‘In the Ravenous Dark’ is an enjoyable, fast-paced fantasy romance with excellent LGBTQIAP+ representation and a fun cast of characters. The twists are relatively predictable and the plot simple, but it’s a solid read if you’re not looking for something complex.
In Thanopolis, those with magic are both prized and feared, bound to undead spirits to guide and control them. Rovan’s father gave his life to keep her from this fate – but when an accident leads to her revealing her powers, she’s thrust into a world of magic and politics that she barely understands. Her situation is further complicated when she finds herself falling for the beautiful Princess Lydea – and also Ivrilos, the undead spirit now bound to her for all eternity. Unsure who to trust, Rovan must uncover a centuries old secret at the heart of Thanopolis – and possibly betray everyone she loves in the process.
Rovan is a solid protagonist. Raised in an isolated village for her own safety, she understands little of city politics or royalty – and combined with a tendency for bluntness it leads to some hilarious, if cringe-worthy, situations. A powerful but untrained bloodmage, Rovan is capable of extraordinary feats, but regularly finds herself out of her depth. She’s so overpowered it does take some of the suspense and drama out of things, but despite this its impossible to dislike her with such an amazing matter-of-fact attitude.
The two love interests, Lydea and Ivrilos, are polar opposites. Lydea is a princess, but otherwise much like Rovan – fun-loving, relaxed, and unafraid of breaking the rules. Sparks fly almost immediately and the chemistry is palpable – however theirs always feels like a more surface level relationship. In contrast, Ivrilos is the stereotypical male fantasy love interest – quiet, brooding, and mysterious, a protector in the background betraying his family for the one he loves. He starts very two-dimensional, however as more about his past and personality is revealed, he develops into arguably the most interesting character in the book. His relationship with Rovan is a far slower burn, and feels more realistic for it.
It’s unusual to see polygamy portrayed in mainstream fantasy, and whilst the instant acceptance of anything might seem unrealistic, there’s enough tension in the plot without needing relationship friction to add to the drama. LGBTQIAP+ characters aren’t fully accepted in Strickland’s world – Japha, who is non-binary, is treated as male by the King, and lesbian Lydea is expected to marry and produce children with a man – but Rovan’s pansexuality and polygamy is never treated as abnormal. It’s great to have healthy representation of non-monogamous relationships, and whilst the overall ending is a bit too happily-ever-after it does make a pleasant change from all the LGBTQIAP+ characters dying at the end.
The plot is mainly focused around political intrigue and scheming, but it’s fast paced and engaging. It does feel very trope heavy, with most of the revelations easily predictable, but the tropes are written well. The main issue with the plot is that all the villains are a bit caricaturic. The protagonists are undoubtedly good, with the possible exception of Ivrilos, compared to the true irredeemability of their enemies. There’s a twist approximately two-thirds into the book which will likely divide opinion, but personally I found it an interesting addition if a bit out of keeping with the rest of the books mythos.
Overall, ‘In The Ravenous Dark’ is a solid addition to the fantasy romance genre, mostly notable for its depiction of a healthy polygamous relationship and LGBTQIAP+ diversity including pansexual, asexual, and non-binary representation. Recommended for fans of new adult fantasy romance, love triangles done right, and political intrigue.
Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Hardback: 18th May 2021