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Publisher's Summary

Braden and Quin Reis share a tragic past, but it’s now up to them to save the future. When a secret conspiracy resorts to harnessing the powers of the Netherworld to save their legacy, Braden and Quin are the only mages capable of stopping them. But these two would-be heroes are compromised, harboring terrible secrets.

Can Braden and Quin put aside their differences long enough to prevent the unsealing of the Well of Tears? Or will they relent and join the conspiracy?

Darkstorm is the prequel to the epic grim-dark fantasy series, The Rhenwars Saga. If you like morally gray antiheroes, page-turning action, and mind-boggling plot twists, then you’ll love Spencer’s award-winning series.

Pick up Darkstorm to begin Spencer’s epic adventure today!

"A thrilling read, fast-paced, and bitingly entertaining." - Romuald Dzemo, San Diego Book Review

"An engaging and heart wrenching tale of love, loss, deceit and desperation." - Melinda Hills, Readers' Favorite

"Powerful action." - D. Donovan, senior reviewer, Midwest Book Review

©2017 M. L. Spencer (P)2018 M. L. Spencer

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Entertaining dark fantasy.

It all starts with a young mage, Merris, who overhears something from her master and a stranger. It causes her to have to flee and take refuge in a place where she never thought she'd be. Seeking help from two brothers, one a battlemage and one a drunk, they need to figure out what exactly is happening, how deep it goes and how to stop it.

It took me a little while to fully immerse myself into the world the author was setting up, but once I did, I ended up really enjoying this. This book doesn't believe in happy endings or sparing characters, and I really liked that. I liked that all the characters are flawed and the world is muddy, is good really good and is bad really bad or worse!! The plot itself was fast paced and intriguing. We are brought into the story right from the start when Merris hears her master talking to a stranger, and it's pretty much none stop after that. There was plenty of things happening to keep me hooked and I'm looking forward to seeing where the author takes it from here.

All the characters were well written and developed and, for me anyway, were the best part of the book. Each of the characters were flawed and each has baggage and seeing them grow and develop throughout the story was awesome. I feel like Quin had the most growth during the story and he was my favourite! Merris grew a lot too, though I'm still not too sure how I feel about her!!

In all this was a great read. Filled with magic, intrigue, demonic plots and so much more, it has made me excited to read more in this series. This author is one to watch!!

Simon Wright read this well. His tones and cadences worked well to bring the atmosphere to life and I enjoyed his performance. I did find though, that his female voices needed work and he sometimes didn't differentiate who was talking enough that I found myself confused at times.

I was given this free audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review. This in no way affected nor influenced my thoughts.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • CT
  • Ashland, Ky USA
  • 01-25-18

Excellent Dark Fantasy novel

DARKSTORM is the prequel to the THE RHENWARS SAGA which was a series I enjoyed when I read it in Kindle format.

The premise of this novel is how the broken divided world of the original series came to pass with a conflict between the forces of evil who are trying to save the planet with the forces of "good" who are willing to lay down and accept destruction. It's an unusual reversal and one which M.L. Spencer exploits for all its worth.

The characters are morally ambiguous, the storytelling well done, and the twists multiplied before things finally come to their tragic but inevitable conclusion. I didn't dislike any of the characters in the novel and they were all realistically flawed. If I were to summarize this book, I'd go, "A ragtag bunch of misfits are recruited to save the world and fail miserably because they would have done better with people who weren't horribly broken."

Simon Wright does a decent job as the narrator and he's particularly good at playing the more salty Quin but I think he could have been a bit more posh in his accent for the higher class characters. Either way, I found the book working well and he reminded me a bit of Kit Harrington/Jon Snow when he was narrating.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Unique, fresh, and different fantasy!

Darkstorm
The Rhenwars Saga, Book 0
By: M. L. Spencer
Narrated by: Simon Wright
This is an audible book I requested and the review is voluntary.
I have to say that as soon as the book started I was drawn to the smooth and attractive voice coming from my tablet. I had not heard this narrator before and I was enticed right away. Loved his voice! This man could get away with murder! He delivered a flawless performance and and had me glued to his dreamy voice.
The book was wonderful also but different than what I am accustomed to. My heroes don't die normally! Sob, sob.... Great world building, interactions, characters, and plot. Loved the fantasy aspects too. Fresh and appealing, dark and aluring. I had bought all three books before I had the chance to review this book. Now I can't wait to read the other books. I may just wait and listen to them!
Enjoyed this book tremendously!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Dark Magical Fantasy

I was lost at the start with this audiobook. It begins very abruptly, with no backstory. It wasn’t until a couple hours in that I began to understand what was going on. That said, the characters kept me listening. Braden and Quin Reis are such heroic, yet tragic and flawed characters. My heart just ached for them. It seemed there were enemies at every turn, and few friends…and even those might or might not be trustworthy. In the end, they can only rely on themselves and each other. The book/audiobook is rife with drama, pain, angst, and betrayal. I would have preferred a different ending; I guess I was hoping for a miracle. Overall, it’s a worthwhile read/listen, just be prepared for the darkness.

The narration is excellent. It really sets the mood for the story and kept me enthralled. I felt an ever-present sense of danger and doom, and it had me on the edge of my seat.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

great fantasy

Dark Storm the name of the book says it all the book is amazingly well written the narrator did an incredible job the fantasy world was very interesting I liked this book very much

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review."

