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The Dark Cycle #1

Darkness Brutal

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Aidan O’Linn’s childhood ended the night he saw a demon kill his mother and mark his sister, Ava, with Darkness. Since then, every three years the demons have returned to try to claim her. Living in the gritty, forgotten corners of Los Angeles, Aidan has managed to protect his sister, but he knows that even his powers to fight demons and speak dead languages won’t keep her safe for much longer.

In desperation, Aidan seeks out the help of Sid, the enigmatic leader of a group of teens who run LA Paranormal, an Internet reality show that fights demons and ghosts. In their company, Aidan believes he’s finally found a haven for Ava. But when he meets Kara, a broken girl who can spin a hypnotic web of passionate energy, he awakens powers he didn’t know he had―and unleashes a new era of war between the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness.

With the fate of humanity in his hands, can Aidan keep the Darkness at bay and accept his brilliant, terrifying destiny?

425 pages, Kindle Edition

First published July 1, 2015

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About the author

Rachel A. Marks

11 books525 followers
Rachel A. Marks is an award-winning author and professional artist, a SoCal girl, cancer survivor, a surfer and dirt-bike rider, chocolate lover and keeper of faerie secrets. She was voted: Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, but hopes she'll never have to test the theory. Her debut series The Dark Cycle, described as Dickens' Oliver Twist meets TV's Supernatural, begins with the Amazon Bestseller, DARKNESS BRUTAL.

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5 stars
1,159 (27%)
4 stars
1,534 (35%)
3 stars
1,143 (26%)
2 stars
341 (7%)
1 star
90 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 442 reviews
July 8, 2015
Keep it hidden, keep it safe. If anyone truly knew everything, it would freak them out in a large way. It freaks the shit out of me too, so I get it. I have no clue how I know this stuff, I just do. Like how I know the orders of angels and demons, or can tell on sight if an apparition is a ghost or a time slip, or if someone’s a virgin, or if they’ve ever killed anyone.

Why can’t I just know how to play Xbox or baseball?
This was a blast, and probably one of the best YA urban fantasy I've read. The main character is a guy who doesn't feel like a girl, there's not too much romance, and the world building and side characters are awesome. There's also a wonderful amount of diversity here. Not everyone is white, and considering this book takes place in Los Angeles, that's a damned good thing.

The main character is unique, he has abilities and powers that he was born with, but this book is well-written enough to make me feel like he's a real character and not a special snowflake.
Jax brightens at the sight of me. “Ah, the Chosen One has returned!” he says in a very dramatic voice. “The One who shall be the most powerful!”

I give him a look that I hope says: Shut the fuck up, ass face.
He's had a hard-knock life, but he's not overly angsty, he's a nice guy who's trying to make the best of a really shitty life. And he's got common sense. That makes for a nearly perfect character in my eyes, and he's not easily seduced.
“No. Please.” She looks up at me. “I can’t be alone.”

