In darkness there is light and in light there is darkness. This is the conflict around which _Into the Dark Lands_ by Michelle Sagara revolves. It is the first book of "The Sundered" series telling the story of the battle between the Bright Heart god and the Dark Heart god through their servants. The author gives readers the beginning of an Epic Fantasy with a dark edge full of interesting characters, a twisting plot and bleak setting.
Erin is a young woman of the Light. She possesses the gift of healing, but wants to fight in the war against the Dark. Full of confusion and desire for battle, she rises to become the Sarillorn of her people, carrying the power of her god. Her youth leads her to failure and capture by Stefanos, First Servant of the Dark god. Ms. Sagara has realistic characters in this book. Erin is torn by love for Stefanos and has many flaws. Stefanos is very interesting with his evil nature but ability to show mercy at times. These two weave their way through a twisting plot of darkness and death.
Events in the book twist around an air of uncertainty. The reader is never sure where the plot will lead to by the conclusion of the book. Erin is chosen by the First Servant of the Light god as the hope of the future. She has no idea where that will lead. Stefanos fluctuates between his dark nature and displays of seeming love for Erin. He does things that are contrary many times. This twisting plot gives the book a sense of ambiguity that keeps the reader hooked until the end.
Lastly, the bleak setting increases the suspense of the book. Rennath is a city of shadows, built of gray and black stone. There is no color to relieve the starkness. Screams of the dying fill the air as priests of the Dark god sacrifice victims in bloody rituals of torture. The Nightwalkers like Stefanos feed on the blood of humans too. Erin must survive, making her way through this horrible place without blighting her soul. The sense of forboding this setting invokes makes the reader sympathize with the main character.
_Into the Dark Lands_ by Michelle Sagara is an intriguing, suspenseful beginning to an epic Dark Fantasy series. The author uses clear descriptive words to give her interesting characters, tight plot and dark setting a life of their own. Readers will be hooked into wanting to find out what will become of Erin in the other books. This series was published several years ago and the books might be out of print, but can be found in used bookstores. If you come across this book, it is worth reading.