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Disclaimer – This is an Upper Young Adult Fantasy. Triggers include fantasy and magical violence, references to parental death, imperialism, war, gambling, and drug use, alcohol consumption, panic attacks and anxiety, and stalking. Please make sure to be mindful of your triggers.
A librarian with a secret. A prince looking for redemption. A dark discovery that will force them to confront their truths.
Astrea Sovna is destined to die. As a Lightbringer, she’s expected to serve the Helosian government as a battlefield healer. But when the court seer—Astrea’s uncle—has a vision of her being killed in the line of duty, he forbids her to reveal her powers.
Until now, Astrea has gone unnoticed as a junior librarian. But when she gets reassigned to a diplomatic project to strengthen ties between Helosia and one of its neighbors, she finds herself saddled with her past, in the form of returned war hero and her ex-best friend, Prince Varojin Auris.
Forced to work together, Astrea soon learns that although Varojin has been out of her life for years, he’s still the kind, patient friend she remembers. As they navigate old friendships and imperial politics, the pair discovers that the mysterious shadows stalking the city are leaving a trail of murder victims in their wake. And when Astrea becomes a target, a dear friend gets caught in the crossfire…
As Astrea and Varojin begin searching for answers, they realize there is more to the emperor’s project than political niceties. If the shadows aren’t stopped, Astrea’s future—and the security of the entire continent—hangs in the balance.
If you take some royal political drama, elemental magic, secret magic, sloooooow burn romance, and a bit of a mystery and mix it together, you get Under Darkened Skies. UDS is an upper YA debut novel from H.E. Bauman and although I tend to stay away from YA, I can’t wait to read the rest of this series. (The author has also promised us some spice in the future!)
The beginning of the novel did feel a bit slow. However, the pacing of the world building, and learning about the magical and political systems were perfectly timed. Although there was a lot of information to try and grasp, it never felt overwhelming or like the author info dumped it on us.
Our FMC, Astrea, is a junior librarian who is also best friends with the royal family. She has a powerful magic that she’s been keeping hidden her whole life. If the Emperor ever found out about Astra’s secret, it could be the end of the life as she knows it.
The world and emotions were all so vivid. I felt truly immersed into the story even while I was waiting on the action to start. Once I got to about to 40-50% mark, things really started to take off.
We love a good forced proximity story
Jin is one of the royal siblings, and former best friend to Astrea. But after leaving for the war several years ago, without even saying goodbye, Astrea tries to avoid him at all cost when he comes home. (she does have her childish moments, but don’t we all?) But when the emperor assigns Jin and Astrea to work together on a special project, she has no choice but to finally begin addressing her hurt feelings and issues with Jin. (It takes her awhile to get to that point, but she eventually begins to let her guard down and open up to Jin)
The magic system and the relationship between Astrea and Jin were by far my favorite parts of the book. But Cressida’s sass was a close second.
Book 1 was character driven, with plenty of plot points and suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat. Now that we know the characters, and have fallen in love with a few of them, I can’t wait to see how the rest of the series plays out for Astrea and her friends. Book 1 did end on a slight cliff hanger, but thankfully nothing that completely ripped my heart out. If you’re looking for a fantasy novel with a vivid magical system, found family, and slow burn romance, I suggest checking out Under Darkened Skies.
What to expect
- ✔️ 1920s Vibes
- ✔️ Elemental Magic
- ✔️ Unsolved Murders
- ✔️ Fake Dating
- ✔️ One Bed
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 / 5
0 🌶️ – but again, the author has promised spice in future books, so prepare yourself for a slow burn
Be sure to check out the Under Darkened Skies playlist on Spotify to give you all the vibes while you’re reading!
Does the Under Darkened Skies series sound like your jam? If you’ve read it, let me know your thoughts in the comments, but keep it spoiler free! Until next time…