Given the chance to train as a squire, kitchen servant Achan Cham hopes to pull himself out of his pitiful life and become a Kingsguard Knight. When Achan's owner learns of his training, he forces Achan to spar with the Crown Prince--more of a death sentence than an honor. Meanwhile, strange voices in Achan's head cause him to fear he's going mad. While escorting the prince to a council presentation, their convoy is attacked. Achan is wounded and arrested, but escapes from prison--only to discover a secret about himself he never believed possible.
About the Author
Jill Williamson is a novelist, dreamer, and believer. She writes stories that combine danger, suspense, and adventure for people of all ages. Jill started Novel Teen Book Reviews (www.novelteen.com) to help teens find great books to read. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two children. By Darkness Hid is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
Achan stumbled through the darkness toward the barn. The morning cold sent shivers through his threadbare orange tunic. He clutched a wooden milking pail at his side and held a flickering torch in front to light his way.
He wove between dark cottages in the outer bailey of the castle, mindful to keep his torch clear of the thatched roofs. Most of the residents of Sitna still slept. Only a few of the twenty-some peasants, slaves, and strays serving Lord Nathak and Prince Gidon stirred at this hour.
Sitna Manor sat on the north side of the Sideros River. A brownstone curtain wall, four levels high, enclosed the stronghold. A second wall sectioned off the outer bailey from the inner bailey, temple, and keep. Achan wasn't allowed to enter the inner bailey but occasionally snuck inside when he felt compelled to leave an offering at Cetheria's temple.
The barn loomed ahead of him in the darkness. It was one of the largest structures in Sitna Manor. It was long and narrow, with a high, thatched gable roof. Achan shifted the pail to his torch hand and tugged the heavy door open. It scraped over the frosty dirt. He darted inside and pulled it closed.
The scent of hay and manure drifted on the chilled air. He walked to the center and slid the torch into an iron ring on a load-bearing post. The timber walls stymied the bitter wind, and Achan's shivering lessened.
The torch cast a golden glow over the hay pile, posts, and rafters and made Achan's orange tunic look brown. A long path stretched the length of the barn with stalls on each side penning chickens, geese, pigs, and goats. Two empty stalls in the center housed hay and feed. He approached the goat stall.
"Morning, Dilly, Peg. How are my girls? Got lots of milk for me?"
The goats bleated their greetings. Achan rubbed his hands together until they were warm enough to avoid getting him kicked. He perched on the icy stool to milk Dilly and begin his tedious routine. He could have worse jobs, though, and he liked the goats.
By the time Achan had finished with Dilly, the stool under his backside had thawed, though his breath still clouded in the torch's dull glow. He lifted the pail to get a better look. Dilly had filled it a third. Achan set it between his feet, slapped Dilly on the rear, and called Peg. When he had finished milking her he moved his stool outside and set the pail on top of it. He grabbed a pitchfork off the wall.
Dilly and Peg danced around as Achan dumped fresh hay into the trough. The goats' excitement faded to munching. The other animals stirred, but they were not his responsibility. Mox, the scrawny barn boy, had arrived a few minutes ago and now shuffled from stall to stall at the other end of the barn.
As Achan leaned the pitchfork against the wall, he had to pause. A chill ran through him that had nothing to do with the temperature. He felt the familiar pressure in his head. It wasn't painful, but it brought a sense of a looming, sinister shadow. Someone was coming.
"Lo, Mox!" a familiar voice called from near the barn's entrance.
"Moxy poxy hoggy face, we know you're in here."
Achan sucked in an icy breath and slid back into the goat stall. The voices belonged to Riga Hoff and Harnu Poe, Sitna Manor's resident browbeaters.
Mox's young voice cried out. "Stop it! Don't do that! Ow!"
Achan set his jaw and thunked his head against the wall of the stall, earning a reprimanding look from Dilly. Poril would flay him if he returned late. And there was no guarantee he could beat both boys. He should mind his own business. Regular beatings had made him tough — they could do likewise for Mox.
Or they could cripple him for life. An image flooded his mind: a young slave being dragged through the linen field by Riga and Harnu. They'd crushed his hands so badly that all the boy could do now was pull a cart like a mule. Achan sighed.
He edged to the other end of the barn, stepping softly over the scattered hay. Two piglets scurried past his feet. He clenched his jaw. If the animals got out, Mox would be punished by his master too. Riga and Harnu knew that, of course.
