[Guest Post] Why I love the darkness by A.F.E. Smith

I don't normally run blog tour banners, but that one was just too pretty to pass up!

I'm really pleased to be a part of A.F.E. Smith's blog tour for her novel, Darkhaven. Deep within my own commitments, I have not had the opportunity to read Darkhaven yet, but being dark in tone and a murder mystery to boot, I've now popped Darkhaven to the head of the line. You should, too.

Darkhaven is the story of Ayla Nightshade, a reluctant heir who stands accused of patricide:

Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

A SCAVENGER HUNT

Smith is having fun on her blog tour with a scavenger hunt. At each tour stop you will find a letter (see the scavenger hunt link for a picture of what the letter looks like). Collect all of the letters by visiting at least one blog each day (21 in total) and you'll find five words to enter into Rafflecopter (the link is below):

And now, A.F.E. Smith ...

Why I Love the Darkness

Fantasy has always been my preferred genre, to read and to write. And within that, I’ve always leaned more towards the darker end of the scale. Not relentlessly so – you certainly wouldn’t call my books grimdark, or horror – but everything I write tends to have an undercurrent of darkness. Indeed, more than one reviewer has referred independently to my first published novel, Darkhaven, as ‘dark and twisted’. I think it was intended as a compliment, but either way, I’ll take it as one.

So why do I love darkness in fantasy? I’ve thought about this question a lot, and it’s surprisingly hard to answer. Because as it turns out, dark fantasy has a very specific appeal to me.

It’s not the violence: I’m not averse to a bit of gore, quite the contrary, but blow-by-blow fight scenes don’t thrill me the way they do some.

It’s not the age-old struggle between good and evil – or at least, not entirely. I am interested in how that struggle plays out inside our own heads; how we as human beings try to figure out what is the right thing to do. Honour can be a trite concept in fantasy, but to me it means the refusal to cross certain lines, even at great personal expense. Is that what it means to be good? That we can resist the temptation to do something we believe to be wrong, even if it would make our lives far easier? Or even if no one would ever find out? Or even if we might die as a result?

The thing is, we all have a little bit of darkness inside us – and sometimes more than a little. Human nature is at once a wonderful and a terrifying thing, capable of both the most depraved atrocities and the most selfless acts of courage. That’s what it means to be human: we are demon and angel in one. And if everyone around you is behaving demonically, yet you can still listen to your angelic side … well, maybe that’s the true meaning of heroism. It is in the darkest night that the light shines most brightly.

But I digress, because that’s all a sideline to my real fascination with darkness in fantasy. I’ve come to the conclusion that I love the darkness because I like to force people to overcome terrible odds. To set everything against them and watch them suffer, but – and this is the important part – not break. Why? Because I want to believe I have that capacity myself. That we all do. Maybe what really makes us human is our ability to never give up, no matter what. To find light in the darkness, happiness in the midst of despair, hope where there is none. Dark fiction forces us to stare our worst nightmares in the face, but perhaps it can also reassure us that we have the ability to survive them.

Of course, that kind of thing isn’t exclusive to fantasy. The indomitable human spirit is visible all around us in real-life situations. But the great thing about fantasy is that the odds can be so much worse, and yet still plausibly possible to overcome.

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Want to know more about A.F.E. Smith? Follow her at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and you can find Darkhaven on Goodreads.