Tuesday, 29 July 2014

A Rocking Review of The Dark Citadel by Jane Dougherty

Evil is slouching into Providence, crawling into the rotting core of the Elders’ regime, and only a pariah girl seems to care.

Even in Providence, city of eternal night, there are rebels. Deborah refuses an arranged marriage and runs. But more is at stake than her unhappy future. Her destiny is to become the catalyst that brings down the whole corrupt edifice and its creator—Abaddon, dark angel of the bottomless pit.
Deborah runs to find her mother, the legendary Green Woman, who is drawing a host of dreams and heroes from the Memory of the world to defeat the evil that thrives in Providence. But the Green Woman’s strength is failing—she needs her daughter to take up the burden.
In the apocalyptic wasteland outside the city, Jonah, another runaway, is waiting—to give Deborah his help, then his heart. Together they brave the terrors of the desert. Together they believe they can change the world.
A girl, a boy, and a pack of wolf-dog pups search for the Green Woman, but Abaddon has set horrors on their trail that not even courage and boundless love can defeat.

The Dark Citadel is the first volume of The Green Woman series, an epic story of evil, heroism, bravery, treachery, hatred, and the invincible power of love.

Why this book rocks:

Jane Dougherty has simply created something amazing.  The feel of The Dark Citadel is Anne McCaffrey meets Clive Barker-- incredible language, immersive world-building, and truly complex characters, all rooted in a landscape that combines the best aspects of a dark, twisted dystopia and a rich, magical fantasy realm.  I could draw comparisons to so many things, but this book ultimately stands on its own, and there is nothing to compare it to that will do it justice.


The language is rich and beautiful, but not overly heavy.  As I read, I continually found myself pausing to savor the writing.  My favorite quote from the book:  "Jonah felt the shadows take his hands, leading him into a darkness that was full of a silent menace."  Chills!  This gave me chills!


The Dark Citadel begins in Providence, a bleak and truly horrible dystopian city.  Dougherty gives us all the gory details we need to feel truly oppressed along with the rest of the citizens of Providence.  Brutality, apathy, and injustice are absolutely rampant.  The people are used to cruelty.  If the whole story took place in Providence, it might be too much to bear.  But there's so much more to this fascinating world that continues to be revealed to the reader piece by piece, just as it is revealed to the characters.


When we first meet Dougherty's heroine, Deborah, she's not very likable.  She's feisty and fiery.  She acts on gut impulse, often without thought.  There is something sympathetic in her nature, though. The more I learned about her, the more I realized I would probably not be the nicest of people under those circumstances, either.  And the longer I followed her journey, the more I saw her grow.  By the end of the novel, suffice it to say she is an entirely different person.  

The same goes for all the characters we encounter-- they change, grow, and affect each other in subtle and deep ways.  Even the cameo characters have personality and depth.


After the incredible harshness of the beginning of the novel, the romance caught me completely off-guard.  I mean, I expected there to be a romantic thread somewhere in there, but I never expected it to be rendered so tenderly or with such potency.  


This book is beautifully rooted in mythology, borrowing symbolism and power from a spattering of ancient stories, all twisted into a modern legend.  Somehow a huge variety of things-- centaurs, demons, post-nuclear potatoes-- are all brought together into a picture that makes sense.  A world with so many different elements could easily seem disjointed, but Dougherty has managed to pull it off in a way that works, which is pretty impressive.  

Dougherty is what many people might call a "storyteller".  Her world is so vivid and complete, and her story has an epic feel that makes you think (and hope) that it will go on and on.  At the same time, she carefully creates a story that is always moving, never boring.  She directs and subtly misdirects at all the right times.  Every time I thought I knew where it was all going, she'd yank the carpet out from under my feet, and I'd have to start figuring it out all over again.  

Who would I recommend this story to?

Pretty much everyone. 

Readers:  If you like dystopian stories, fantasy, sci-fi, or epic adventures, you will probably love this book.  The only thing I would say is be prepared, because, yeah, it's powerfully dark!  In a good way!  The quality of the writing is fabulous and on par with some of the most famous fantasy writers out there.

Writers:  This is the kind of book that you want to read, because maybe you will absorb just a little bit of Jane Dougherty's magic, and it will make you a better author. 

As for me, I am now officially a Jane Dougherty fan, and you can be sure I will be buying and reading the rest of this series, and probably anything else that Jane Dougherty ever writes.  :)


See The Dark Citadel on Amazon  

The Dark Citadel on Goodreads

Jane Dougherty's blog 


  1. Now that I've picked myself up off the floor and scraped myself off the ceiling, I'd like to mumble a very humble thank you for this wonderful review. Coming from the queen of awful dystopiae this is praise indeed.

    1. ...and every word of it absolutely true and heartfelt. I adore this book and cannot wait to get to the next one. :)

  2. I've read this book and thoroughly agree with your excellent review.

    1. Thanks! I'm sure a lot of people feel that way. Jane is an excellent writer. I'm on to the second book, now, and loving it just as much. And Jane and I have an interview coming up. Look for it later this month.