Achan spotted them in a pig stall at the end of the barn. Harnu was holding Mox's face in a trough of slop. The mere thought of the smell turned Achan's empty stomach. Riga leaned over Harnu's shoulder laughing, his ample rear blocking the stall's entrance. Fine linen stretched over Riga's girth and rode up his back in wrinkles, baring more skin than Achan cared to see.
He sent a quick prayer up to the gods and cleared his throat. "Can I help you boys with something?"
Riga spun around, his mess of short, golden curls sticking out in all directions. His face was so pudgy Achan could never tell if his eyes were open or closed. "Stay out of this, dog!"
Harnu released Mox and pushed past Riga out of the stall. The torch's beam illuminated his pockmarked face, a hazard from working too close to the forge. "Moxy poxy piglet got out of his pen. He needs to learn his place." Harnu stood a foot taller than Riga and was the real threat in the barn. He stepped toward Achan. "Looks like you need to learn yours too."
Achan held his ground. "Let him go."
Harnu's gaze flitted to a pitchfork propped against the wall. He grabbed it and swung. Achan jumped back, but the tines snagged his tunic, ripping a hole in the front and scratching his stomach. Achan squeezed his fists and blew out a long breath.
Harnu jabbed the pitchfork forward. Achan lunged to the side and grabbed the shaft. He wrenched the weapon away and spun it around, prongs facing Harnu. He waved it slightly back and forth, hoping to scare the brute into flight.
"The barn is off limits to your instruction. Anything else I can do for you boys? A little hay? Some oats, perhaps? Drag you to the moat, tie a millstone to your ankles, see how well you swim?"
Like a dog being teased with a bone, Harnu lunged.
Achan stepped back and raised the pitchfork above his head the way he'd seen knights do in the longsword tournaments. With nothing to stop his hurtling bulk, Harnu stumbled. Achan swung the tines flat against Harnu's backside, and the bully knocked head first into the chicken pen. The birds squawked and fluttered, sending a cloud of dust over Harnu.
Riga slipped past the stall and made toward the milk pail. Achan darted forward and stuck the pitchfork in the clay earth to snag Riga's foot. The big louse tripped and sprawled into the dirt and hay.
Footsteps behind Achan sent him wheeling around just in time to lift the pitchfork to Harnu's chest. Over Harnu's shoulder, Achan could see Mox climbing out of the geese pen with a squirming piglet under one arm.
Harnu raised his hands and stepped back, a thin scratch swelling across his reddened cheek. "Lord Nathak will hear 'bout this, stray. You'll hang."
Achan knew he wouldn't hang for a tussle like this, but he might be whipped. And Lord Nathak's guards were merciless. But Achan doubted Lord Nathak's servants would bother their master with such a trivial matter. He shrugged. "Not much to tell. You fell into the chicken pen."
"You attacked me with a pitchfork when I caught you trying to steal a horse."
A tremor snaked down Achan's arms. Stealing a horse was cause for a hanging. And no one — especially Lord Nathak — would take the word of a stray over a peasant, even one like Harnu. Achan jabbed the pitchfork out. "If Lord Nathak hears a breath of that tripe, I know where you lay your head."
Harnu snorted and beat his chest with a clenched fist. "You dare threaten me?"
Achan glanced around for Riga, but the swine had vanished. He backed toward the hay pile, feeling cornered. Achan took another step back, keeping the pitchfork aimed at Harnu. His boot knocked against something.
Harnu cackled and pointed behind Achan's feet. Achan looked down. The stool and pail lay on their sides, milk seeping into the clay soil.
Riga charged out of the hay stall with a roar. Achan turned, but Riga jerked the pitchfork away. Harnu rushed forward and battered Achan to the ground.
The pitchfork dug into Achan's back. He gritted his teeth, not wanting to give the brutes the satisfaction of hearing him scream. He was more upset over the spilled milk than the pain.
Pain, he was used to.
Mox pointed at Achan from the end of the barn, his face gooey with slop. "Ha ha!" The ungrateful scab was on his own next time.
Dilly and Peg kicked against the wall of their stall, agitated by Achan's distress.
Harnu crouched in front of him, grabbed the back of his head, and pushed his face toward the puddle seeping into the dirt floor. "Lick it up, dog!"
Achan thrashed in the hay but lost his battle with Harnu's hand. He turned his head just as his cheek splashed into the milky muck. The liquid steamed around his face. Harnu released Achan's head and sat back on his haunches, his wide lips twisting in a triumphant sneer.
