Title: The Marked Prince (The Darkest Court #2)
Author: M. A. Grant
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: August 5, 2019
Genre(s): Low Fantasy, Dark Fantasy
Page Count: 305 Pages
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 1 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
The Summer Court is nothing like Sebastian remembers. The oppressed lower classes are drained of their magick, and around every corner political intrigues threaten an already unstable regime. Sebastian’s only hope of surviving the Court and bringing home Prince Lyne’s traitorous brother lies with Duine, a magickless Unseelie servant desperate to win his freedom. A servant for whom Sebastian, an estranged Seelie royal himself, is developing a dangerous and deepening affection.
But behind the mask Duine wears are secrets as dangerous as what’s smoldering between them. And the more Duine helps Sebastian navigate Court life, the more it becomes clear the servant is not who he appears to be. How he came to be the whipping boy of one of the most powerful and corrupt faeries in the Summer Court is a truth Sebastian is determined to uncover, even if it puts him at odds with the very people who can lead him to the missing Unseelie prince.
When a powerful enemy steps from the shadows, it could spell the end not just for the Unseelie, but for both faerie Courts. Sebastian must choose: complete the mission and earn his place among the Unseelie who took him in, or risk his very life to ensure freedom for the man he loves.
The second book in the series develops secondary characters from the first book and extends the overall plot. This is a dual point of view story written largely in the first person. Characterisation remains strong with a solid approach to the development of emotion. The difficulty is that there is not a great separation in personality and it is quite easy to get confused as to who is speaking particularly when they are in the same scenes. Nevertheless, they are interesting and it is possible to develop empathy for their experiences. Whilst in the first book the lead characters were human and fae, here they are from opposing Courts. The author is able to develop a larger plot through their different perspectives and experiences.
The world building and magic system are interesting and develop established characters and locations from traditional literature. Whilst some secondary characters are enriched, some of the more familiar names remain in the background or lack depth. This is a shame, though I am sure that the author has a reason for this. Locations are richly drawn and easily visualised, this aids in the effectiveness of the plot.
The flow of the story is pretty straightforward for the first half of the book. However, as the tension begins to rise, so does the level of complexity. There is only a single storyline, but different levels of consciousness are introduced. This, added to the lack of distinction between the characters, affects the clarity of the plot. Once you get your head around this, the story offers some interesting ideas and the resolution to one of the repeated problems outlined throughout. Of course, the resolution of one thing leads to the revelation of another, but such is literature.
This is not a story based around sex and much like the first book, it relies on the fade to black and hints rather than anything particularly explicit. The book doesn’t need sex to be successful, but I think it would have been a positive addition. The relationship between the central characters is pretty standard but benefits from a lack of angst. Things obviously get in the way, but overall it is a traditional fantasy profound love that is destined to be revelatory.
There is a steady pace throughout the first half of the book as the setting is explained and characters introduced as well as the dynamic. In the second half, what the reader has been led to believe unravels and plots are revealed. Here the pace increases and remains quite fast. Readers need to take care here as the point of view changes can be missed.
By the end of the book, it is clear that there is to be at least one more book as the stage is set with a quest to be undertaken and baddies to thwart. In addition, it also provides a new character focus. Overall, the story ends neatly with one problem resolved and the pieces laid out for what feels like a denouement. I look forward to the next book.