Seriously? This girl needs a lecture about being too familiar with strangers. Maybe I should sing her that “Stranger Danger” song you’re supposed to learn in kindergarten.
Aidan is an orphan...maybe. His dad is god-knows-where, his mom is dead. His beloved little sister Ava has been bounced from foster home to foster home, and Aidan himself is homeless...trying to stay out of said foster homes, because they're not so nice places for a kid. He'll take his chances alone on the streets.
Foster care means crowded, filthy houses with drugs and gangs and heavy air, being at the mercy of pissed off men with big fists or women with weird fetishes, and trying to keep my abilities hidden from the demons lurking in every corner. When I’m under the thumb of strangers, I have no way to keep the other stuff out of my space without looking like an OCD freak. I’m not going back to that.
And the reason little Ava has been bounced from foster home to foster home is because her foster parents have a tendency to end up dead.
After they adopted her, I got to visit a few times.
Then they were dead. And there was only a nine-year-old, blood-splattered Ava left behind, her eyes so big and blue that night, looking like they held all the pain of the world in them. Her tiny hands and arms were coated in crimson to the elbow from the spell she’d done to protect herself.
Ava is marked by demons. Not exactly normal. And neither is Aidan. In fact, nothing is normal as we know it, because there's a world of demons out there we humans know nothing about.
Keep it hidden, keep it safe. That’s what my mother always said. And she was right. People can’t handle the truth about what’s around them. So I don’t mention my “abilities” to anyone. Ever. I let them stay blissfully unaware of the hidden orders that make up the spiritual world that intersects with this one.
So poor Aidan has to protect his sister, try to get rid of the odd pesky demons that pop up (that's his part-time job, actually), and it's life as usual, until it becomes too much to handle and Ava's life is in danger. Even a superhero needs help sometimes, and Aidan will fall in with a group of oddballs who are as strange as he is, led by a really weird guy. Think Captain Planet for demons.
He motions to the audience. “Each of the souls you see here was living in hell until I found them. I pulled them from gutters and padded cells and foster homes and helped them learn to use their gifts. To accept who they are. And now they’re lights in the dark places, keeping us connected to the spiritual world like beacons, and earning a living helping others.”
But it turns out that ghostbusting isn't going to be the only thing they're in for. Shit's getting real.
He swallows hard. “A force is working to open a permanent passageway between the spirit world and this one, to cut down the Veil completely. If it succeeds, it will be the end of everything. The beasts of Sheol, demons and monsters chained there for longer than memory, they’ll come to this plane, and nothing, not even you, will be able to stop them.”
This was a really long book, but it was fast-paced, and above all, it was fun. Aidan is one of the more enjoyable characters I've read. I love his concern for his sister, and his devotion to her safety. He's an upstanding guy. Not perfect, but a perfectly protective older brother.
I’m having trouble figuring out her moods lately and what all the emotions mean for her growing abilities. And I admit I can be an ass sometimes. But I love the girl to death. She’s all I have left.

And I made a promise to my mom before she died. To protect Ava. With everything in me. There’s no way I’m going to let myself fail.
The dynamic between the team was fun. It didn't feel like Aidan is the center of the shows, there are multitudes of other characters around doing their thing as well. If I have one complaint, it's the romance, it is not overwhelming, but Aidan's feelings towards Kara can feel a little much at times. Kara isn't a bad character. She's scarred, she's angsty, but she's also strong and tough.
“I mean, the other boys, I have to pretty much threaten to cut their balls off if they touch me. I can see you won’t be a problem.” She laughs again.

She’s terrifying. I cannot live here with this girl. What is she? I’m suddenly sure she’s not a regular human.

“All in time, sweetie. All in time,” she says, like she can read my mind.
Overall, this was an awesome book.
Profile Image for Leah Polcar.
224 reviews25 followers
July 11, 2015
I am giving this two stars because the premise and set-up are interesting. While Marks combines elements from other novels and short-stories, like Neverwhere and this really kick-ass series of short stories about a detective-type guy who can see demons and rescues and "angel" this one time (which you can tell I absolutely cannot remember the name(s) of and if you actually know what I am talking about, please comment and put me out of my misery and let me have the pleasure of re-reading these stories), she still manages to pull off something novel. At first.

Our main character is an orphaned teen (at which point I should have realized this was going to be a young adult book and re-adjusted my expectations) who can see demons (and dead people). Whatever the guy's name was is attempting to save his sister, who also has some supernatural gifts, and all is interesting until he meets a bunch of similarly gifted young persons and they form some sort of not-very-well-thought-out psychic Scooby gang and naturally, during all this, he manages to become enamored with two girls and blahdy-blahdy-blah. By the time we actually get back to the story line -- like what is the deal with his sister? What was the deal with his mom? Who is this leader of the Scooby gang? And so forth -- it was really hard to care. That was probably for the best since everything became all sorts of ridiculous. Unfortunately, this was disappointing given such a promising premise.

I see from the host of 5 star reviews, including a few describing this as the best book ever, that I am going against popular opinion and maybe my metrics are too harsh, but I think this novel is generally a waste of time and reminds me why Kindle First books always make me suspicious. That it is the first in a series, good Lord, it's so hard not to get depressed. I highly recommend you pass.
Profile Image for Donita Luz.
158 reviews49 followers
July 27, 2015
This review is also available here.

**I received Darkness Brutal from Skyscape via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you.**
"I've spent my whole life trying to save people that didn't want to be saved! I've done everything to stop something inevevitable. And I failed. Every. Time." I take a shaky breath. "If it's the end of the world, there's nothing I can do anymore. I'll watch it burn."
It's almost a mainstream in every YA-paranormal books that the main character has to be hero-like, special and powerful, well, this book made an effort not to make Aiden O’Linn, the male lead of this story like that, and it works - atleast for me.

