Book Review: Children of the Darkness
David Litwack’s Children of the Darkness offers a lyrical, well-structured, and well-written dystopian story about the power of truth and lies. In the manner of stories like Veronica Roth’s Divergent and Hugh Howey’s Wool, the world has regressed to a simpler time and simpler style of living without any technology and governed by their religion. At first, it’s hard to determine in what period of time the story takes place in and it’s fun and interesting how the author places clues here and there to let us know that we are far in the future from our normal reality.
With atmospheric, well-composed prose and told in varying biased third-person perspective, we first meet Orah, a girl on the verge of adulthood and then her two best friends, Nathaniel and Thomas. Nathaniel has just turned 18 and I thought Thomas had as well because he is taken for his “teaching,” though later on he celebrates his birthday. The potential love connection between Orah and Nathaniel is obvious and the development of their relationship illustrates the simplistic thinking of their time. It was a relief that there wasn’t a typical love triangle so frequently used in this genre. The love story is not a focus, it’s not even a subplot. The friendship of the three children takes more precedence, which in many ways was a better choice. We even get perspectives from a few of the governing “vicars” giving a more complete sense of the world and the ensuing story, but this style of writing also makes the author’s hand more obvious. While enjoyable, the story and plot never create enough conflict to raise the kind of stakes a story like this normally requires. In an attempt to show complexity of character and the internal struggles, there are logic flaws that are unexplained for why characters show mercy or make decisions one way versus another except to benefit plot and story. The convenience of the plot builds to a predictable end and I never fully feared for the characters nor was I left out of breath by the chase. Themes of humanity, religion, education, friendship, love, life, dreams, are never explored beyond their surface. Nor was there ever a satisfying reveal or explanation as to why the world changed. Again, I assume this was an attempt to be more truthful and showing the complexity of the world and the lack of answers in the face of catastrophe, but this ends up neutralizing any emotional or cathartic reaction.
I would recommend reading Children of the Darkness overall, if someone were looking for a classic dystopian story. While it’s clever how the author parallels the story’s time period with the Dark Ages in our own history, ultimately, Children of the Darkness sits safely within its genre without offering much new growth. There is apparently a sequel continuing Nathanial and Orah’s story, which I will probably read when I am in-between books, but it’s not the type of dystopian story that leaves the reader with a sense of urgency to continue.