Riga chortled, a dopey sound. "I'd like a new rug, Harnu. What say we skin the stray?" He dragged the pitchfork down Achan's back.
They never learned.
Achan pushed up with his arms. The prongs dug deeper, but he was able to slide his right arm and leg underneath his body and twist free. He grabbed the handle of the pail and swung it at Harnu's face. Harnu fell onto his backside, clutching his nose.
Achan scrambled to his feet. He grabbed another pitchfork off the wall and squared off with Riga.
The portly boy waddled nearer and lifted his weapon. Achan faked an upswing.
When Riga heaved the pitchfork up to block, Achan swung the shaft of his weapon into Riga's leg.
The boy went down like a slaughtered pig.
Harnu approached, pinching his nose with one hand and wiping a fistful of hay across his upper lip with the other.
"This does grow old," Achan said. "How many times do I have to trounce you both?" "I'm telling Lord Nathak." Harnu sounded like he had a cold.
"You've no right to attack us," Riga mumbled from the dirt floor.
Achan wanted to argue, And what of Mox? but he'd sacrificed enough for that thankless whelp. He grabbed both pitchforks and fled from the barn.
Pale dawn light blanketed Sitna Manor. Achan jogged toward the drawbridge, glancing at the sentry walk of the outer gatehouse. The squared parapet was black against the grey sky. A lone guard stood on the wall above like a shadow.
Achan ran through the gate and over the drawbridge. As usual, the guards ignored him. Few people in the manor acknowledged anyone wearing an orange tunic. One small advantage of being a stray. He sank to his knees at the edge of the moat to wash the blood off the pitchforks.
Riga and Harnu wouldn't let this go easily.
Achan sighed. His fingers stiffened in the rank, icy water. One of these days he'd accept pretty Gren Fenny's offer to weave him a brown tunic, and he'd run away. He was almost of age — maybe no one would question his heritage. He could tell people his mother was a mistress and his father was on Ice Island. Sired by a criminal and almost sixteen, people wouldn't ask too many questions.
But could Achan convince Gren to come with him? He scrubbed the pitchfork prongs with renewed vigor to combat the dread in his heart. Any day now, Gren had said. Any day her father might announce her betrothal and crush Achan's hopes. He'd hinted at running away together, but Gren hadn't seemed keen on the idea. She loved her family. Achan tried to understand, but as a stray, the concept of family was as foreign as a cham bear. He could only dream of it.
When the pitchforks were clean, Achan returned to the barn. His attackers had left and, thankfully, had not done any damage they could blame him for. He shuddered to think of what their feeble minds hadn't. The torch still burned in the ring on the post. They could have burned the barn to ashes. They were truly the thickest heads in Sitna, maybe even in all Er'Rets.
Not that Achan was much brighter, sacrificing himself for an ingrate who was probably out chasing piglets.
Achan hung one pitchfork on the wall and used the other to clean up the hay. When the ground was tidy, he grabbed the empty pail and sat on the stool to catch his breath.
The consequences of his heroism were suddenly laid before him. The scratches on his back throbbed. The goat's milk had completely soaked into the ground, the front of his tunic, and his face. Only the latter had dried, making the skin tight on his left cheek. His nose tingled from the cold. He shivered violently, now that he'd stopped moving. He scowled and pitched the pail across the barn. It smacked the goat stall, and the girls scurried around inside, frightened by the sound.
But Achan didn't want a beating. So he picked the pail up again, dragged the stool into the stall, and managed to squeeze another two inches of milk from the goats. It was all they had. Poril would be furious.
Achan jogged out of the barn, around the cottages, and across the inner bailey. By now, more people were stirring — it was almost breakfast time. He wove around a peddler pushing a cart full of linens and a squire leading a horse from the stables. A piglet scurried past, just avoiding the wheels of a trader's wagon. Achan ignored it. Mox could hang for all he cared.
Pressure filled his head again.
This time the insight that followed was not dread but kinship and hope. Achan paused at the entrance to the kitchens and turned, seeking out the source of the sensation. His gaze was drawn to the armory.
There, Harnu slouched on a stool clutching a bloody rag to his nose. His father stood over him, hands on hips. The warm glow of the forge behind their menacing forms brought to mind the Lowerworld song that Achan had heard Minstrel Harp sing in the Corner last night:
When Arman turns away, Shamayim denied To Lowerword your soul will flee.
Achan shuddered. The sensation of kinship was definitely not coming from them.