Darkness Brutal was fast-paced, thrilling and compelling. There were times when I had to put my phone down and stop reading for a moment , not because it bores me but mostly because I had to catch my breath and to collect my thoughts because I find it hard to predict what would happen next. Which is obviously a good thing.

The world building was dark, scary and creepy and yet it was interesting. Each and every characters has their own snarky personality and don't just exists to highlight the main lead of the story, it was awesome!

Aidan O'Linn's life revolve around surviving and protecting his half-sister, Ava, after a demon that killed his mother in front of him marked her. He has handy inborn unique abilities that can seriously kick-ass.
"Why can't I just know how to play Xbox or baseball?
It's like I fell from the fucking sky."
Obviously he's unable to figure out where these abilities came from. The identity of his father is a mystery, since his mother seldom talks about it.
"I'm fairly tan, unlike my pale mom and sister. Maybe my dad was from India. Or maybe he was from Mars."
Her half sister has been bounced of from different foster home while Aidan is living by himself in the streets to work part time while finding a perfect safe place for him and his sister.

Then he met a group of Ghostbusters. Actually they call themselves as Paranormal Investigative Agency. Apparently, this group help people who were having "strange" or "unexplained" troubles. At this point, regardless how full of shit he thinks this people are, he's out of options. He needs help, badly- or the demon might claim his sister away, and he can't let that happen.

There he met people who has strange abilities- although not too powerful like his or his sister's.
"Jax brightens at the sight of me. "Ah, the Chosen One has returned!" He says in a very dramatic voice. "The one who shall be the one most powerful!"

I give him a look that I hope says: Shut the fuck-up ass face."
Romance: Aidan and Kara has no appeal for me. Really, they aren't swoon worthy even after all the sexual tension-or do you call that magic tension? - anyway, they fail to recruit me on their ship or maybe it has something to do with the fact that there weren't much of a romance in this book.

I didn't despise Kara. She's... what you call a Tsundere in an anime - a character development process that describes a person who is initially cold and even hostile towards another person before gradually showing their warm side over time, cited from Wikipedia. She's broken, scarred and a kick-ass. She's had a tough and very disturbing life but she's strong, way too strong, I'll give her credit for that.
"A heartbeat passes and then another, and it's as if an understanding, like we're finally seeing the truth of how we fit together. It's so subtle. I would have missed it if I blinked."
I didn't like the attempt of a love triangle of this story. Really, it was unnecessary.

Overall: Seriously this isn't a perfect book. There were talk of rapes and there were a lot of gore and curses that can be found in this book. I can cuss like a sailor since the dawn of time, and it doesn't bother me. So the foul language doesn't matter to me, if anything the character felt more real to me. I think Darkness Brutal is a great pick for Urban Paranormal junkie pips. Looking forward to read the sequel.
Profile Image for Yzabel Ginsberg.
Author 3 books102 followers
July 12, 2015
[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

The beginning of this novel was interesting and full of promises, combining Aidan and his sister Ava being targetted by demons to a mysterious man, Sid, gathering gifted youth with abilities to see and/or touch the supernatural. Yet a few things definitely rubbed me the wrong way after a while.

Aidan as a character was fairly enjoyable. He's had a hard life, but doesn't spend his time whining about it, instead doing what he can to ensure his little sister, at least, gets something better (not just a foster family: also avoiding the death of said family). He's a decent person all around, the kind of guy who'll help a girl in danger and not take advantage of her in any way, or who'll recognise that someone alluring and sexy may not necessarily mean "I want to have sex with you". He perceived the frailty within Rebecca and Kara, that what they were doing was not necessarily their choice or to their liking, and openly stated that he didn't want Kara to do something she wasn't convinced of, all the more after what she had been through.

Kara had a somewhat annoying, twitchy side—going from one reaction to the complete opposite. On the other hand, she also used what she had been dealt in order to try and make things better. Scarred and tough at the same time, in the spirit of survival and of refusing to let her former life crush her.

I still don't know what to think about the "romance". There was attraction and manipulation, and I didn't really feel much chemistry, considering that one girl was basically attracted because of supernatural reasons, and the other... as well?

