Book Review: A Darker Magic This Way Comes

A Darker Magic This Way Comes
Author: Carmel Niland
Published By:  Filament Publishing
Publication Date:  April 14, 2016
Page Count:  478
Buy it at:  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound
Source:  ARC Kindly Offered by Publisher
Audience:  YA Fantasy

Although I had a difficult time reading this book, I love Arthurian legend and all the magic and mystery that come with it. A Darker Magic This Way Comes stands out because, instead of making Merlin part of a high medieval courtly tradition, she anchors him in the more historically accurate 5th century. Niland’s blending of Roman Britain with druidic influence just feels right. Part of that magic also includes the mystical intersection of Merlin’s time with our own, sweeping Emily and her friends into the battle between Merlin and Morloch and Morgana.

A Darker Magic suffers from two main weaknesses: the characters and the dialogue. Emily feels Mary Sue-ish. She is on the verge of turning sixteen, an “elfin” beauty, who rides horses skillfully, is an accomplished dancer both in ballet and hip hop, is also an artist, and just happens to be the Chosen One. The other modern teens are likewise sixteen and unrealistically talented. Jack, the son of the Duke and Duchess of Dartmoor, is tall, gorgeous, flies a plane, is an gifted artist, and is of course in love with Emily. Toby is both an excellent dancer and a tae kwon do adept, and is carrying a torch for Emily. Each one of these presumably intelligent characters almost immediately believes that Merlin is who he says he is when he appears; no one thinks twice about getting involved with a strange kid they don’t know who claims to hail from the ancient past. Oddly, Merlin is the most believable character in the book.

My other major issue with A Darker Magic is Niland’s dialogue. The characters not only all sound pretty much the same, but the words themselves are often stilted and awkward. I think some of this must be because Niland was trying to avoid putting all of the exposition in descriptions, but it ends up sounding clunky and inauthentic.

I admire Niland’s passion for Merlin and King Arthur and the guts it takes to both write publish a book, but this one was just not for me.


A Darker Magic This Way Comes is the first tale in Merlin's Secrets, a series of five books. It is an epic story of love and war, knights and wizardry, angels and goddesses and the cosmic clash between Darkness and Light. It is an exhilarating mix of adventure, myth, poetry, music, dance, philosophy and magic. It re-imagines of the Arthurian legend, written by Merlin to inspire the returning Arthur. But who is this Merlin? He is a man with the genius of Leonardo da Vinci, but with a wand. He reveals the secrets of his role as a shaman, magician and engineer in the first Battle of Britain. Set in the turbulent and brutal times of the fifth and sixth century, Merlin also writes of his love for a fairy from the Otherworld, Emily Charlotte Hughes, a high school student from twenty first century Exeter in Devon. Throughout the hundred years of the Merlin's Secrets, Emily and Merlin swap the story telling role to give us both contemporary and historical insights into the characters and into the novel's fast-paced action. But the young lovers will be separated by their complex destinies and they have only three days together. In that time they both engage with the evil of Moloch and Morgana as Emily as the Chosen One is abducted. Chosen for what? She has to find the answer.