I don’t read a lot of fantasy, so I started this book on a whim. It was one of the dozens of samples I’d collected during my search for decent M/M horror. After about 7 or 8 terrible horror samples I cracked this open, expecting it to disappoint me like the others. Expecting that cringe factor, or some stiff dialogue, or over-explaining to rub against my already frayed reader nerves.
But that moment never came. Instead, what I got was this immensely interesting MC, Niko. His prickly attitude and massive balls sucked me into the story, and at every turn where I expected it to yeet me back out of the immersive experience, instead, it offered more. More questions, more captivating characters, more events to send my pulse into a gallop.
This book isn’t a typical fantasy. I mean, of course it isn’t — typical fantasies aren’t dripping in homoeroticism. At least not the ones I know about. It has elves. Oh boy, does it. But these elves are vicious, bloodthirsty creatures. It has magic, but this magic is ugly. It’s dark and wrong and paints the world in pain and horror. And my withered, blackened, horror-loving heart soaked it all in like a thirsty little bitch.
It did take me a long time to get through this book. Not because the pace was slow or anything. It wasn’t. The pace is perfect. This book does not suffer from info dumps. It doesn’t suffer from purple prose. In fact, it’s exactly my preferred writing style: Minimalistic, with small splashes of description woven throughout to reinforce the imagery rather than beat you over the head with it. The reason it took me a while because it’s a thicc book. I’m a slow reader to begin with. I like to linger in the scenes and experience them in immersive, imaginative detail but whereas a normal book would take me a week at most, this one took me the good part of a month. It’s not the kinda book most people could knock out on a weekend, but for you faster readers, maybe a week if you really dig in. But the size of it isn’t a knock against it. It’s a thicc book, because it’s a thicc story to tell.
The one issue I stumbled across — though quite late in the story — was a logic issue. You know when you’re watching a movie and all the characters say the MC has a reputation and you expect them to live up to it, but their actions don’t really follow through? Yeah…
Niko, the MC, has a history. He’s hardened by war, by experiences with elves, by being let down by the monarch and by people in general. Hell, for the first half of the book, most of his actions even support this established backstory. But then he suddenly gets super naïve about things, and trusting people in ways that didn’t quite jibe with everything I knew about the character.
Certainly some of the actions that frustrated me could be explained away by trauma and character choices I don’t get and don’t super agree with. But some of his actions and emotional responses just plain didn’t make sense.
I do want to stress that these instances are a very very very small fraction of the story, and the vast majority of it was fucking amazing. The sex was hot, the characters were deep and riveting in all the right ways, and the writing style was chef’s kiss. I will definitely be diving into the second book soon. (Though I’m gonna try and knock out a short book or two first, to get back on track with my reading challenge. But honestly, I can’t wait to start Reign of Darkness.)
100% Recommend King of the Dark to anyone who loves dark fantasy with a generous serving of m/m erotica.