A more prominent issue for me was how the story suffered of regular cases of ain't-telling-you-nothing-itis. It's not the first nor the last time I notice that in novels. Sure, some information needs to be kept hidden, because disclosing everything at once is a) overwhelming and b) not really interesting. However, I don't like it when it feels that the revealing of said information is artificially pushed back as far as possible in order to create confusion as a plot device. The "I'm not telling you in order to protect you" and "I'm keeping this secret, surely it won't cause trouble for everyone later" kind. Aidan demanded information, while withdrawing important info of his own. Ava kept to herself and did things behind her brother's back, instead of talking to him and maybe, just maybe, trying to find a third way to solve their issues. Sid was annoying as well in that regard, as he knew or at least suspected a lot of important stuff about Aidan, yet postponed its revealing, only to act later along the lines of "you have to listen to me because it's absolutely crucial you act accordingly, wait, why don't you want to listen to me now, is it maybe because you've become fed up with waiting?"

Granted, Aidan not wanting to tell the truth about Ava, nor about his reasons to bring her with him, was understandable. But other happenings could've been avoided if only the characters in general had been more open about some things. All those hidden agendas didn't make for a good ground for budding trust, and in turn, it made things go the wrong way. A wrong way which was easy to foresee as a device.

I wasn't sold either on the biblical/Babylonian/seers stuff. It seemed to pop out of nowhere, and not to be very well integrated within the general "mythology" of the urban fantasy world developed here. While reading, I had a feeling that its purpose was to make the usual angels/demons backdrop different, without really succeeding.

2.5 stars. Overall, there were good ideas in here, but all the beating around the bush was a little too much for me to stomach.
Profile Image for Emmeline (The Book Herald).
384 reviews45 followers
June 6, 2015
I received this ARC from Skyscape via Netgalley in return for an honest review

Hear ye, hear ye, prepareth thyself for thy new(eth?) obsession!
haha sorry that was weird but seriously, for those who love a paranormal suspense which made me reminiscent of The unbecoming of Mara Dyer then this will make you very happy!

Rating- 4.5 stars

Let's start with the plot!
"Today I'll do what I should have done that night so long ago- I'll redeem what I love. Or die trying"
Aiden has been on the run since he was 12 years old.
Since the night he witnessed a demon rip his mother's heart out of her chest and mark in baby sister.
Ava. His sister is the only thing he cares about, whatever happens to him, he will protect Ava.
However, Aiden is not exactly normal, He has the ability to see ghosts, demons and angels and have a innate knowledge about their world.
Before, Demons could not touch him, recently he has experienced that they can and they're after him.
One night Aiden rescues a girl from being gang-raped, he suddenly has an unquestionable sense that he needs to protect this girl.
It is all made worst when he sees a 7 foot demon following her every step.
Aiden needs help, when he goes searching he is sent to a group named LA Paranormal investigative agency.
There he finds a girl name Kara who wears bitterness an anger like a cloak, however, something unknown unlocks in him the more he stays with her.
A power he cannot define. A destiny out of time.
A gate is opening, and Aiden may not be ready for what will come out.
"Darkness brutal, darkness fair at last repayment for my sin.


No hear me out, we've all read more than our share of paranormal doozies that gave us all a headache. They're always the same right?
Well this one isn't!

Warning- this books has a few scenes of near rape, many moments of gore, and its suspenseful as heck! so fair warning!

Marks how the heck did you come up with this story!?

I enjoyed reading this a lot. Marks just sucks you into her world! Her writing is awesome!

It was so cool to see a female author write a book in a male perspective and not make his thoughts sound like that of a girl, nor make him a hormone-driven teen aged boy. He messes up at times yes, but it is also acknowledged that he had to grow up quickly with his crazy life.

There are shades of a love triangle, however you know who Aiden will like really quickly. Also, i was rooting for her the entire time so I'm happy!

This book is so creepy and suspenseful! Like there are moments where i was shuddering because of the demons and how scary that whole thing was!!! It's really well done, Marks' writing is amazing.

These characters had depth. It made it wonderful to read.

It isn't perfect but it is pretty amazing as it is. That's my honest opinion.

Man, this book and the characters! I'll will be reading the next ones for sure!

Stay awesome!

