The Darkest Bloom by P.M. Freestone – A “Review” aka why I hate YA fantasy

Hi! I was meant to post a review today and I started writing one for The Darkest Bloom – a book I finished recently. But apparently I was feeling quite ranty instead. Big disclaimer! I don’t actually hate YA fantasy, don’t come for me, please, I’m just being overly dramatic. Okay, now that everything is cleared up…

The Darkest Bloom by P.M. Freestone
  • Publication date: February 7th 2019
  • Publisher: Scholastic
  • Genre: Fantasy

In the empire of Aramtesh, scent has power.

When disaster strikes and the crown prince lies poisoned, long suppressed rivalries threaten to blow the empire apart. It’s up to a poor village girl with a talent for fragrances and the prince’s loyal bodyguard to find an antidote.

To succeed, the pair must uncover secrets – cryptic, ancient tales as well as buried truths from their own pasts – in an adventure that will ignite your senses. 

I am tired of reading the same YA fantasy over and over again. I thought this book would be different considering I thought it had a magic system based on different scents, but alas…

The scent based magic would be a great and fresh idea, if that’s what the author decided to do. But the problem here is… there isn’t much magic in it at all. Think of the Rebel of the Sands, except while that book was low on magic, it gave us heaps and heaps of world building and really introduced us to the characters.

The Darkest Bloom failed to do either. The first line of the synopsis mentions an empire and I think it gave me grand ideas. After finishing the book I can’t tell you a single thing about said empire and I am quite a careful reader. The only politics we get are the precious little that concerns our crown prince. The world building beyond the fact that “scent has power” is nonexistent. We’re thrown into a story with little to no explanation of why things that are happening are important, and we’re given nothing to care about. Maybe after spending time writing about these characters, the author got so familiar with them, they forgot we weren’t and we wouldn’t care if a prince we’ve met for 3 seconds was poisoned.

There is a formula in YA fantasy and many of the recent books I’ve read in the genre follow it.

There is a world A which has all these things that make it unique and interesting, but instead of developing it and delving into it, the author decided to just name drop them and never explain the significance and meaning of them. Enter mentioned “long suppressed rivalries”.

There’s a character B, that has a personal mission they absolutely have to embark on and they’re really good at (insert a skill here), but because of that, they get roped into helping someone else with an issue that’s so much bigger. Enter the second character C. They’re not someone character B wants to work with or trust, but they have to make do. Add some magic-non-magic into the equation – lucky dip, really, anything that has not been used in a different book recently, in this case scent. Sounds cool, right? But I still don’t know how scent is in any way magical in this world. Add a bare minimum to the story to tie in that element, and to make it sound like it’s part of the world, change some common sayings to mention said not-magic-system (this being one of my absolute biggest pet peeves EVER). Oh, and have character B and C fall in love in the end, or almost fall in love. Ta-daaa! There you have it – that’s Shadowscent and many more current YA fantasies.

Needless to say…

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This might not be the greatest review OR discussion post, but I had to get it off my chest.

Please recommend me some good YA fantasies in the comments, I’m begging you.

Until next time.