The second in a planned series of five, Dark Immolation deals with the fallout from the climax of previous novel Duskfall, as a fantasy realm slowly descends into chaos as dark forces awaken.
A large chunk of the story focuses on Jane, who is now the prophet of a new religion (or rather a purer incarnation of the corrupted denomination of the currently existing one), but for all the significance this plotline is intended to have, she does little more than recite religious homilies and platitudes about unquestioning faith and intangible deific plans, completely denying her any kind of identifiable personality. Additionally, none of the story’s multiple perspectives are hers, her scenes instead seen by her sister Cinzia, denying the opportunity for both her to be portrayed as an actual person or the reader to connect with her as one.
Amidst the religious overtones, some of the returning characters get a little development. Amnesiac warrior Knot, whose very sense of self is a by-product of souls that have been grafted together, begins dealing with the various personalities that lie dormant within him, while vampire girl Astrid, whose sarcastic humour made her one of Duskfall’s most entertaining characters, has some of her presumably extensive history revealed, but little that offers any significant revelations. Drug-dependant psionic mage Winter, another of the more interesting characters, is largely sidelined as the personal hit-girl of a ruthless lord, her escalating addiction holding her in thrall.
Philosophical conversations about clearly significant pieces of world-building uses various characters as mouthpieces, but the information doesn’t ring true coming from the characters who speak it. In particular there is a frequently repeated notion of having to love something before you destroy it, but little justification for its contrary implications or apparent thematic significance.
The series’ social commentary becomes more direct, dealing with status of the elf-like tiellan race as a downtrodden underclass, with vocal and divisive rhetoric creating an us-and-them mentality within the minds of many humans too scared or angry to think for themselves. Whether intentionally or not, this heavily mirrors current goings on in the contemporary world, where people are becoming increasingly divided by the lines of false dichotomies and seek to blame others for their problems more than ever in the hope of avoiding taking responsibility for their own lives.
Rather than a separate novel in its own right, Dark Immolation instead feels like an overextended coda to Duskfall, establishing the changes wrought by its predecessor’s events, but the glacial pace yet to push the narrative forward much further. Perhaps now that things have reached some kind of stability the series can properly progress and take a proper step towards wherever it’s going, but it’s frustrating that it took an entire novel to reach the point where it was able to do so.
DARK IMMOLATION / AUTHOR: CHRISTOPHER HUSBERG / PUBLISHER: TITAN / RELEASE DATE: 20TH JUNE