He spotted someone else. A knight stood leaning against the crude structure of the armory, watching Achan with a pensive stare. He wore the uniform of the Old Kingsguard — a red, hooded cloak that draped over both arms and hung to a triangular point in the center front and back. The crest of the city of Armonguard, embroidered in gold thread, glimmered over his chest. The knight pulled his hood back to reveal white hair, tied back on top and hanging past his shoulders. A white beard dangled in a single braid that extended to his chest.
Achan recognized him immediately. It was Sir Gavin Lukos, the knight who had come to train Prince Gidon for his presentation to the Council.
For what purpose did the knight stare? Achan had never met anyone above his station who hadn't wished him harm or hard work. Yet his instincts had never been wrong. Sir Gavin harbored no ill will. Achan gave the old man a half smile before entering the kitchens to face Poril's wrath.
* * *
Achan settled onto a stool by the chest-high table that was worn by years of knives and kneading. The kitchens were two large rooms under one roof. One was filled with water basins, tables, and supplies for mixing. The other held six chest-high tables and three hearth ovens that left the room sweltering nearly all day.
Poril, a burly old man with sagging posture, poured batter into stone cups and carried them to one of the hearth ovens. Serving women scurried about filling trays with food and gossiping about Lord Nathak's latest rejection from the Duchess of Carm.
Achan's stomach growled at the smell of fried bacon and ginger cake. He wouldn't be able to eat until after the nobility were served, and then he would be allowed only one bowl of porridge. Poril had a knack of knowing if Achan had eaten something he shouldn't have. Achan suspected the serving women's tongues flapped for extra slices of Poril's pies.
The scratches on his back burned. He was in no mood for Poril's daily lecture, nor could he stomach the cook's nagging voice and the queer way he spoke about himself using his own name. Especially not when he was hungry and had a beating coming. He only hoped Harnu would keep his accusations of thieving to himself. Maybe it was time to talk to Gren about that brown tunic.
Poril scurried back to the table with a linen sack of potatoes. His downy white hair floated over his freckled scalp. Sometimes Achan wanted to laugh when he watched Poril. The man looked more like he should be wielding a sword than a wooden spoon. Some of the serving women said Poril was part giant. Achan wasn't convinced. The cook might be tall and thick, but his sagging posture and thinning hair just made him look old.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "By Darkness Hid"
Copyright © 2009 Jill Williamson.
Excerpted by permission of Third Day Books, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
"Jill Williamson is a major arrival. She presents characters full of mystery, and leaves room for plenty of further exploration. By Darkness Hid is a fast-paced addition to the world of swords and sorcery, using a backdrop of political and spiritual intrigue to heighten the tension. When readers begin lining up for the sequel, you'll find me at the front of the line."--(Eric Wilson, author of Field of Blood and Haunt of Jackals)
"Wow . . . what a great start! Author Jill Williamson pulls the reader into this saga so completely that waiting for the rest of the series to be published will be agony indeed. Witty. Snappy. Humorous. By Darkness Hid is definitely a jewel in the crown of Marcher Lord Press. Be sure to pick up this title for a great read."--(Michelle Griep, author of Gallimore)
"I love a good fantasy, and By Darkness Hid more than fits the bill. With an unpredictable plot, twists of supernatural ability, and finely crafted tension between the forces of good and evil, Jill Williamson's book had me captivated. I jumped into the skin of the heroine and enjoyed her journey as if it were my own."--(Donita K. Paul, author of the Dragon Keeper Chronicles: DragonSpell, DragonQuest, DragonKnight, DragonFire, and DragonLight)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read this book and enjoyed it emmensly! Jill is a fantastic writer. When i finished reading this book, my first thoughts were "No! That can't be it! You'd better make a sequel. I was so into it. I loved it all! I didn't think you could just end it right there. Please write more! This was a great read." I recommend this book to any young readers...it is amazing. Full of mystery and suspense, it is a great book!