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Strong Fantasy

Strong fantasy novel, with interesting concepts. I didn’t connect with the characters in a personal way, but the battle scenes were good. Wish the author has described the magic systems in more detail. I wanted more there. Some interesting twists and very well written. Audiobook narrator was excellent.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • TU
  • 03-14-18

Excellent fantasy story

I was given this free review copy audio book at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

This was a pretty good book. I enjoyed the characters. Most characters were developed well and had "realistic" flaws. This is definitely dark fantasy, but it wasn't overwhelming in its darkness. I also thought the narration was pretty good. All in all, it made me interested in the rest of the series.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

A Decent Story...

As With Most Fantasy Genre..The Story Has Unusual Names...This One Was Over The Top...So Much So The Story Was Hard To Follow...When Using New And Unrecognizable Words The Author Should Be Aware Readers Or Listeners Can Easily Be Disoriented... The Characters Were Likeable..The Plot Seem Interesting Enough To Start A Series Although This Was The First All Mage Story I've Came Across...Which Was...Different... A Wizard Never Came Into The Story...I Was Disappointed...

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Smashes fantasy tropes to bits!

I had this series recommended to me by several friends who told me that it takes one fantasy trope after another and smashes them to pieces on the alter of Grimdark. Well, being a huge fan of grimdark, I got excited by the idea of something original, not just another Prince of Thorns or Before They Are Hanged knockoff...err, homage. I am happy to report that not only was this true, but the author took those tropes and burned them to ashes. What is left is an original, swerve filled race to a conclusion you just will not see coming. On that note, we'll get into the review.

When apprentice mage Merris finds out she is going to be kicked out of the mages guild, she follows the head of her guild out one night to try and dig up some dirt on him that would allow her to use the information to fend off her removal. What she discovers instead of some midnight assignation or other such scandal puts her life, and the very fate of the world, in jeopardy. She comes across a group of mages not only from her city-state of Aerysius, but from the neighboring city-state of Bryn Calazar, which are a hairs breadth from war with each other, involved in a dark ritual with netherworld powers. After she escapes, she goes to see her mentor, Sephana, who she discovers is having an illicit romance with the ambassador from Bryn Calazar, Braden, who helps her escape to Bryn Calazar by sending her to his brother Quin. How much this helps is debatable, since Bryn Calazar is most definitely a patriarchy, unless you have status as a mage as a woman. The problem is, Quin is a drunken wreck.

After convincing Quin of her bonifides, Quin and Merris approach the head of his mage guild, and this is where everything goes pear shaped, as they are unexpectedly betrayed in the guild hall and end up on the run. Meanwhile, in Aerysius, Braden and Sephana are captured trying to spy on the cabal, and they are transported to a secret base in Calazar lands. The conspirators, all high ranking mages, explain to Braden what they are about. They are trying to head off the end of magic and civilization as they know it, as magic is going to have a polarity shift, killing all mages and destroying anything created with magic, like buildings in cities. The cabalists have decided the power of the dark god in his Netherworld will allow them to hold the polarity shift off for a thousand years. All it will cost them is their souls, and a bunch of human sacrifices...

This leads to a wild second half of the book, as Quin, Braden, Sephana and Merris try and work against the cabal, which has power throughout the highest levels of both kingdoms. There is epic magic battles, giant cavalry battles as there is an uprising against the cabal by Braden's people, which all leads to the final confrontation between the cabal and those trying to stop them. There is also a huge betrayal you don't see coming which costs those trying to stop the evil a member, and which definitely effected the outcome. Definitely a grimdark ending, although there may be a ray of hope, however slight, even with the sacrifices made.

The characters are the true strength of this book. While the setting was well described and gave you a feeling of being there and the plot is fast paced and never lagged in the slightest, what happens with the characters is really what hooks you. Whether it's Quin's self destructive behavior, Braden's quest to do right for his kingdom whether it wants it or not, or Merris trying to maintain the life she has, you really care about what happens to them. When you find out the details from their past's it really humanizes them. Even if some of it makes them less sympathetic, Their flaws just make them that much more believable. The villains, who are actually trying to do what they see as right, are well drawn out, and even somewhat sympathetic. They do evil for a greater good, which you don't see too often. There isn't a mustache twirl in the group. It really is a well thought out group of characters.

I had never heard Simon Wright narrate before this book, but I found him to be a compelling voice. He really put the effort in to bring the characters to life, whether male or female, no matter the voice or accent. His pacing on the narration is spot on, and he keeps you engaged in the story, waiting to see what happens next. Definitely a voice to check out.

All in all, this is a fantastic addition to the grimdark fantasy ranks, as good as anything put out by the big names like Cook, Martin, Abercrombie and Lawrence, and actually maybe a hair better than a couple of those! This is a prequel to a larger series, so it will be interesting to see what the decisions made in this one lead to in the future of the series

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • James
  • Powderly, KY, United States
  • 03-07-18

Good Story, Great Narration

Decent story, a little dark with plenty of plot twist. The book does have a somewhat dark undertone, but is easy to listen to.

“I was voluntarily provided this free review copy audiobook by the author, narrator, or publisher.”