Review: One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig


Elspeth Spindle is no stranger to danger in the misty kingdom of Blunder. To survive, she relies on her connection to the Nightmare, a powerful spirit dwelling inside her mind. However, this protection comes at a cost, and Elspeth is about to discover that magic always has a price.

Her fate takes a sharp turn when she encounters a mysterious highwayman, leading her on a perilous journey to save Blunder from a malevolent magic. But this quest is not without its challenges, especially when she discovers that the highwayman is none other than the King’s nephew, guilty of treason. Together, they must gather twelve Providence Cards, the only keys to curing Blunder’s affliction.

As the stakes become higher and the danger intensifies, Elspeth finds herself growing closer to the highwayman, despite their conflicting goals. However, the biggest threat may not be external, but internal. The Nightmare within Elspeth is growing stronger, and she fears it may consume her entirely.


To begin this review, I must admit that I had different expectations for the book based on its marketing. It was advertised to me as an adult gothic horror fantasy, but the actual content felt more like a YA gothic romance fantasy, which was not what I was hoping for. However, if the premise of the book interests you, I suggest giving it a chance and forming your own opinion, as you may enjoy it more than I did.

I found the premise of this story to be fascinating and unlike anything I’ve read before. However, I ultimately felt disappointed with the execution. In this world, magic is portrayed as a dangerous force, which is an interesting concept. The Providence Cards are said to grant magical powers, but the longer they are used, the greater the cost. Additionally, there is a magical plague that infects children, leaving them with dark magic that ultimately leads to their death.

Although the gathering of the twelve Providence Cards is the supposed main focus of the story, the plot was not cohesive and the pacing was lacking. The characters seem to be distracted from their quest, and there is a lack of urgency until the author suddenly injects a sense of urgency, resulting in a rushed and unsatisfying resolution. Furthermore, the story ends on a major cliffhanger, adding to the sense of disappointment.

In addition to the issues with the plot and pacing, the characterization of the main protagonist, Elspeth, was lackluster and disappointing. Elspeth’s behavior and decisions were not consistent with her beliefs, and her actions were often frustratingly unintelligent. Despite her knowledge of the dangers of magic and her vow to never let the Nightmare overtake her mind, she repeatedly turns to the entity for help, even though doing so only strengthens its hold on her. This inconsistency in Elspeth’s character was a significant flaw in the story.

Furthermore, the relationship between Elspeth and the Nightmare left much to be desired. The way they communicated with each other, either through riddles or snarky comments, was frustrating and juvenile. The lack of depth in their interactions made it hard for me to take them seriously as characters. Additionally, the supporting cast didn’t fare any better. They were one-dimensional and lacked any real complexity, which made it difficult for me to invest in their journeys.

Furthermore, the book relies heavily on the trope of enemies-to-lovers and insta-love, which takes up a significant portion of the plot. While a good romantic subplot can add depth to a fantasy story, this one felt predictable and clichéd. The love interest is a mysterious and attractive man that Elspeth initially dislikes, but it only takes one kiss for them to realize their true feelings for each other. This type of unrealistic romance did not add to the overall storytelling experience for me. Additionally, the book gave off a strong YA vibe throughout, but suddenly had a spicy scene that felt out of place and unexpected.

This book feels like it was created by someone who carefully studied all the popular tropes in recent fantasy romance, then used them to craft a recipe for their own story. However, in my opinion, the result is disappointing, boring, and hollow. The writing is average, the romance lacks spark, and the dialogue isn’t great. Reading this book felt like a difficult task, like pushing a boulder uphill. I understand that not all books are written to appeal to everyone, and this book was definitely not written to appeal to me. Although I enjoyed some of the concepts, like the tarot card-like magic and the monstrous voice in the protagonist’s head, these cool ideas were weighed down by unoriginal characters and a writing style that left me feeling unsatisfied.



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