Kudos to Marcher Lord Press for including this treasure with their latest batch of speculative fiction. The story is set in a kind of feudal culture where orphans are even lower than slaves. Achan is one of those unfortunate lads, trying as best he can to survive the whippings, bullies, short rations, and knowledge that he has no real future. Yet there is something special about this teenager; he can sense thoughts and feelings that most of the others around him cannot. One day a knight takes notice of him and starts training him as a squire--more than Achan could have ever dreamed possible. Will this make it possible for him to marry the girl he adores? Can he really become a knight in spite of the rules against such a thing a stray? In alternate chapters, the tale centers on a young noblewoman, a mere teen herself, who is disguised as a boy, a stray yet, in order to hide from the Prince. The Prince is determined to marry her even against her will and that of her mother. She is safely hidden away with the family of her mother's dear friend, or so she thinks. Like Achan, though, Vrell has a great gift of bloodvoice, mental telepathy. Since she knows what it is, though, and has been trained by her mother, she is able to control the voices that come in and to close her own thoughts off from prying minds. Her safety is shattered when a wizard sends to men to bring her to him, a wizard who is aware of her gift, but not her true identity. Thus begins a new, dangerous trek for the young girl struggling to keep her true identity hidden. The title has a double meaning. First of all, part of this world is in light, but part of it is in unending darkness. The Darkness isn't like nighttime, which does exist in the light side, but is a place with heavy fog and confusion. Those who live there seem to be driven mad by the Darkness, sometimes coming into the Light side and doing great evil. The ones in the Light are warned to never enter the Darkness. The spiritual meaning is obvious. Yet all darkness in hearts is not limited to the dark side. In the light, there are those who believe in one true God and those who worship a pantheon of fickle gods and goddesses. Achan has been brought up thinking he must appease these gods with sacrifices and convinced that they are angry with him. He has much to learn spiritually as well as every other way. My estimate is that those from junior high up will enjoy this novel. It is full of action and insight as well, thoughtfully crafted. Jill Williamson includes so much detail of Achan learning to fight as a knight that I think she must have some personal experience with fencing or anachronistic societies. In those sections, it's hard to believe a woman was writing the story. In the sections with Vrell, however, she certainly lets you know the femininity of the young lady, in her thoughts at least, while she tries to at like a boy. I recommend this novel. It would be a great addition for summer reading!
I was pulled into By Darkness Hid immediately. Williamson kept my interest right up to the last page when I realized "Oh, my gosh, this is a series, isn't it? How am I going to wait for the sequel?" This maybe be a debut novel, but I think I may add a new name to my list of of favorite authors. Her characters are believable and interesting. Her villians are vile without being one dimensional. You do feel a little sorry for them and their problems. You care about her heroes without feeling they are too perfect. Williamson does a great job of foreshadowing without making the plot too predictable. I believe the book was originally written as a YA, but it works well as an adult book too. One of the best books I've read in quite a while!
By Darkness Hid is a compelling debut fantasy novel which beautifully illustrates the battle between good and evil as well as the challenges faced by the faithful. The world Williamson creates is well crafted and so believable that at times it made me cringe. While reading this novel I was living in the land of Er'Rets and experiencing the peril she puts her characters through. For someone who is not normally a fantasy reader, this story not only kept me riveted to the pages, but anxious about the outcome as well. Oftentimes fantasy novels are hard for me to follow, but that was not the case with By Darkness Hid. Ms. Williamson really knows how to keep a reader's attention by putting her characters into impossible situations. Just when things look like they can't get any worse, they worsen further. I am anxiously awaiting the next installment in this series. The only fantasy author besides Williamson who can hold my attention and keep it for the duration of the story is Stephen Lawhead.
this book omg! i couldn't put it down! i tried to read it when ever i could! between classes was the hardest though. i went to bed late and rose early just to read this book! it was awsome! and thanks again Jill for the ebook!
Since he has no family to protect him, Achan Cham is an orphaned stray with fewer rights than that of a slave. He survives at Sitna Manor because he can feel what others think so he knows when abuse is coming and can elude it in spite having to drink the slave tonic. With no hope for a future except kitchen duty serving Lord Bathak and Prince Gideon, Achan is stunned when Sir Gavin a knight observes his uncanny skill of handling two bullies and selects him as a squire. He begins life as a squire being trained with hopes to become a Kingsguard Knight, something almost impossible for a stray to achieve. However, since he no longer takes the tonic, he begins to hearing voices that are driving him crazy.-------- To avoid a marriage to the prince she loathes, Vrell Sparrow hides out as a male stray. When she realizes what is happening to Achan with the bloodvoicing, as she has the same skill Vrell concludes he is the heir to the throne. However, before they can pursue what she learns, a wizard is aware of her bloodvoicing ability and sends henchmen to abduct her. Only Achan can save her if he believes in her mentally calling him for help.--- Rotating perspectives between Achan and Vrell, BY DARKNESS HIS is a super coming of age fantasy thriller with an underlying inspirational message of the one voice of God is the light in any darkness. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the lead couple struggles to survive in a world filled with enemies whom mostly they do not know. Jill Williamson provides a strong sword and sorcery thriller starring two fully developed heroes and the mentor guiding them as villains search for them.--------------- Harriet Klausner
I'm impressed with Jill Williamson's writing. I'm not a HUGE fan of fantasy novels. Give me a good paranormal romance and I'm happy. But Jill's ability to draw me into the characters compelled me to read on, and on, and on. I read it in one sitting. Okay, I took breaks, but in one day I'd read the entire story. Achan was a fantastic character. I love those who are unlikely heroes. It makes them all that more appealing to me. She painted this character so vividly, I was immediately drawn into his world. And there was a hint of romance too, which sufficed my need to read romances, but it wasn't the central theme of the story. Just enough to keep me enticed. ? Great read. I'd recommend it.
