mother die). Reluctantly, Erin accepts to become the Sarillorn but she know that despite all her power she is a liability to the Light as she is only able to called a True Ward when she is mortally wounded. In order to save the lives of other prisoners, Erin accepts to let him taste her blood and her Light despite the fact that all of the warriors of the Light know how to kill themselves when captured and thus avoid the ritual tortures the priests of the Dark offer to their God. Stefanos is surprised when he drinks her blood, there is a Light in her that is different from the light his enemies used in the battlefield. Yet, they are both unable to forget their true nature My review : The beginning of this novel is slow, as Stefanos and Erin meet only halfway and thats why a lot of people give up in the first 140 pages. Yet this slow beginning allow Michelle Sagara the time to lay down the world building and give us time to understand and grow attach to the characters. More than the Light Servants, he understands the importance of normal humans: he is the first to used them in the battle as they are not sensible to the Light and can only be killed with normal weapons. Stefanos is often oblige to kill priests because they make the mistake to forget what Stafanos is, as, contrary to the Lady, he plays a real role in human politics. Healers are familiar characters in Michelles novels, but Erin is different from Kaylin in The Chronicles of Elantra as she hears the call of peoples suffering.