The End of Darkness (Druid’s Curse Book 1)

Title: The End of Darkness (Druid’s Curse Book 1)
Author: Shea Balik
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: April 15, 2019
Genre(s): Fantasy
Page Count: 199
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5


Ryley Duggan resented his family for forcing him home on his twenty-first birthday to perform another stupid fire ritual, instead of letting him go out and get shit-faced like normal people his age. He’d never believed in the stories his grandmother told him about the reason behind what they were doing. That was, until he walked outside to the bonfire to see bloodcurdling creatures that no Hollywood studio had ever come close to replicating, killing his family.

Since an early age, Eirik had one job, to protect the descendants of the one who’d cursed him and his friends. It hadn’t been what he’d ever imagined for his life, but after nearly a millennia Eirik had learned one thing, life never went as planned. Never had that been truer than when he’d rescued Ryley from certain death.

Now the two must learn to work together to save humanity. Will all be lost? Or will they discover a way to heal their hearts by opening themselves up to love?

WARNING: Unseelie monsters run amok in this story!

Family traditions that a twenty-one-year-old doesn’t really care for—Shea Balik, I hear you! Been there myself. My family’s traditions, however, were never as essential to human survival as those of Ryley Duggan’s turn out—and he’s one of the main characters, see? In fact, his family is of Scottish druid stock, and their origins go waaaay back (first known ancestor somewhere in the 8th century). Back then, they were hanging out with the fickle Faeries, and at one moment found out fickleness, when exhibited by magic-users, only amused them for so long. That’s why they performed a spell-casting ritual around a bonfire to ban their former friends forever. Alas, a party of fierce, blood-and-gold-thirsty Vikings interrupted the ceremony, killed most of the druids, and got killed in turn by Faerie monsters. All except eight of them, whom Nordic Super-God Odin then cursed: made immortal, they would have to make sure that the remaining druids survive and thus be able to do their banning ritual, lest the veil between Faerie world and our world be torn and humanity destroyed by the vengeful magic beings and their monster minions.

Ryley never listened to his grand-mother telling those tales, so he learns the hard way what it means to be a Duggan. In fact, when the family gathers around their Samhain bonfire, the Faerie monsters appear and kill all the family members. Only Ryley and his sixteen-year-old sister Meghan are saved by… immortal Viking hunk Eirik. The latter kills the monsters, then picks up the two siblings and brings them to the Viking safe haven somewhere in Colorado. There, Ryley is trained to face the mortal threats from the Faerie world so that he can perform the next ritual at winter solstice. At the same time, he realizes he’s falling for the Nordic warrior who saved his life. As Eirik can’t fight his own attraction for young Ryley either, we get our romance going…

I don’t know if American authors are aware of how funny, almost ludicrous it feels for Europeans to start reading a book and realize that yet another part of our continent’s history is transplanted in the US. Even while re-reading my line “Viking safe haven somewhere in Colorado”, I chuckle despite myself. But be it; that’s how fiction works. In the past, for the sake of a highly entertaining YA book series, I willingly accepted the idea of Greek gods dwelling in the skies above New York. Alas, as “The End of Darkness” wasn’t nearly as much fun to read, the druid-and-Vikings-in-America part felt a bit off to me. Don’t get me wrong, the book isn’t unpleasant. Yet I freely admit I was biased as I had just finished another M/M fantasy romance, which earned a highly deserved 5-star-review (to be found here). And when you read two books of the same genre in a row, you can’t help it—you compare. That doesn’t turn out positive for this book, I’m sorry to say.

It’s hard to put the finger on what bothers me. Is it the writing style, which is sometimes a bit awkward? Maybe the pace? You see, you get a first peak right at the beginning, but told from a certain distance (which takes off some of the suspense). Then there’s a longish part of low and slow goings-on with loads of explaining. The whole back-story of the druids, Vikings, Faeries is unravelled in impromptu dialogues instead of being worked in more unobtrusively and naturally. When an author realizes she/he needs to explain too many things in that fashion, their plot-line alarm bells should be ringing and urge them to change the whole story-line. Beware of the scene-saving deus ex machina, too (in this case, a renegade Faerie, who can pop up and vanish as he pleases—almost annoyingly convenient when the author needs someone to explain a certain issue but doesn’t want any of the other characters to do the “dirty job”). Then the romance between Ryley and Eirik—the author tries to explain away why it is such a Wham!-Bang!-Ne’er-saw-it-coming-thing, but that didn’t make me buy it. I mean, the young druid’s whole family (bar his sister) has just been decimated, and he already starts fantasizing about how to bed the Viking warrior? Seriously? Anyway, I would have preferred some nice, slowly building chemistry rather than an odd insta-love story. Another point that could have been avoided: you read about monsters too hideous to look at, but you never really get a good look at them; it’s okay to leave things to the reader’s imagination, but at least give us some more hints as to what we’re supposed to imagine! Last but not least, the book should have been proofread and edited once more. Commas missing, hyphens missing, sometimes even words; the odd “may” where “might” would have been needed; and again, I stumbled upon “loathed to do something” and even “loathe to do something”, when it should be “loath”. All in all, the book’s not bad, but I wasn’t carried away.

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Galley copy of The End of Darkness provided by the author in exchange of an honest review.


Dieter, born and raised in Austria, studied Political Sciences in Vienna in the early 90s. He's living in Paris, France, with his boyfriend and working as a graphic designer. In his spare time, he loves to write, read, cook, take photos, and travel as often as possible. He’s already published two short-story collections as well as four poetry collections. His first murder mystery novel “The Stuffed Coffin” featuring Damien Drechsler and the dashing Greek student Nikos has been released on Jan. 6, 2019, and is available in English, French, and German. By the way, the French version "Le cercueil farci" has won the prestigious Prix du roman gay 2019 in the category murder mystery. Dieter runs a gay book reviews site in French and is also writing reviews for Gay Book Reviews under the pseudonym of ParisDude.