Bravo! I am floating on a cloud. By Darkness Hid is a book any fantasy reader will love. Filled with action, deceit, and bravery, you will not want to put it down. I'm giving 5 stars, and putting it on my favorites list, though, I wish there was a higher recommendation to bestow upon it. I am anxiously awaiting book 2.
I have heard a lot about this new publisher of Speculative/Fantasy Christian books called Marcher Lord Press and I've been very interested in the books they have published so far but haven't gotten one to read until now. Hold onto your hats fans of Christian Spec/Fantasy - Marcher Lord Press may be the best thing that has ever happened to us (the fans) and it all starts with "By Darkness Hid" by Jill Williamson! Kings, politics, orphans (called strays), knights, squires, bloodvoicing (mind reading), darkness and light. This book is packed full of everything you could possibly ask for. We follow two different characters - Achan is worse than a slave, he is a stray and is beaten almost daily when Sir Gavin of the old Kingsguard comes along and decides that Achan needs to train as his squire. He undergoes the training along with all his kitchen slave duties and things just seem to get worse as the prince hates him and makes no attempt to cover that up. He ends up traveling with the prince who seems set on getting him killed. In the meantime we are also seeing life through Vrell's eyes as he is parading as a stray but is not all he is cracked up to be. Vrell gets hijacked to Mahanaim where the prince is supposed to be named king. Vrell runs into Achan and things only start getting more and more interesting. Some twists I figured out and some I didn't - all the way around I was totally intrigued from page one to the end and I can only hope that book #2 comes out soon (very soon!). I love this book and highly recommend that you check it out and all the books available with Marcher Lord Press!
I have got to tell you about By Darkness Hid, the first book in the series, Blood of Kings written by Jill Williamson and published by Marcher Lord Press. When Jill asked for influencers for her Christian medieval young adult book, I jumped all over it. I used the fact that I have three teens to earn myself a copy and the right to review. I was thrilled when the book showed up and couldn't wait to start reading. Immediately I was drawn into the story as I was introduced first to Achan and then to Vrell. Not once did I find myself bored and simply reading from page to page hoping for something to happen. The best part is that the story is not predictable! I looked forward to reading this book each night because I knew that I would end up being surprised by the predicaments that the characters found themselves in. Achan is a stray and strays have no rights what-so-ever. Strays are destined to wear an orange tunic and are rarely permitted to marry. They are treated worse than slaves. Achan's life takes a drastic turn when he gains the interest of Sir Gavin and finds himself on an adventure he could have never imagined. Vrell Sparrow now lives her life disguised as a stray, hiding her identity from one who has the power to make her life a living nightmare. She too finds herself in places that if her identity was known, she would never be. Achan's and Vrell's lives will cross when they discover that each of them shares the gift of Bloodvoicing. I enjoyed this page-turner and didn't want the story to end. I simply cannot wait until book two is released so that I can climb back into this story and continue the adventures with Achan and Vrell. If you're looking for a great gift to give to your teens this Christmas, this is it! Be warned that you might often find them locked away in their rooms reading. It's that good! I read until my eyes drooped and simply had to put it down until I had some sleep. Jill Williamson captures the real-life feelings of her characters. You will feel their pain as well as their laughter. I must also comment on the book itself. It's beautiful! 490 pages filled with characters that will either make you love them or hate them. I can't stress enough how much you will love By Darkness Hid. For more information, visit Jill's website at: http://jillwilliamson.wordpress.com/
This is a fabulous speculative fiction book for people looking for a Christian alternative. Williamson quickly pulls the reader into her world and into the lives of Achan and Vrell. Though the characters are young (teens) and the setting is unfamiliar (Er'Rets), Williamson's creativity and style so fully captivate the reader that you forget any preconceived idea's about "fantasy" or "young adult" literature. Instead, you find yourself wrapped up in the lives of Achan and Vrell, afraid for, crying with, and cheering for them along the way.
