Review: Darkshines Seven by Russell Mardell

Please note: This book is a sequel to Mardell’s previous book, Bleeker Hill. If you have not yet read Bleeker Hill, our review of that book is here. Stop, read that, read the book and come back once you have. We will not be held responsible for any spoilers. You have been warned!

For the most part, we follow the rules and abide by the laws because they keep us safe. We fear the chaos of an unorganized society and will even follow crazy leaders like the Party because they bring the promise of return to something like our old lives, even if all they have to offer is a bowl of soup. In this case, there is even more to fear. The breakdown of the government has forced people to return to Bleeker Hill, a place with a deservedly bad reputation, and has unleashed an evil presence that terrifies even the most hardened souls. Maybe the last thing this country wants is what it needs, to overthrow The Party. Will the benefit be worth the cost? Is anything still worth fighting for?

Darkshines Seven was originally released in 2014 in three parts, that was how I purchased and read it. It has since been combined into a single volume and that’s probably for the best.

I began reading Darkshines nearly two years ago and life got in the way of finishing it. Truth be told, it’s not an easy read and being broken into three segments made it even easier to drag my feet about starting the next one. Each part of this tale is darker than the last, and as much as I love horror, there has to be some hint of hope for humanity or I just don’t see the point.

Beginning 6 months after the atrocities at Bleeker Hill, we rejoin Mia as she makes her way toward City 17. In the interim, she’s picked up a trusty traveling companion, an Irish terrier named Blarney. Mia’s experience at Bleeker Hill is not completely behind her, she still bears its physical scars as well as a tendency to drift into trance-like states. Also on his way to City 17, Hector Frost is in desperate need of a new pair of shoes. Unbeknownst to the two, Party goons are also on their way to the city and a whole team of them are holed up awaiting Mia’s arrival and perpetuating the Party’s propaganda.

As food supplies dwindle, The Party have resorted to soup deliveries to ferret out citizens who still escape their grasp. While some of the people are happy to see The Party, others are wise to their plans. Already within the city, Sam is on a supply mission with his aunt’s stupid orange flowered bag (You may remember Sam from one of Mardell’s earlier works although I won’t ruin the surprise by revealing which one). Sam, Hector, Mia, Blarney and a few others team up against the Party’s soldiers, who are much more afraid of Mia than she is of them. They want her for mass murder but something inside of her has other plans. As the group makes their way to the shore line at Storm Tail, they are forced to confront what others are doing to survive and to make decisions about who can be trusted, even within their own group.

Darkshines has the same level of supernatural presence as Bleeker Hill and for me that’s not necessarily a plus. People are always scarier than ghosts, goblins and psychics. In this case though, the supernatural only plays a starring role when it is integral to the progression of the plot and for that reason only I can accept it. The main source of terror here is what people are willing to do to other people for their own survival.

One of the things I enjoy most about Mardell’s writing is his ability to craft poetically visceral images that pull you into the moment without dragging you into expositional hell. Although this novel feels a bit long winded overall, I can’t think of a single segment that could removed without harming the plot. Darkshines Seven is dark and gloomy, but if you make it to the end there is a glimpse at something that could mean salvation or utter devastation. For me, that moment made the entire journey worthwhile and whet my appetite for a future installment. Those who have read Bleeker Hill will be have a better understanding of a twist in the final act that I found equal parts satisfying and soul-crushingly devastating; a moment of sorely-needed resolution that doesn’t go the way anyone would have wished for it to, but it had to happen that way.

There are some books that I like significantly more about two weeks after I’ve finished them, Darkshines Seven is one. I needed the information from the end to process what happened throughout the entire novel, to feel alright about it. Looking back now, this is a really solid entry in an ever evolving series. The more I learn about these people, The Party and the world they’re in, the more I want to know and understand. I want to keep reading and eventually find out if there is a light at the end of this tunnel.

Darkshines Seven is now available at:

For more from Russell, follow him on twitter or instagram, or like him on facebook.
He’s recently released a new romance novel, Cold Calling. Our review coming soon.

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