Written by: Nick Setchfield
Published by: Titan Books
Reviewed by: Corissa McClay
The War in the Dark is part spy thriller, part supernatural mystery, with something for fans of each. Christopher Winter is a British intelligence agent, forced to flee his employers and country after a standard assassination goes terribly strange. At each turn he gets pulled deeper into a supernatural side of his job he had previously never suspected, and along the way learns more about both his world and himself.
From the start, The War in the Dark shows strong momentum. There’s no slow, broody opening here, just an instant jump into the action and the mystery. This keeps things moving at a steady pace. This is good and bad. This rapidity means that locations come and go incredibly fast, and sometimes feel disjointed. The timeline can be hard to pin down as well. But, the action hardly slackens, and new characters and settings are introduced in a fairly rapid-fire fashion, so you’re not likely to get bored.
There’s a bit of similar inconsistency in the characters. Christopher Winter and Karina Lazarova, the two main characters, perfectly fit the roles laid out for them. Winter is the slightly jaded, very confused straight man, new to all the supernatural complications being thrown at him. The mystery in his past is subtly hinted at, sometimes a bit too subtly. Lazarova is the deadly, cold femme fatale. Her actions and motivations seem to drive the plot more than Winter’s fumblings, which was a bit of a twist on the standard.
Unfortunately, both the primary and secondary characters suffer from how often the secondary characters get introduced. At each stop along Winter’s journey new characters are introduced. And each of them is quite fleshed out for people that come and go so quickly. The Widow of Kursk especially was a standout. But spending so much time on those secondaries took away time from the main characters. Maybe because of this it was sometimes hard to understand the motivations of Winter and Lazarova.
Even with these downsides, the book was a fun read. The twist came from a direction I didn’t expect, and the eventual payoff was definitely worth the time invested in the story. I didn’t leave the story feeling like I truly understood Winter or Lazarova, but I had a good time. I’d read much more in the spy thriller genre if they were as fun and fresh as this one.