By Darkness Hid was a fun ride through the unique world of Er'rets. Jill Williamson has crafted a thoroughly fantastic book that dwarfs the attempts of many other well-seasoned authors. I'd recommend this book over most of the other Christian fantasy novels I've come across nowadays. I'm thoroughly anticipating the next book in the Blood of Kings series.
Jill Willaimson has created a world of amazing details, unpredictable twists and turns, and characters that jump off the page and threaten to drink all your coffee. A must-read for fantasy lovers... and others.
Reminiscent of Shakespeare's romantic method of hiding his heroine in the guise of a man, Jill Williamson has taken her fantasy, In Darkness Hid, and filled it with twists and turns. Both hero and heroine are characters that will remain in my heart for a long time. Having swordplay, mental powers, romance, and a thrilling new take on the term "royal blood", I completely enjoyed this book.
The Story. Achan Cham wears the orange shirt that marks him as a stray, as does the brand he bears on his back. For as long as he can remember he's worked in Lord Nathak's kitchen under the watchful eye and heavy hand of the cook, but all that changes when Sir Gavin chooses to elevate the boy and make him his squire. Vrell also wears the orange, but she does so of her own choosing and in the guise of a young boy because she has gone into hiding in order to avoid a marriage neither she nor her duchess mother wishes for her. Through an unlikely turn of events, Achan's and Vrell's paths cross, and they become the targets of greedy, power-hungry men who wish to kidnap and exploit them. Strengths. By Darkness Hid is a fresh old-style fantasy. The story is captivating and unpredictable, with numerous well-foreshadowed twists. The characters are likable. Their motivations are clear and believable which makes them all the more realistic. I especially thought Jill hit a homerun creating Vrell, a girl masquerading as a boy. The things Vrell did to protect herself, the conscious ways she tried to mimic male behavior and to check her own natural actions and reactions made the character quite engaging. The fantasy world of Er'Rets comes to life, including the innovative concept of a land divided between light and darkness, literally. Williamson's writing is strong. She paints scenes using vivid prose so that a reader is transported into the barn of Lord Nathak's manor or onto the trail through Nahar Forest. She provides lots of tension and suspense, so the story's pace is fairly fast. There is a good amount of internal as well as external conflict, which makes the story more intriguing. Recommendation. I just may have a new favorite fantasy series. This is my kind of story. For those who are drawn to epic fantasy or classic fantasy, this is a must read. For everyone else, I highly recommend By Darkness Hid.
Great read, very age appropriate. Great pace, lots of suspense with great villains as well as heroes. I count it as one of the best contemporary Christian fantasy books available today. Too bad there is not a better supply on Amazon. Achan & Vrell are excellent lead characters, I appreciate the way you introduce spiritual aspects to young readers.
Williamson takes two commonly used storylines that seem somewhat incompatible - the poor child who does not not know that he/she is of noble birth, and the child of noble birth hiding as a beggar - and spins a fascinating story. The book shifts between the points of view of two main characters - one male, one female. She does a good job of creating a world which is split into a dark and light half. Definitely recommended.
Achan has grown up in a medieval-esque village as a lowly stray and his future seems bleak when a head-strong knight illegally begins to train Achan as his squire. The lord of the village is angered, and Achan is punished by having to guard the nasty, abusive prince on a trip to the capital city. While traveling, Achan runs into many difficulties¿including Vrell, a rather effeminate ¿boy¿ who is actually the prince¿s chosen bride-to-be in hiding. Vrell and Achan must learn to trust one another, while at the same time taming their sharpening their blood-voices. This book is Christian young adult fiction, so it has a reasonably subtle religious theme. It is the first book in a trilogy, and it had a cliff-hanger ending, but luckily for me the whole series has been published. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the story¿even though the characters aren¿t perfect and sometimes I wanted to pound them over their heads for their obtuseness, they ARE teenagers after all and are really quite endearing. The book started out slow, but I was really into it after the first 50 or so pages. It was getting really interesting at the end, right when it ended. Ah! Cliffhangers!