-The book herald

tweet me @thebookherald
Profile Image for   Luna .
265 reviews16 followers
August 19, 2015
Review Contains Spoilers
Aiden: I must protect Ava! And Choose between Kara and Rebecca! I wanna have sex too, dammit!

Ava: I have to protect Aiden!

Kara: I.. can’t

Rebecca: oh Aiden….

Sid: Don’t do that, Aiden, just don’t!

I’ve been trying to deny it. I told myself we’d have time, that maybe nothing would happen this year.

I wanted to stop reading this novel several time. But my curiosity is a curse. I wanted to know how badly it would end. And it ended badly alright.

The story at first did not seem bad actually, but 15% through it and it was already going downhill pretty fast.

So the story is about a young man who can see demons and know how people feel. Everyone he meets seems to be directly connected to him. As if everyone’s life depends only on his. He is basically the center of the world, as he makes them move as he wishes. Little arrogant jerk.
The lives of his crushes revolve around him. They dream of him. They draw him THEY are about him. Everything seems connected to him.

we are connected, Aide. Somehow. I don’t know how.

Nothing is left unsullied. Aiden’s existence disturbs not the world he lives in but the novel itself. The plot is just so damaged by his presence that I couldn’t take it seriously. He was too whiny, too sensitive, too annoying.


What I really disliked is the twist of things. How things were explained. Aiden is not only the son of a prophet, but he is apparently the savior of the world; and in order to save the world he has to jump a girl, a girl who is pretty damaged and can’t handle having sex.

Basically the plot is dull. The characters move like puppets. There are no real conversations. What I’m reading are random scenes: not worked out, not proofread, not realistic enough, not attractive.
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,084 reviews215 followers
November 11, 2018
I didn't like the cliffhanger.

Darkness Brutal was an interesting introduction into The Dark Cycle series. In it, you will meet Aiden. When he was younger he saw something tragic happen: his mother's death. She died from a demon.. and for some reason he thinks it's back. Not for him, but for his little sister Ava. So they are on the run and he is constantly in protection mode when it comes to her.

Then there's Kara. She was an interesting romantic interest.. because there were hints about a love triangle in this one. I hate those but this one was just so confusing. I honestly didn't really care who he ended up with.. I just wanted to know more about this whole demon thing and it's interest with his family.

Other than that, it was a little hard to get into. I think it took me maybe a couple of chapters, or ten to get into it. I was just constantly confused or kept getting so many questions for what was happening in this book. I got little answers here and there and I'm interested enough to dive into the next book but I want some more answers! I also really want this to pick up a bit and be less confusing.
Profile Image for Anne Bollmann (Annelise Lestrange).
623 reviews72 followers
March 11, 2016
Review originally posted on The Book Adventures of Annelise Lestrange :)

I received this copy from YA Bound Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. Let's go :D

The Story

Normal is a word that doesn’t exist on Aidan O’Linn’s dictionary. Normal was never a part of his life, as the now orphan son of a dark witch and big brother to a little girl marked by demons. Aidan himself was never normal himself, as he always saw much more than he should.

And if you think that seeing ghosts, spirits, demons and angels isn’t bad enough, let me tell you that Aidan can also touch them all on the other world in which they habit.

Taking this all into consideration, you could never say that Aidan’s life is easy, but it always gets worse near Ava’s birthday. Every three years since his sister’s third birthday, her own powers get out of control and awful things happen. But this year, Aidan is sure that he can stop her, that he can help Ava to control the turmoil that is coming.

And if what it takes to keep Ava safe is to live in a house with seven strangers, all equipped with weird abilities as Aidan’s, and to be constantly divided by the need to safe two very different girls from similar problems, then so be it.

You know, assuming that Kara and Rebecca won’t take his sanity away.

