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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
The Dark Solstice by N.L. Willcome is the first book in An Empyrian Odyssey series. When a Lord in the city of Empyria dies, Tamsin Urbane is ushered out of the only place she's called home and into the desert. While exploring the city with new friends, Tamsin ends up separated and lost in the dunes, only to be saved by the mysterious Haven. Spending time with him, she learns that his villages of the Ma'diin have come to speak with the Lords of the city over a dam in the river. When negotiations begin, a deal is made and Tamsin's father goes with the Ma'diin while Haven is brought into the city. As he watches over her, the two become closer and Tamsin discovers secrets of her past that could change her future.
N.L. Willcome opens up an amazing world with a rich history and vibrant characters. The history between the Empyrians and the Ma'diins slowly unravels events that led to the present. As Tamsin learns about Haven's life and this desert city, this whole other world unfolds with conspiracy, traitors, and surprising loyalty. Haven and Tamsin come from two different worlds, both are outsiders in different ways, but through this they find a connection. Their budding relationship is sweet and sincere. Tamsin's life is plotted out for her, right down to who her mother insists she marries, but as she gets to know Haven, she sees the darker and underhanded aspects of the city. Seeing the city through Tamsin's eyes takes you on the adventure with her the more she learns. Haven is a complex character and a favorite, as he has to go into this strange world where everyone looks down on him and he has to hide in the shadows. He has a dark history, always in the shadows, but he's also the spark that Tamsin needed in her life and she sees him for who he is. The Dark Solstice is a compelling and addictive read, with mythology, romance, and betrayal. A must-read for fantasy lovers!