Review: This Dark Descent by Kalyn Josephson


The Rusel family is well-known in Enderlain for their ability to breed magical horses, but despite their reputation, they are struggling with mounting debts. In a desperate bid to save her family’s ranch, Mikira Rusel has no choice but to compete in the Illinir, a deadly cross-country horserace that is famous for its dangerous obstacles and high mortality rate, as well as its impressive prize money.

To stand a chance of winning, Mikira must enlist the help of two unlikely allies: Arielle Kadar, an unlicensed enchanter who creates golems instead of using enchanted animals, and Damien Adair, a nobleman embroiled in a fierce succession battle. Both of her companions have their own reasons for wanting to assist Mikira, but they also have their own personal vendettas to settle.

In a world as treacherous as this one, it remains to be seen whether hidden motives and conflicting interests will destroy their chances of winning the Illinir, or if another competitor’s blade will be the one to end their dreams of victory.


Kalyn Josephson’s This Dark Descent is a promising action packed start to a new young adult fantasy series with dual POV between the two female protagonists immersed in Jewish mythology. While there are certainly positive aspects to the book, there are also some shortcomings that prevent it from being truly exceptional. While the plot and characters are solid, I didn’t find them particularly captivating or awe-inspiring. That being said, the story does have a good flow and is easy to follow. However, in my opinion, there are several areas in which the book could have been improved to make it a more enjoyable read for audiences.

Despite the author’s efforts to clarify the workings of the magic system, I found myself left with a multitude of unanswered questions. For instance, it was unclear whether enchanters were a rare breed or if anyone could learn to cast spells. As a result, I was extremely frustrated during the first half of the book, as the author only provided minimal explanations about how the magic system worked. It wasn’t until the start of the second half of the book that I began to receive a bit more information, but even then, my concerns were not entirely resolved. While the author certainly made an effort to explain the workings of the magic system, I felt that there were still many gaps in my understanding of it by the time I reached the end of the book.

In terms of world building, This Dark Descent left something to be desired. I often found myself picturing scenes from Peaky Blinders or The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, a series that I absolutely adore. While the character dynamics were well-crafted, they didn’t particularly stand out or impress me in any significant way. While the characters were certainly likable and engaging, they didn’t bring anything particularly unique or exceptional to the table.

In my opinion, the author intentionally portrayed Mikira as a hot-headed and impulsive character, which made her difficult to sympathize with at times. While the family tragedy was certainly the driving force behind the plot, I didn’t feel particularly invested in Mikira’s personal stake in it. The interactions between Mikira and her sisters and father lacked depth and didn’t provide enough emotional resonance for me to truly care about their situation. Additionally, I found myself confused by the sudden romantic tension between Mikira and Quinn/Tarlyana, which was introduced abruptly and fizzled out just as quickly. Furthermore, the revelation that Tarlyana was actually Mikira’s childhood best friend, who had not been mentioned previously, felt like a convenient plot device rather than a well-developed character arc. Overall, while there were certainly elements of Mikira’s character that were interesting, I found her to be somewhat underdeveloped and lacking in depth. Another unconvincing thing for me was how Mikira was willing to use a horse in a series of races which had really high stakes without getting familiar with the horse at first. I don’t know horses but I know cars. If you don’t know what you are driving like the back of your hand that’s a recipe of disaster.

Arielle was a standout character for me, and I found myself sympathizing with her situation and invested in her character arc. Her backstory was well-crafted and had enough dark elements to provide a sense of suspense and intrigue, which kept me engaged and eager to see what would happen to her moving forward. However, I didn’t find the romance between Arielle and Damien to be particularly compelling. Their chemistry felt lukewarm at best, and I wasn’t fully convinced by their relationship. Toward the end of the book, the author attempted to provide more depth to their romance by including snippets of Damien’s perspective in Arielle’s chapters, but I didn’t feel like this did much to enhance their chemistry. While I appreciated the effort to flesh out their relationship, it ultimately fell short for me.

I thought Reid and Shiba were excellent side characters, and I enjoyed their presence in the story. Similarly, I found Rezek and Loic to be well-crafted villains, and I appreciated the depth and nuance that was given to their characters. The portrayal of court and great house politics was also intriguing, and added a much needed layer to the story. However, there were some weak points in the politics that I won’t go into detail about.

In general, I would say that This Dark Descent is a good book with plenty of potential. However, I do believe that the plot, characters, and world building could all benefit from further development and strengthening. While there were certainly some positive aspects to the book, such as the solid foundation of the magic system and the well-crafted villains, there were also areas that could be improved. With some additional attention to these areas, I think that the series has the potential to really shine.


The Book Cover

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