Sunrays Among Shadows
by H. Dawn Hunter
Genre: Fantasy / Dark
Print Length: 530 pages
Reviewed by Timothy Thomas | Content Warnings: abuse, suicide
Darkness entwines with hope, romance, and destiny to weave this beautifully crafted story of resistance and perseverance.
Sunrays Among Shadows may be billed as a dark fantasy, but the fantasy elements take a backseat to a rich plot grounded in the realities of life.
Of course, there are the obligatory mythical creatures (fairies, harpies, etc.), magic, and other worlds, but where the book really shines is in its storytelling and portrayal of life.
Jasper (also known as Prince Gabriel Atwood of Egaldon, Gimlon) is on assignment from his mother, Queen Elenora. His task is to kidnap children from Earth and bring them to the queen for her own nefarious purposes, with assurances that success would result in her love and acceptance, nevermind what consequences await him should he fail.
He’s done this countless times over the last decade, but this time becomes different the moment he lays eyes on her. As Lily walks alongside her younger brother, Liam, (Jasper’s initial target) in mourning, he sees something in her that resonates. Soon his trips to earth become more about enjoying the pleasure of her company than seducing her into following him home to deliver to his mother.
Together, the two find comfort and solace in one another: Jasper’s longing for acceptance is fulfilled in Lily’s touch, giving him the confidence to defy his mother’s orders, while Lily, distraught by the loss of her father and the hope of adventure that died with him, finds that hope reignites with Jasper’s every visit.
But great love is not without its obstacles. Defiance of responsibility and norms results in consequences that threaten to snuff out the flame of their love, and, perhaps, their life altogether.
This brief summary fails to grasp the totality of this great story. The title, Sunrays Among Shadows, provides a glimpse into the substance of this book, but it couldn’t possibly capture the true depth of the darkness in those shadows. The mature sensitivity with which the author explores tougher themes of abuse and manipulation, breeding thoughts which only exist within the darkest recesses of one’s mind, is worthy of much praise. By choosing not to shy away from this subject matter, H. Dawn Hunter pens a thought-provoking story that toes the line of fantastical and grounded.
Despite allusions to Gimlon in the first half of the book, when the reader follows Jasper there later on, the world remains a bit cloudy. Lily is on Earth as a young girl in 1892, which readers will have no problem adjusting to, but there is not a point of reference for Jasper’s world. What sort of society is it? Its political structure is a monarchy, but of what sort? What are the people like? How do they dress? Are the flora and fauna in this place the same as Earth? What is clear is that there is a shared history between Earth and Gimlon from the distant past, as evidenced by some of the customs of Gimlon and the story outright saying so, but what the nature of that history is and to what extent these worlds differ is still largely a mystery that will likely be explored in further installments.
Even without a sure sense of setting on Gimlon, the story is effortless in its telling and gripping nevertheless. It is a homerun start to a series that I hope to read more of, and which I would encourage lovers of dark fantasy to dive straight into.
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