Series Review: Why The Darkness Rising Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong was a Letdown

The Darkness Rising

5+ years ago I read and devoured the Darkest Powers by Kelley Armstrong, a series about teens who discover they have a variety of supernatural abilities and find themselves caught between people who want to manipulate their powers for their own purposes. Not a new concept – but oh was it executed well! I am not the type of reader that usually gobbles up a series in one go… but I got through all 3 books in a week. Afterwards, I was left with that satisfying yet hollow feeling you get when you finish a truly outstanding series and realise there are no more books.

However, I soon discovered there would be a follow-up series, The Darkness Rising, set in the same world but in a different town with different characters. Because I found the first series SO addictive, I decided to wait until all the books were out so I could binge read them, and here we are! Unfortunately, The Darkness Rising Trilogy wasn’t as good as it’s predecessor, so here’s the bullet point, bookish low-down so you can decide for yourself whether this series is for you!

So let’s start with the positives first. This series has some pretty cool things going for it:

 

The story is set in an isolated area in the gorgeous Canadian countryside of Vancouver Island.

…so there’s endless sprawling forests of bold and majestic pine trees, there’s native wildlife like cougars, and kids race each other at rock climbing in their spare time. Now, I’m a country kinda gal, and there’s nothing I love more than wandering through woods, hearing the birds chirp (I’ve also done a lot of rock climbing in my time), so I loved this setting. It was unique and refreshing, and I could almost smell the pine trees!

The main character is adopted and multiethnic.

Our main protagonist Maya has Native American parentage and ancestry which means she feels very connected to the land and its animals, and has developed an affinity for looking after them, however, she has been adopted by a white-American family which leads to some confusion about her own identity. I thought it was so great to read about a character with an ethnicity that is not normally portrayed in YA and have it casually integrated into the story.

The Darkest Power’s characters make a comeback!

In book three we are united with some of our old favourites, and it was great to check in and see how they were getting along, especially as I loved their stories so much!

Maya is far from your ‘perfect’, sweet, can do no wrong protagonist.

I found Maya’s character refreshing. Initially, she is like many other YA protagonists, good-looking, friendly, kind, smart, all those traditionally desirable traits, but Armstrong adds in some personality quirks that soon prove she is less than perfect – which I always think is important. For instance, during the course of the story, Maya becomes aware that she judges people too quickly and tends to blacklist them, never giving anyone a second chance. This is a trait I’ve never seen used in YA – normally protagonists are judgy and you’re expected to agree with them, so I loved that Armstrong turned it into an opportunity for her character to grow!

It’s totally addictive and easy to read.

Despite not being in love with Armstrong’s story, every time I dived into the pages I became engrossed. It was such easy reading and I gobbled the novels up quickly.

 

And now for the not so good…

 

It reads like young YA.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing on its own, but spoiler alert, I’m not a teenager anymore and so I did find myself struggling a little with the simplicity of this story. The characters, plot and writing were all very straightforward and the Darkness Rising didn’t tackle any overreaching themes or difficult/dark subjects and was very predictable. I did find myself struggling with that a bit. I think, if I had read this series five years ago I would have enjoyed it a lot more, so its something to keep in mind for older YA readers considering picking these up!

There’s not a whole lotta plot.

.. and the plot that is there is cliché. Considering this series spans 3, 300-page books, there’s not a whole lot going on. Book 1 mostly just sets the scene, all of book 2 is spent running away from baddies in the woods who want to misuse the teens’ powers, and book 3 is more running away. There’s not a lot to inspire the reader other than repetitive action.

The series feels like a more lackluster repeat of the Darkest Powers Trilogy.

Like, ridiculously so. The book and plot structures are the same, the characters face the same problems that come to very similar resolutions. The romance situation is almost identical. Additionally, like the Darkest Powers trilogy, the ending feels a little like a cop out because it doesn’t really resolve anything. It was like a serious case of deja-vu and it also meant the story was predictable. I loved the first series too much that trying to emulate that was never going to be as good for me.The Darkest Powers Trilogy

The supernatural powers were lame.

One of the things I LOVED about the first trilogy was that the character’s supernatural powers felt original. Having a character who was a necromancer was SO interesting and presented many unique challenges (“whoops I accidentally raised the dead, um, they’re attacking me, how do I make them go back?”), however, skin-walking and siren powers just weren’t as interesting to read about, and furthermore, their powers actually seemed to have very little bearing on the story.

The romance was kinda eugh.

Maya falls for a guy who is an utter jerk, but because he’s moody and kinda mysterious this immediately means he’s super hot. Nope. Just nope. I couldn’t get behind this ship even a little bit. There also a sort of best friend vs bad boy love triangle which didn’t do much for me.

Finally, I didn’t connect with any of the characters.

The harsh truth is, they just weren’t that interesting. Many of them felt like stereotypes or made idiotic decisions or couldn’t see what was right in front of them which was frustrating as a reader. Because of this, I found my annoyance with them growing and my patience dwindling!

