Stephen Zimmer’s Prowling The Darkness is a novella worthy of a read. It’s a perfect fit for anyone with a taste for high fantasy and for those on the hunt for a badass female assassin unafraid to claim her desires — or face down foes. But beneath its cover is perhaps something more: Prowling the Darkness is a story about compassion, about doing what’s right no matter how difficult, and staying true to one’s identity. So, without further ado….
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Prowling the Darkness from the author in exchange for an honest review. All the following thoughts and opinions are my own.
The story kicks off with Rayden’s journey into Sereth-Naga, a city terrified of its own secrets, and she makes it her mission to free them from this fear. Although high fantasy is not my usual cuppa, there was much to appreciate about Rayden’s character. She’s independent, relying on her own skills of observation and strategic thinking to overcome her obstacles. She is a confident survivor with a kind heart, making her a character who embraces (in my opinion) a bit of both masculinity and femininity.
And though she is willing to kill for a price, Rayden isn’t some greedy assassin; she lives by a code of morals that guide her and won’t just accept whatever work falls into her lap. She chooses her own path and the kills along the way, realistic about the dangers and moral weight of them.
A note: Prowling the Darkness is a novella that’s part of a larger series (Rayden Valkyrie Tale). Because I haven’t read the whole series, I can’t speak to the nature of her character in those, but I do think this book does a good job of at least introducing a firm foundation of her personality.
The novella also does a fantastic job introducing the city of Sereth-Naga with vivid descriptions of its structures and a peppering of culture (rituals, rules, politics). I am a massive sucker for ridiculously complicated worlds, and Sereth-Naga delivered, right down to its deliciously diverse inhabitants.
While I enjoyed Prowling the Dakrness, there are two points I’d like to discuss that I wasn’t crazy about. Firstly, despite my love for the world, there were times when the descriptions were a bit heavy. Again, I ADORE world-building elements of a story, but in this case, it dragged the pacing of the novella to a crawl at certain points.
Secondly — AND THIS IS ENTIRELY PREFERENTIAL, BUT — the writing is a bit distant and formal. This is kind of how most high fantasies are written (that or I’ve been eternally spoiled by Deep POV) and is one of the reasons I normally don’t read this particular genre. However, it did dig up some nostalgia, reminding me of older high fantasy books I’d read as a child, such as the Forgotten Realms series and Shannara.
Overall, Prowling the Darkness is well worth the read. It may be short and part of a series, but it’s a taste of the rich world and dynamic characters the Rayden Valkyrie Tale has to offer.
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About the Author:Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk), and the forthcoming Faraway Saga (YA Dystopian/Cross-Genre). Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.
Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.