Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Darkstorm by M.L. Spencer: a style analysis

This post is Part 1 of a series to augment the Tips for Writing Fiction available for free download.

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This post is also Part 2 of a series about M.L. Spencer. Start with Part 1 here.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

In Part 1 of this guest series, I provide the actual book review! The long-form style analysis below goes into much greater detail, diving into many aspects of storycraft, worldbuilding, and wordsmith techniques.

Darkstorm by M.L. Spencer is the prequel to The Rhenwars Saga, an epic fantasy spanning a millennium, two realms, and all the ethics of the human condition. Though it is her second novel, it was originally published as Book One of the saga due to its chronology.


Four stars! This great story revealed something I didn't see coming.


I tend to read books in serial order, but though I haven't read Spencer's debut novel, I felt confident reading Darkstorm since Spencer billed it as Book One at the time.

The story takes place one thousand years before the events of her first book, and I found the story easy to follow despite it being a prequel. In truth, I had no idea the book wasn't Spencer's first until I set out to write this post and discovered my prequel/sequel mix-up.

Reading the story was a pleasure, and I finished the book in a matter of days. As with most books, I noticed prose that I would have worded differently, but as an author myself I can appreciate a variety of writing styles without judging them against my own.

My only qualm came at a major turning point in the story, where a leading protagonist descended into betrayal.

The character's change of behavior was late in the book, well-explained but suddenly staged. In retrospect, perhaps the change would be anticipated by readers of Spencer's debut novel, and not seem sudden at all.

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When Spencer delved into the character's darker facets in the final chapters, I felt compassion for the character's flaws, and I actually felt more connected with that character.

But Spencer used that inner exploration to stage and justify the character's rapid changes, and my favorite character's revealed depths then culminated with betrayal. I felt dismayed - but perhaps that was Spencer's intention all along.

Ultimately, Spencer's tale was an engaging, independent prequel. The prose was unpretentious and descriptive. The characters had depth and personality, and the master conflict was nuanced yet explicit. It began on a rainy night in a mountain city, and it quickly progressed into the discovery of a dire conspiracy.

I loved how Spencer showcased the diversity of her Southern Continent. Not only did she contrast the cultures of two nations, but she contrasted a scholarly urban culture to the rural nomads under the same rule. Spencer also evoked a sub-culture of those gifted with magic compared to those who had none.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel, and I went on to read Spencer's original book. After I shared my review with Spencer, she wrote this Praise for Awakening in exchange.

Please buy your copy of
Darkstorm by M.L. Spencer here.

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That's it for this post! Up Next: How I first connected with M.L. Spencer...

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