ARC Review: “Dark of the West” by Joanna Hathaway

Dark of the West has been on my radar ever since I learned earlier last year that it’s comp title was The Winner’s Curse. Comp titles, or comparison titles, are 1-2 similar titles to the book. (Think of it as “If you liked these titles, you’d like [this book].”) Along with TWC, the other comp title is Code Name Verity, which is a book I haven’t read but one I’ve heard.

Anywho, DotW was pushed back by almost a full year when it got a cover redesign. There are some ARCs still floating around with the old cover on it (of a girl in a red dress, running, and a plane in the sky), but I’m quite glad the cover was redesigned; it has all these hints of things from the book.

I want to say a special thank you to the author, Joanna Hathaway, for sending me a copy. I won it in a giveaway she hosted, and I’m just so thrilled to have been able to get my hands on an early copy.

All quotes are taken from the ARC and may change in the final, finished copy.

Dark of the WestTitle: Dark of the West (Glass Alliance #1)
Author: Joanna Hathaway
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release date: February 5, 2019
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Length: 480 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.

Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.”

new four stars

new my thoughts

“War is no good for the young, or for love.”

plot text
If you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-packed plot, this may not be the book for you. But if you enjoy elegant world-building, court politics, and political intrigue, then yes, this may be the book for you. I admit, this book is a slow. There’s a lot of build-up to the action. When it does happen, it’s a bit like a punch in the face. Due to how this book reads and how it’s written (very much like a historical fiction novel, leaning heavily on the WWII-inspired aspect of it), every scene plays in a key role, revealing points about each character or the situation that’s happening around them. Oftentimes I became bogged down with the names of the cities and countries, and this wouldn’t have mattered at all if I had a finished copy with a map.

Oh, what to say about these characters? They grow on you, they really do. You see a privileged princess become devastatingly aware of the cruelties of the world around her, and a pilot, youngest son of a famed General, struggling to create a place for himself in his father’s world. When a tragic events brings these two together, you know they’ll crash and burn but you don’t know how hard or fast. Aurelia and Athan’s love is gradual, and eventually, I think they start falling for the idea of each other rather than the person themselves.

There are also a bunch of characters in this novel, with a lot of men outweighing the women. One of the reasons this book isn’t a full 5 stars for me is how the women are portrayed. The ones of note are: Athan’s mother, his little sister, Aurelia herself, her mother the Queen, and Aurelia’s best friend, Violet. You end up feeling sorry for most of them–Athan’s mother for what happened to her and how his father twisted this for his own gain. Then there’s Aurelia’s mother, Sinora, harassed for where she came from (though I’m not entirely certain I can root for her, though she certainly shows some strength and courage for taking everything in stride). I really wish that Violet was more than just a plaything for the men around her. I sort of want to slush her and Aurelia’s conversations to being “typical” girl talk, but… I don’t know. I don’t really get a true sense of how close these two are as I didn’t find their friendship truly believable.

I also wanted to point out that Aurelia is biracial, an aspect I appreciated. There are some moments where she tries hard to honor both of her heritages, and I was able to relate! She’s an innocent character, but when the “hard truths” are revealed to her, she shows her determination and perseverance. Aurelia wants to prove herself to those around her, whether it’s studying to get into University or learning about the harsh reality of the world around her.

Athan’s world is a stark contrast to Aurelia’s, and it’s interesting to watch the two fall in love. I won’t say why, because it’s a major spoiler, but you just feel sorry for both of them. Their parents are trying to shape them into what they think their children ought to be, and one child is doing a better job at it. I struggled a bit to see what exactly the General has against Aurelia’s mother, the Queen. There’s something, I think, that we readers just don’t know yet.

That also brings me to another point: there’s a lot of mystery surrounding these characters, and I just need to know all the things!

writing style text
This book truly reads like a historical fiction novel, and I really enjoyed it. Not only that but Hathaway writes wonderfully as well. The prose is lush and beautiful. This is light fantasy, too, so don’t dive in expecting magic and myth because it’s not really that. If you find war stories, details about political maneuvers, and the why of things, you may want to stay away. Yes, it definitely has the forbidden romance aspect, which is really heart-wrenching especially toward the end. I definitely enjoyed the tiny epistolary parts of the book, too. I definitely think we get a lot of Athan as a character from these letters because we find him so vulnerable. I definitely look forward to reading the sequel to this book, and how the prologue ties into it all because whew, it was a heartbreaker!

You can check out these reviews, too:

You can purchase this book from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository (funnily enough, this link still shows the old cover!), IndieBound, and other booksellers!

xo nicole signature

10 thoughts on “ARC Review: “Dark of the West” by Joanna Hathaway

  1. Alex Masegian says:

    Hmmm, I’m a sucker for the “spy falls in love with the person he’s supposed to be spying on” trope, but I’m not sure if this book will be interesting to me or not! I’m planning to check it out anyways, though — thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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