Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis is a YA “dark” fantasy that tells the story of Nedra Byrsstain: a seventeen-year-old who wants nothing more than to study medicinal alchemy in order to stop the spread of a deadly plague that has been sweeping the northern territories of Lunar Island where her family lives.
Luck is on her side, and Nedra receives a scholarship to the prestigious Yugen Alchemical Academy: a place where the wealthiest and most powerful families send their children to study alchemy. As Nedra delves deeper into her studies, she finds there’s more to alchemy than taking the pain away from plague victims. Something darker and far more sinister: necromancy.
Necromancy is a form of magic that allows the individual to communicate and summon the dead. That mixed with a deadly plague that has people dying off left and right made this the kind of story I had to read. After The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, I was ready for another deliciously dark book.
Yeah…this wasn’t it.
Give the Dark My Love should really be called Give the Dark My Love After 260 Pages, cause that’s when the story gets dark, and—sadly—when the writing and the story get good.
The book started off well. Lunar Island is a well-developed medieval world run by alchemy and political intrigue. The plague, known as the “Wasting Death” has no issues taking both the poor and the wealthy, and we get to see plenty of both through the eyes of poor Nedra, and her wealthy classmate, Grey.
However, once we reach Yugen Academy, the writing takes a turn, and not for the better.
There’s so much telling in this novel, it’s frustrating! I was hoping Yugen Academy would be like Hogwarts where we’re shown what classes an alchemy student takes, what they learn, and how they apply it in their studies, but we don’t get any of that here.
Instead, we get this:
“I quickly scribbled the names, topics, and locations of the day’s classes: geography, humanities, history, poetry, potions, algebra, physics, philosophy, theoretical alchemy, runes” (p. 45).
These are all the classes a student can take in one day! Nedra skips geography (cause Grey said it was boring), and they go to humanities together…then history…we’re not shown any of these courses…and then Nedra decides she’s too behind, so she ditches the rest of the classes to study in the library ???
‘Cause, you know, the best way to catch up is to not go to any classes at all???
Nedra attends these courses for exactly one day, and then stops going to class altogether. Why? Cause according to her, she has “more important things to do” like spend the next 100+ pages at a hospital, trying to stop the plague with advanced alchemy that she just said she was way behind in ???
Yeah. She’s at Yugen Academy on a SCHOLARSHIP to study alchemy, she’s way behind everyone else, and yet…she’s able to do things the top students at the academy can’t do? Students who have been going to this school for YEARS can’t do what she can do, and they actually attend class!
I’m ranting. I know, but again—so frustrating!
Then, we get weird sentences like this:
“The man still held my arm, so when he raised his other hand and slammed it, open, against my jaw, I couldn’t pull away, and I took the full force of the teeth-clacking blow (p. 127).
Nedra was hit in the jaw. That’s what this massive sentence is telling you. There are more sentences like this littered throughout the narrative, and they’re so unnecessary. We don’t need descriptions of every muscle and joint movement when there’s action involved. Just keep it simple.
And as I’ve mentioned in other reviews, dialogue tags need to be simple as well. In Give the Dark My Love, we get insisted, guessed, snapped back, corrected, promised her, protested and—the most dominant one—started:
“How did he…?” I started.
“It’s—” I started.
“This isn’t the Wasting Death,” Master Ostrum started, tapping my notes on the plague.
Notice how unnecessary this “tag” is in these three sentences? It’s telling instead of showing. The use of the em dash and ellipsis in the first two lines let’s us know the speaker is being cut off, and they’ve just “started” to speak when they’re interrupted. The last one doesn’t need it either; “started” could be replaced with Ostrum’s actions.
At this point you’re probably wondering how I was able to make it through this book without abandoning ship as I have with other books within the first five chapters.
It’s simple really. I was under the impression that this book turned dark and “really good” after the first half. That’s what all the Goodreads reviews told me, anyway. So, I pressed onward, expecting this book to spiral into darkness at the halfway mark.
Well, I reached the halfway mark, and the darkness wasn’t there. I thought, okay, maybe it’s a little bit more than that.
You know what I found out? It’s the last quarter!
You have to endure 75% of the book in order to get there. And I really mean ENDURE.
Once you reach the 75% mark, though—the story does a 180!
The last 25% shocked me beyond belief. I couldn’t believe I was reading the same story. When Nedra dabbles into necromancy, the whole plot ascends to another level with so many unexpected twists and turns. I devoured the last 91 pages.
If the last quarter had been like the rest of this book, it would’ve been four stars. Easy.
Unfortunately, though, with all the telling instead of showing, the awkward sentences, unnecessary dialogue tags, all the conveniences with Nedra’s character, and the fact that only 25% is worth reading, I can’t even give this three stars.
This is a solid two star. The only reason why I didn’t DNF it was because I wanted to get to the dark/necromancy bits. Was the last 25% worth it? Not really.
What do you think? Have any of you read this and loved it? Do you disagree with any of my points? Let me know.
5 thoughts on “Give the Dark My Love”
I haven’t read it, might give it a skip, but I did recognize her name and realize I read her Across the Universe books, I’m curious what you thought of them if you liked them? I really liked them as in they were enjoyable but I think maybe some of these things you mentioned in this book also transfer over to that series
I actually haven’t read Across the Universe. Give the Dark My Love is the only book I’ve read from Beth Revis, but I did look it up after you mentioned it, and the story sounds interesting. You said you enjoyed the book, but it has similar flaws to Give the Dark My Love? Flaws as in the writing, characters, etc.?
Awkward sentences and dialogue sections at times, and how the protagonist was seemingly able to adjust. in the blink of an eye, to being the only person from her time period that is awake on what is basically a ship full of strangers that have completely morphed in a sense to everything she’s ever known. But on the same token, Beth actually does show the protagonist struggling, so a little bit of a clash.
Overall though I don’t remember being too keen by the third book, it was the love that bothered me, it wasn’t my cup of tea how the love interests played out. A bit boring in my mind, but, I found the premise super interesting and I kept going, she’s got some super ideas, just maybe better execution.
That does sound a lot like Give the Dark My Love. I agree with you, I think she has some great ideas, they just aren’t executed well.
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I realized I used a random stop and the word ‘super’ twice in a sentence when I barely use it once, this is what writing at 2am does to me. I am going to be keeping an eye on her
because I remember thinking she was very young when I first read her, so, who knows, could have something magnificent in a few years time.