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Wild, Dark Times is a book that holds true to its name. Things get exceptionally dark, and the author is definitely not afraid to make some hard choices. It also holds many details about mythology and folklore, which is quite fascinating but not unsurprising. Austin Case studied Western Esotericism and Mysticism, granting him a thorough academic knowledge of the occult. And that really shows in this novel.
As always, you can read my full review or skip to the conclusion here.
Genre: Dark Adult Urban Fantasy | Publisher: Liminal Books (Between the Lines Publishing)
Elizabeth Megalos is an art-school grad who gets by as a bank teller in St. Louis. Yet, everything changes when, one evening, she’s attacked by one of her coworkers. Apparently, the coworker was possessed, and Elizabeth is saved by a sorcerer named Eddy. He drags her along to recruit Hugh, an academic who studies the occult. Together, the three travel to Europe, where they meet Eddy’s magical friends and start their mission: stop the apocalypse.
The plot of the story is pretty solid, and it holds some great twists. There are hints throughout the story about the ending, but you don’t fully get it until you’re there. It gave me one of those pleasant “aha” moments.
However, there was also a lot of talking, where the different kinds of magic, folklore, and mysticism were explained and then questioned academically by Hugh. While it was interesting, it went on for too long and happened too often. It slackened the pace and resulted in too many info-dumps. It would’ve been more interesting to learn about the different kinds of magic while the characters were using it.
There are also several psychedelic elements, where the characters perform a ritual (always involving some sort of drug), leading to hallucinations. These bits were done quite well, with some hints to what’s to come and symbolism in them. But the character did spend a large amount of the story getting high, and at some point, it stopped being interesting.
Elizabeth is the main character, and we experience the story through her. On occasion, the viewpoint shifts to the villain, and the first chapter is from Eddy’s viewpoint. While I liked Elizabeth, I couldn’t really get attached to her or any of the other characters.
I think this is because there was mostly talk and parts of the story where not much happened. The characters felt more distant because of it, even though we did get some emotion and thoughts from Elizabeth. But it’s this lack of connection that made some of the parts of the story less emotionally impactful.
As I said before, it is clear that Austin knows his stuff. Wild, Dark Times is filled with details, and all the different kinds of magic seem plausible. Like I could do a ritual right now, and it would work. It’s definitely magical, but it seems very realistic.
The different sceneries were a nice touch, and I think he describes the European countries really well. As a Dutchie, it was also nice to see some of the Dutch references in there. All the characters have a different specialization (except for Eddy, who’s kind of good at every type of magic), so we get explanations of the different kinds of magic possible, whether it’s a power that comes from rituals, runes, or certain deities.
The writing in Wild, Dark Times fluctuated, in my opinion. There were some excellent parts, such as the psychedelic elements and the scenes that had action. But overall, the balance between action and passive telling was a bit lost. This resulted in a slower pace, and generally parts that became somewhat repetitive and boring. I believe it’s because of this that I didn’t feel connected to the characters, and it lessened the emotional impact of the story.
Wild, Dark Times by Austin Case is an enjoyable book. I’d definitely recommend it if you want an original story and are interested in knowing more about the occult (especially how it is explained today from academic viewpoints). And when the characters were actually doing something, the writing was good and fluid. However, I didn’t love the book, as the pace was too slow, with too much talk, info-dumps, and parts where not much interesting happened. This prevented me from fully attaching to the characters and decreased the emotional impact of the story’s events.
If you have any questions or comments on this review, I’d love to know. Would you read this book? Is it up your alley? Or have you read it and have different thoughts on it: let me know!