Scott Tracey – Darkbound

scotttracey-darkboundNo one hates being a witch quite like Malcolm. But if there’s one thing worse than being a witch, it’s being a Moonset witch. There are very few things in his life that he can control, and after a fight with his siblings, he’s losing his grip on what he’s got left.

A creature as old as Hamelin has crept out of the Abyss, and its siren song has infected the teenagers of Carrow Mill compelling them, at first, to simply be swept away in love. But love soon turns dangerous, as passion turns to violence and an army of sociopaths is born.

The Pied Piper isn’t just a story, and he’s got his eyes set on Malcolm, promising a life of freedom from magic and the shackles of the Moonset bond. As Carrow Mill burns, Malcolm must make the hardest choice of his life: family? Or freedom?

In the sequel to last year’s Moonset, Scott Tracey returns the reader to Carrow Mill. However, we don’t return to Justin’s point of view, instead the story is told from Malcolm’s perspective. It’s an interesting shift, especially as it means we get a different look at the members of the Moonset coven, both past and present. While I enjoyed Darkbound quite a lot and it was a good follow-up to Moonset, there were some things that disappointed me and some troubling aspects to some of Tracey’s word choice and ambiguity as to Mal’s sexual orientation. 

Let’s start off with the latter. Throughout the novel we get hints that Mal might be gay, but instead of incorporating this into Mal’s difficulties in finding and accepting himself with regards to his parentage and powers and coming to terms with who he is, it’s shunted to the side and only referenced in passing or in dangerous situations, most notably in Mal’s interactions with the Dark Prince he has to outsmart in Darkbound. Mal turns out to have an interest in somebody, but that is only revealed at the end of the narrative and then it’s once again dropped in casually, a blink-and-you-miss-it-moment. In addition, Tracey has Mal use words that are rather dubious in this context, such as butt hurt and butt monkey, which might indicate Malcolm’s struggle with his uncertainly sexual preferences, but it didn’t scan that way and I found myself rather disturbed by its use, especially as they are problematic terms in any context. The way Mal’s sexuality is treated in Darkbound just didn’t sit right with me and I would have liked for it to be more out in the open, even if Mal’s isn’t openly out.

As for the things that disappointed me? That was mostly connected to the complete and utter disappearance of Ash from the story and Quinn’s far smaller role than last time. Of course, Ash is Justin’s girlfriend, not Mal’s, so it’s logical she is less present, but I loved her in the previous book and I really would have liked to have her be present in this one as well. Similarly, Quinn isn’t Mal’s guardian, so we see him in a different capacity – and we find out Mal avoids him for other reasons as well – but after Moonset I would have loved to have seen more of him, not less.

What I did like was how much more we see of Jenna. We get to see beyond the rebel-without-a-cause exterior and see beyond to the real Jenna and while she’s still head-strong, impulsive, and sometimes needlessly unkind, we also see the caring and protective side to her personality. Similarly, we learn more about the group’s parents and what exactly happened to them and what they did to create the strange coven-bond and curse to protect their children. It illustrates that even monsters aren’t evil 100% of the time and that they might do good things too. The closer look at Mal’s uncle Charles, cousin Luca, and the Manson Family-like groupies that followed the original Moonset coven was both creepy and enlightening.

Malcolm is a sympathetic narrator and I enjoyed his perspective. I liked how his attitude to his powers and his family shifted over the course of the narrative, without turning him into a power junkie and magic enthusiast. His voice is quite different from Justin’s and his wit far more acerbic, though there is somewhat of the martyr about Malcolm as well. I loved his sense of justice and fairness, something that is portrayed really clearly in the scene where he comes to the rescue of Brice, when he’s being bullied by some jocks. One other element about Mal’s behaviour that I would have loved to have seen emphasized more, was his never acknowledged anorexia. Mal presents with all the classic symptoms of an eating disorder: having trouble eating, a strict work-out regiment, the trying to figure out when he can do an extra work-out whenever he’s forced to eat unexpectedly, the fact that he feels he has no control over his life and his powers. However, none of the adults, or his siblings for that matter, picks up on this. Mal himself doesn’t even acknowledge it. Hopefully this is something that will be expounded on in the next book, as otherwise it would be a weird thing to include and it would also be a wasted opportunity to show that eating disorders don’t just happen to women, men can suffer from them too.

Overall, I enjoyed Darkbound. The plot surrounding the Dark Prince was exciting and the further development of the Moonset history and mythology was interesting. The stakes for the next book have been raised and with Malcolm’s new-found abilities and their Coven-bond strengthening, the Moonset kids are bound to have an interesting role to play in the future. I’ll be interested to see how the series develops in the next book and to see whether Tracey sticks with Justin and/or Malcolm’s point of view or whether he’ll switch to one of the other siblings. Darkbound stands on its own fairly well, but I’d suggest going back and reading Moonset as well if you haven’t done so. If you’re into witchy, supernatural YA, Darkbound will certainly be up your alley.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.