~ * ~

So overall, The Darkness Rising trilogy was not a hit for me. It’s definitely not the worse thing I’ve ever read and it was an enjoyable-ish read that didn’t make me work my brain too hard, but it had too many serious flaws for me and lacked originality. I still love Kelley Armstrong, but this was not her best work so I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, I’d suggest picking up her Darkest Powers or Women of the Otherworld series instead. 🙂

Have you ever been disappointed with a follow-up book series? I’m not sure I’ve ever come across one done well.

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17 thoughts on “Series Review: Why The Darkness Rising Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong was a Letdown

  1. You see, Canada is beautiful and you need to come for a visit :). As for this series, I think it is definitely suited for a young audience, but I still enjoyed it. It didn’t wow me that’s for sure, but it was a nice easy read which I really enjoy sometimes :).

    • it is! This book really had me lusting after spending some time in Canadian countryside, I need to get there one day. In fact, scrap that, I WILL get there one day! Haha.

      I completely agree with you on this one. I enjoyed these books but the young YA aspect did affect my enjoyment a bit and I just know if I had read this series when I was younger I would have liked it SO much more and seen less flaws in it. I’m still glad I read them and I still love Kelley Armstrong though! Like you say, sometimes we need an easy read. 🙂

      Now I need to decide whether to continue with the Women of the Otherworld series next or to try the Cainsville one you got me. Decisions! 🙂

  2. I wonder if you re-read the original trilogy today, you’d find similar shortcomings? Less to do with the books than your maturity, maybe?

    Gosh, I’m probably making you feel old! 🙂

    • No not at all, I wondered that too actually. It wouldn’t be the first time! For that reason, I don’t think I’ll ever reread the original series just in case, because I like the memories I have of it. 🙂
      Strange how age can change your perception! I was probably around 14/15 when I read the original, now I’m 22, GULP.

  3. I agree with your thoughts Becky! I loved the Darkest Powers series. The plot was exciting and and I loved the supernatural elements. I think the Darkness Rising series was okay, but I think the problem (like you said) was that it started out strong and then the plot thinned out over time. Kelley Armstrong is a fantastic writer, but I felt like she could have done so much more with the companion series.

    • Yay, I’m relieved that I’m not alone with this one. 🙂 The plot WAS exciting, right? The Darkest Powers just had that special something that the follow up series was missing. The plot was definitely thin. Basically, the Darkness Rising was just not Kelley’s best work, and I agree that she is normally a fantastic writer. But no one can be good all the time I guess, right?!

  4. I read The Summoning last Christmas, enjoyed it, and promptly forgot about continuing with the rest of the trilogy until I read this post.
    I might pick up this trilogy at some point even if you weren’t too keen on it. Vancouver Island does sound like a beautiful setting and I’m a sucker for pretty scenery.
    I’ve read several of Armstrong’s books in her Women of the Otherworld series. Bitten was the first and I loved Clay and Elena so much I had to pick up their short story Beginnings, which showed how they met and fell in love.

    • Ah, i’m glad to hear you picked that one up because it seems like it would be right up your ally! It’s a series definitely worth continuing with if you get the chance. But the Darkness Rising? Maybe not so much. Like I said, it’s definitely not a bad series, but there are just many superior ones out there. 🙂 The setting was my favourite part!

      Me too! I really need to continue with that series, I’ve only read book one. Out of curiosity, have you tried the TV series Bitten based on the books? I’ve recently started watching it!

  5. I checked the first book in the series out from the library a few years ago and after reading a few chapters I had to DNF because it read so young to me. Kudos for you to sticking it out all the way through, but it definitely did not live up to the Darkest Powers trilogy. However, there’s always the possibility that if I were to reread that series too I may be much more critical now!

    • Yes! I’m so glad you agree that it read ‘young’ and that it’s not just down to me now being an adult reading young adult. Phew.
      I mainly continued with the trilogy because I already owned all the books, otherwise, I’m not sure I would have bothered, although as a lover of Armstrong, I may have decided to stick with it if I could have gotten the books on the cheap.

      I have the same concern, Cristina, so I don’t think I will ever reread it. I want to hold onto all my positive memories of it. 🙂 And to think, I almost decided to do a reread before picking up Darkness Rising!

  6. J’adore the fact that you soldiered through the books even though you weren’t exactly simpatico with them! A girl after my own heart. We must have a thing for self punishment.

    P.S. I love the lists of pros and cons, very simple but effective! 🙂

    • Thanks, C, I pride myself on my book stamina. 😉 Although this series was really not a chore to get through, I raced through it quickly. it was kinda like junk food that gives you a slight stomach ache.

      You know, I think we do!

      Thanks. I hadn’t done a ‘series review’ on the blog before so I wasn’t sure how to format it – it was an experiment. Glad you liked it. 🙂

  7. I agree with your ideas Becky….. I loved the Darkest Powers series. The plot was exciting and also and I loved the mythological elements. I think the Darkness Climbing series was all right, yet I believe the issue was that it started out strong and afterwards the story weakened with time. Kelley Armstrong is a great writer, however I felt like she might have done so much more with the companion series. Thanks for the great review…

    • Yes, was it just me or were the mythological elements so much better? I really do feel like this follow up was a weaker version of the original. I’ve actually gone back to reading her Women of the Otherworld series now and it’s as great as I remember!

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. 🙂

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