*There may be spoilers within for The Shadow Revolution and The Undying Legion. If you haven't read those books and hate spoilers, keep on scrolling (past this review).*
Our unlikely band of characters hit a major snag in their quest to abolish magical/god-like atrocities in the previous books: their fearless leader, Simon Archer, lost his magic, and with it their strongest chance at success against their most fearsome enemy to date. So it's safe to say I expected a lot to be crammed into this book plotwise.
What I hadn't anticipated was the continuing sense of unity between the characters. Sure, they have endured many trials together, but I had expected a greater level of friction between them, especially with the coming struggles. I also was anticipating a character's return, but I guess I'll have to wait for another book (I'm guessing there'll be more with my fingers crossed) before that mystery will be solved.
The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'The Crown and Key Society face their most terrifying villain yet: Gaios, a deranged demigod with the power to destroy Britain.
'To avenge a centuries-old betrayal, Gaios is hell-bent on summoning the elemental forces of the earth to level London and bury Britain. The Crown and Key Society, a secret league consisting of a magician, an alchemist, and a monster-hunter, is the realm’s only hope—and to stop Gaios, they must gather their full strength and come together as a team, or the world will fall apart.
'But Simon Archer, the Crown and Key’s leader and the last living magician-scribe, has lost his powers. As Gaios searches for the Stone of Scone, which will give him destructive dominion over the land, monster-hunter Malcolm MacFarlane, alchemist extraordinaire Kate Anstruther, gadget geek Penny Carter, and Charlotte the werewolf scramble to reconnect Simon to his magic before the world as they know it is left forever in ruins.'
It's difficult to discuss the plot without spoiling it, so since this is such a character-driven series anyway, I'll stick with discussing their dynamics and other such goodness. Malcolm has stepped up to the plate as the resident grizzle bear, protecting the young ladies in particular, even though sometimes I think Imogen and Charlotte are more there for his protection. Imogen also goes through a transformation in this book, her personality slowly bleeding past the veil she wears to hide her otherness.
Although this book has Malcolm on the cover, I can't help but feel like Kate is getting a lot of the spotlight (which is more than okay with me). Not only has her house become the Crown and Key 'bat cave', she insists they stick together in this alternate steampunk variation of England, even when it might be easier to disperse and forget about the heroics.
The Conquering Dark is as dark as its title and cover might suggest. Although there are twisted-version-of-a-Hallmark-card vignettes littered throughout the book, leading you to think it might end on a high note, this book doesn't leave you skipping under rainbows while frolicking with hedgehogs in the end, unless you've taken way too many antidepressants. Personally, I prefer my fantasies flavored liberally with reality, but to some this may be a little dark. In any case, if you're looking for your next character-driven steampunk series binge, I recommend Crown & Key, if you hadn't already noticed that from my last two '4 Stars' reviews of the series books.
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for a dark, but excellently executed addition to the Crown & Key series!
Content: Ages 16+ for violence, mild sexual content, and ungodly powers.
Page Count: 352 pages