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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
The Gathering Dark by Brett Armstrong is the first book in the Quest of Fire series. Jason is on the run and looking for a place to hide when he stumbles into an inn to find the owner sharing a fanciful tale. The story follows Anargen as he sets out under the guidance of his mentor Cinaed and other allies on a mission to help with peace talks between enemies. Not everyone will be appreciative of striving for peace and steering Ecthelowall and Ordumair toward peace could prove more difficult than he expected. To make matters more complicated, the Grey Scourge has returned, is wreaking havoc, and has eyes set on claiming a lost treasure.
Brett Armstrong blends the journeys of Anargen and Jason together by framing Jason's story around listening to a story about Anargen. Jason's scenes take the place of interludes, pausing the story at various points for commentary and to ease Jason's story forward as Anargen's journey directly impacts him. Jason's story is intriguing and adds mystery to the story as his reasons for hiding out are explored. The use of Anargen's journey makes it feel like the legend of a hero's origins as it brings to life a tale that creates history and a foundation to this world. The mission is to establish peace between these two factions which gives Anargen conflict and tension to deal with while also teaching the importance of peace.
The story also weaves in some light romance as Anargen's feelings toward Seren are at the center of his emotional journey. The love he has for her guides him forward and is a constant source of hope for him to keep fighting. His love also adds to the strength of his character as he remains faithful and sincere throughout. The letters he writes to her are woven into Jason's interludes which give life to Anargen's story and play an important part in what Jason comes to learn. A few illustrations are incorporated throughout to give visuals to various key moments. The Gathering Dark is an adventure that brings to life the story of two men from different times with one running from his past and the other a hero in a tale of a dangerous threat and the fight for peace.