Author Tarah L. Wolff has said about her first novel, a fantasy genre entry titled Embraced by Darkness Book One: Sacrifices, that she wanted to write a book she felt the genre was lacking. This book is unquestionably an “adult” fantasy for a mature audience, prominently incorporating three literary elements – adult language, strong sexual content, and horror – which have not been present in popular, mainstream, adult fantasy books heretofore. These elements, in combination with a strong undercurrent of human emotion, make me confident that most readers will concur that Wolff has hit her mark!
Sacrifices, the first book in her fantasy series Embraced by Darkness, tells two distinct stories simultaneously. One is the story of an imaginary place where humankind had risen to power after some period of enslavement. The rulers of the humans, known as Wards and blessed with the power of will, built a new empire with its capital cities secure and its people safe. But early on, Wolff begins to provide signs to both the Wards and the reader that something dark and horrible is poised to shatter their imaginary world.
The second story Wolff weaves and intertwines with the first is that of three very distinct female characters who are portrayed with realism and possessed of human emotion in a way not typical of the genre. The threads which bind their tales together are the longing for love and their own human inclination to allow their emotions and passion to push them toward making poor choices and decisions. Each shares the same pain and anguish of their shortcomings. Collectively, Wolff’s stories have historical, social, and political relevance for today.
The author professes “to have always been a huge fantasy fan,” and she took years to craft her novel. The result of her passion for the genre shows in her writing. Her imaginary world is vividly described in great detail and her female characters are rendered with delicate sensitivity and an empathy that seems to suggest that the emotions she attributes to her characters are emotions she herself has felt. But while Wolff’s painstaking descriptions paint beautiful images, I found them to often be detailed to a fault in terms of the story’s pacing and ability to hold my interest. And despite the plights of the books characters, the clear apparentness of their recurring poor decisions sometimes resulted in my simply not caring deeply about the outcome of their struggles.
Embraced by Darkness Book One: Sacrifices offers a realistic and graphic spin on the already murky discussion of just what constitutes an adult fantasy. Author Tarah L. Wolff wanted to write a book that would push the genre’s envelope, and she has. It remains to be seen if adult fantasy fans will embrace Sacrifices, but given the genre’s wide audience today, my guess is that there are those who will.
(Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views)