Book Description from Goodreads:

He used to be the best detective on the job. Until he became the hunted…

Once a legendary police inspector, Nicolas Lenoir is now a disillusioned and broken man who spends his days going through the motions and his evenings drinking away the nightmares of his past. Ten years ago, Lenoir barely escaped the grasp of the Darkwalker, a vengeful spirit who demands a terrible toll on those who have offended the dead. But the Darkwalker does not give up on his prey so easily, and Lenoir has always known his debt would come due one day.

When Lenoir is assigned to a disturbing new case, he treats the job with his usual apathy—until his best informant, a street savvy orphan, is kidnapped. Desperate to find his young friend before the worst befalls him, Lenoir will do anything catch the monster responsible for the crimes, even if it means walking willingly into the arms of his own doom…

Darkwalker, E. L. Tettensor’s debut novel and a Compton Crook Award finalist, is the first book in the Nicolas Lenoir series. The second book, Master of Plagues, was released earlier this year.

Honestly, I’m having some difficulty figuring out what to think of Darkwalker as a whole. The second half is enjoyable and left me with a somewhat positive impression of it, although it was never captivating enough for me to love it and want to pick up the next book immediately. However, due to life, it took me a few months to get back to reviewing it so I ended up rereading most of the book in order to write a review. While I still think it became a fun book eventually, this also reminded me of just how dull and tedious earlier parts of the book are, and the weaker aspects of the novel left more of an impression this time.

Darkwalker is a mystery in a secondary world fantasy setting revolving around an antihero—and the first few chapters constantly reminded me of these elements. I felt the story did not flow naturally because it was too apparent that someone was trying to make sure I, the reader, got the point that Nicolas Lenoir was a flawed detective living in a world not our own. Nicolas has imperfections; therefore, there is much about how jaded and apathetic he is complete with comparisons to a more idealistic character, topped off with a discussion about flaws in humanity. He’s an inspector so there’s a scene where he has dinner with the orphan Zach (who, of course, wants to be an inspector himself when he grows up!) and plays a detective game that allows him to share his thought processes when investigating. It’s a fantasy: the line of questioning involved in solving the crime revolves around learning about the Adali people and their culture. While some of this contains information important to the novel, I felt that it could have been less convenient and heavy-handed at times, especially toward the beginning of the book.

Once Zach disappears and Nicolas actually begins investigating rather than going through the motions of doing so without any actual thought or effort (because of how very jaded and apathetic he is, of course), it becomes more compelling. While it does still sometimes suffer from a lack of subtlety, the story starts to unfold more naturally, especially after the Darkwalker is introduced. Nicolas has encountered this spirit in the past, and part of the story is not just revealing more about the Darkwalker and his connection to the mystery but showing Nicolas grappling with his past—and the resulting growth of his character. Although he’s not explored enough for him to be what I’d call an incredibly deep character, he is one of the more intriguing aspects of the book since he does possess a mixture of both good and bad qualities. In addition to feeling defeated by what he’s seen, he’s an irritatingly arrogant know-it-all, but he also does have a heart, as shown by the way he looks out for Zach and goes to great lengths to find him when he does disappear. In this book, Nicolas seems a bit too much like the stereotype of the jerk with a heart of gold underneath it all, but it is an interesting character type and I’d like to see his character developed further in future books.

My biggest problem with Nicolas was not that he could be unlikable at times: it was that he was presented as being brilliant but he didn’t act like he was. That is supposed to be due to the fact that he hasn’t truly cared about being a good detective for years and is too indifferent to spend time thinking about his cases. Yet I felt like someone known to be as intelligent as he should have been much quicker on the uptake at times even if he was out of practice, and I only believed he was a fantastic detective because I kept reading that he used to be the best.

I have very conflicting feelings about Darkwalker. The beginning was dull and obtrusive when laying out the groundwork, but it did get better and develop into an entertaining story once the titular character was more involved. However, it never excited me, but I also realize that it wasn’t exactly the type of book that generally appeals to me since it was focused on mystery and crime first and fantasy second. I also would have liked to have seen Nicolas developed a bit more: he’s an interesting personality, but he’s also a bit of a generic antihero and one I did not find believable as an exceptional detective. There is a lot of potential, but I also thought there was room for significantly better execution even if it was a decent, fun story in the end.

My Rating: 5/10

Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher at the request of the author.

Read an Excerpt (Click the link below the cover image)

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