In Child of Darkness, Jennifer Armintrout continues the unique, genre-convention-defying story she began in Queene of Light. As before, it says “Paranormal Romance” on the spine, but while Queene of Light tweaked the conventional romance novel structure, Child of Darkness breaks it almost completely. (No happily-ever-after, at least not in this installment.) Nor does Child of Darkness follow the current tropes of urban fantasy, despite its gritty near-future setting. Aside from the setting, the Lightworld/Darkworld trilogy is really more in the vein of historical/political fantasy.
Child of Darkness is a bridge book. In book one, a prophecy revealed a great destiny in store for Ayla’s daughter, Cerridwen. Here, we follow Cerridwen from her technical coming-of-age to the moment when she truly comes of age in mind and spirit.
I didn’t like Child of Darkness as much as I did Queene of Light, and the main reason was character. I couldn’t decide who annoyed me more, Ayla or Cerridwen. Ayla has been greatly changed by her position, and she’s more than a little overbearing here. Cerridwen, for her part, starts out as a typical Rebellious Princess who tries to solve everything by running away and who never thinks ahead to the consequences of her actions. Or maybe I should be annoyed with Ayla for that, too, since it seems to me that Ayla hasn’t really prepared Cerridwen for her role. I actually think Ayla made a good choice when she picked a trusted courtier to guide Cerridwen, but why not just make him a mentor rather than try to force a marriage that neither party wanted? And why did it take so long to realize she needed guidance if she was to fulfill the prophecy? Then again, on the Cerridwen side of the equation, does anyone really think that wadding up a note and throwing it under one’s bed is a really effective way to hide it?
Cerridwen does mature in this story, but not before the Faery Court manages to bumble and backstab its way into a war with the Elves. (Who, by the way, are way too one-dimensional for my taste.) The war has disastrous consequences for the Court in general and for several well-loved characters. It’s amid this bloodshed that Cerridwen really comes into her own. As Child of Darkness ends, Cerridwen has found a new strength and has the potential to fulfill her promised destiny.
I don’t want to give the impression that I disliked Child of Darkness. I enjoyed it for the most part. (And I loved Malachi; he was wonderful in this book, even better than before.) It just has a bit of middle-book syndrome. Cerridwen starts out annoying and immature, but that’s only the beginning of her journey as a character. By book’s end, we can see that she’s come a long way, and in Veil of Shadows, I have every faith that she will develop further and become a great heroine.