The world that Jill Williamson has created has great potential to becoming unforgettable, but I sometimes felt overwhelmed with all the new and necessary details and names that became entangled as I read on. I too shared Achan¿s confusion when he realized that the voices in his head were actually other peoples¿ thoughts, though sometimes the voice sounded more God-like than human. As the story progressed, the momentum started to build and I became engrossed with how everything came together with Achan and Vrell¿s meeting and ended with a Big & Unexpected Reveal about Achan¿s true identity.In short, By Darkness Hid set up the stage, but I hope that its sequel To Darkness Fled fully dives into the world that Achan and Vrell live in and fleshes out all the politics and the characters to their fullest potential.My major disappointment is the way By Darkness Hid ended: A giant cliffhanger that literally has you stop in your tracks just when everything was starting to get even more interesting. Thank goodness the sequel was just released this month, or else I¿d be even more upset!
Jill Williamson has created a world of amazing details, unpredictable twists and turns, and characgters that jump off the page and threaten to drink all your coffee. A must-read for fantasy lovers... and other.
By Darkness Hid is a classic fantasy in the best of all possible ways. Achan is a stray ¿ a foundling with no status in his society ¿ who is taken in by a great knight as his first squire. Still, great amounts of mystery surround this boy¿s origins, and intrigue seems to dog his every movement. In the meantime, Vrell (really Avrella) is in hiding as a boy to avoid a hideous fate as the wife of the nefarious prince-in-waiting - Gidon. Their lives intersect through the gift of ¿bloodvoicing¿ a sort of mind-to-mind communication that is a gift from the father-God of Er¿Rets.Williamson has developed both incredibly likeable characters to populate her fascinating and mysterious world, one which is populated by a huge pantheon of Gods, in which only one is authentic, the father-God Arman (whose followers are few in number). A mysterious veil splits the land of Er¿Rets into two halves ¿ one with a normal diurnal cycle, the other perpetually in darkness.I received this 490 page novel and I¿ve already finished it two days later¿ devoured it might be a more appropriate term. Williamson is a wonderful author, her descriptions of teaching swordplay are thorough and realistic ¿ the best I¿ve read (and I love books about knights in training)! There is political intrigue, romance (only the best kind though ¿ no premarital physical intimacy), and parable like correlations between the history of Er¿Rets and the Christian faith.What¿s even better (and even more maddening) is the fact that this is only the first of a series, one that promises to be incredibly enjoyable and memorable. Williamson just released the second book in the series To Darkness Fled, and I can¿t wait to read it! Do yourself a favour, and check out By Darkness Hid if classic fantasies with a Christian bent are your style ¿ you won¿t regret it!Reviewed at quiverfullfamily.com
Loved this series! Kept me up 'till late in the night. A bit of fantasy, action, suspense, a few good twists, good moral lessons learned.
I will continue this story, I have enjoyed the storyline. This is the best recommendation that I can give. It's a good story.
Just a quick note, this review is from my blog: You all know by now how rare it is for me to praise a fantasy book up and down, sideways, backwards, etc. Well, this book gets all that praise that I reserve for fantasy. I'm old school fantasy, I love finding good, clean reads when it comes to fantasy. Jill Williamson's book is AMAZING! Yes, that is the word I'm using to describe this book. It's dark, it's funny, it's well planned out and the characters are so well developed, even the secondary characters. You learn things gradually, not in one lump of information overload. Achan is the kitchen boy new to 'bloodvoicing'. He's not thrilled at all with the 'gift', nor is he particularly happy with his 'Prince'. He's a 'stray', marked for service and a lifetime of humiliation. Gren is the love of his life, but they can't be together. Achan gets a taste of what a life could be like if he weren't a stray and I get the impression he likes his invisibility. But of course, there is a lot going on under the current and Achan's life changes drastically. Vrell is yet another awesome character. I. Love. Her! She doesn't seem like it right now, but she's going to be a strong woman. She's stronger than she thinks at the moment. I'm looking forward to the rest of this series VERY much! And Jill Williamson currently has another series related to this one in the works. I believe the first book is out and the second is being worked on as we speak. Now before anyone gets all up in arms about this being a cliche fantasy story, let me just say that YES, some parts were predictable. YES it's one of 'THOSE' stories and I'm trying not to do spoilers here. If you've read it, you know what I mean. But there are lots of twists and turns and quite a few surprises, despite all that. The only other thing I want to warn readers about is the e-book formatting got a little wonky in places, but once you know that, the flow of the story is smooth and quick. But if that is the only bad thing I can find about this book, well, then you know we have an awesome book!!!