One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig – Review

Published: September 27, 2022

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Shepherd King #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 432 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0 

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom of Blunder—she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets.

But nothing comes for free, especially magic.

When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. And the highwayman? He just so happens to be the King’s nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in Blunder…and guilty of high treason.

Together they must gather twelve Providence Cards—the keys to the cure. But as the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly taking over her mind. And she might not be able to stop him.

My level of adoration for this book is both unparalleled and surprising, as I didn’t expect this to be my next 5 star read! The synopsis was quite irresistible, but the story itself snuck up on me and then *WHAM*- new favorite book. A book that left me stunned by the ending and clamoring for the sequel.

In the mist-shrouded kingdom of Blunder people fear the fever that grants magical abilities, seeing it as a curse rather than a gift. Those who come down with the fever are taken away, never to be seen again. Except for the rare cases like Elspeth Spindle, whose family hid her away until the fever passed and then she never displayed any magical abilities, so they assumed it did not curse her. Except Elspeth has a secret – there is a Nightmare living in her head and though it doesn’t often speak, it haunts her mind constantly and it has saved her life in the past. It saves her again when a highwayman stops her as she returns home one night and soon after she meets the highwayman again… but realizes he’s the king’s nephew and captain of the King’s Destriers, who hunt down rogue magic wielders like her. As it happens, he and several allies are trying to track down the Providence Cards, a set of cards that safely grant magic to their wielders, in order to break the cursed mist that cuts their kingdom off from the outside world. By breaking this curse, Elspeth may finally be free of the Nightmare and can live without constant fear.

This is a wonderful read for autumn because it has *atmosphere*, but most importantly it also has substance! It’s not just pretty sentences and thoroughly described scenery, it has exquisite characterization, a cool magic system, and romantic tension! And boy, do I love romantic tension, especially when it’s between people like Elspeth and the Captain of the Destriers, Ravyn. I will forever be a sucker for a brooding love interest and two people who start out suspicious of one another and then fall passionately in love but just can’t admit it to themselves for a bit! It’s so frustrating, yet so good! Enough about that – let’s talk about the magic system for a minute. So, there are Providence Cards of 12 different suites that grant their wielders a certain type of magic though it does come with a cost (pain, cold heartedness, paranoia). This is sanctioned magic, unlike the fever-induced gifts, and was originally gifted to the ancient Shepherd King by the Spirit of the Wood in exchange for aspects of himself. Our characters’ quest to unite the twelve suites of cards, including the Twin Alders card, makes for a fine and dangerous adventure. I like the card magic, but I like the idea of spontaneous, unknown magic even more, particularly the variety that Elspeth has.

One Dark Window is definitely going on my Favorite Books of 2022 list and I will be thrilled to get my hands on the sequel, especially after THAT ENDING. OMG. I was literally like *AHHHHH!!!!!* because there were no actual words for that, only scream.


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