The Analysis
Just remembering that those were my impressions and opinion as a reader :)

As soon as I read the Goodreads’ blurb for this book, I knew I had to read it. I knew I’d fall in love with Aidan and his world. And I did <3 Aidan was such a gentleman all the time! Really, how can someone be an ass and still be cool?? Another bookish boyfriend added to my list, haha! My only real problem with this book was its oh-so slow pace. I felt like I’d read and read and I still wouldn’t get anywhere near any answer, just like poor Aidan. I know that, as a first book to a series with a partial dystopian world, tons of explanations were necessary, but I still think that we could take off something like 100 pages. And that is the only flaw on this marvelous 4 stars book <3

The narrative style was first person styled and always from Aidan’s perspective. This is not my favorite kind, but oh boy, how refreshing it was to see the YA world through the eyes of a boy! I think I was in sore need of a change of scenarios in YA books, haha! Also, the first person worked well for this narrative and to keep the mysteries of the plot. I loved Aidan despite not really connecting with him, so I can’t complain about the narrative, haha! Moreover, I have a feeling that I’ll fall even harder for this series in book two, as I already saw that Aidan will share the spotlight as narrator :D So far, only Rebecca’s point of view was revealed, but I’m only on chapter 8 as I write this review. What do I know, right? Hahaha!

The plot was brilliant. It was complex, hard and very well executed. Marks could have been less wordy on many parts, but her writing was so good and fluid that I didn’t got tired of the book even at its best dragging points, haha! I literally didn’t know on who I could trust and, sometimes, I even doubted Aidan, our cute narrator. This was such a marvelous experience!

The characters are the strongest point on this book. I really want to attack hug Aidan. He is so blasé about life and his own powers, but without being snob about it, you know? He just doesn’t think it is that big of a deal, haha! Come on, everybody can exorcize a demon just by looking at its eyes and praying. Can’t you?! By the way, Aidan is a very selfless person in general. His life revolves around Ava and his mission to protect her. He’s a true guardian, as he doesn’t give a damn to what happens with himself, as long as Ava is okay. It is beautiful <3

I liked almost all characters, to be honest. In construction matters, they all are living art. I love real and down to earth characters, specially in YA novels. We are in need of more real people in this genre, haha! My favorite side characters would be Connor, Fingers and Rebecca. We have a ~kind of~ amorous triangle involving Aidan, Rebecca and Kara, by the way. I’m completely team Rebecca, so I don’t like Kara on a woman level? Hahaha!

Okay, I won’t be that unfair. Kara is an awesome girl and she seriously kicks asses in this book. I just was bothered by how much she could screw something when she did. Karas is not the kind of person that makes small mistakes. She always destroys the whole thing, haha! And Rebecca barely had a relevant part on this book – something that I already feel that is changing on the second book – for me to say that she was a heroine. I just hit it off with her and didn’t with Kara :)

I also need to comment on Sid. I have read a whole book and I still haven’t decide whether this guys is good or bad news. Seriously, I’m in love with this perspective, with the not knowing <3

Another strong point in this book is how Marks treated religious elements: as elements. It may sound stupid or even a bit odd, but I hate books that disguise the author’s religious beliefs and try to indoctrinate the reader between the lines. Marks didn’t do such a thing, just played with elements from the Christian religion and created something wonderful. Like what Supernatural does, you know? Seriously, Marks rocked!

And can we please take a moment to appreciate this wonderful and perfect cover? Seriously, it took my breath away <3

Overall, if you enjoy supernatural/paranormal books, hot male protagonists, time-travelling and teen republics, this book is for you!

That’s it, thank you for reading! Also, thanks once again to YA Bound Book Tours for providing me with both Darkness Brutal and Darkness Fair ebook copies! :D
Profile Image for Beth.
3,126 reviews261 followers
June 19, 2015
Darkness Brutal is a dark and edgy, young adult, urban fantasy.

Aidan is trying to save his sister anyway he can, even if it means loosing his own life. Homeless, battling the evil looking to take his young sister, he finds a teen group of ghost hunters that take him in. It seems to good to be true, the others ghost hunters share similar abilities to route out paranormals.

The forces of good and bad will definitely collide with many caught in the crossfire.

This is not a story for the light hearted reader. Aidan's and his sister's situations are dire. The world they reside in is bleak and dark and most of all evil is just that really evil with some major creep factor going on.

This is a great story with little time to rest between perilous situations, Marks still manages to create characters with true personas.

I really enjoyed sharing in Aidian's and the other character's journey. was a terrifyingly twisted tale of light and dark that will stick with you long after this story end.

I received this ARC copy of Darkness Brutal from Amazon Publishing - Skyscape in exchange for a honest review. This book is set for publication July 1, 2015.

Written by: Rachel A. Marks
Series: The Dark Cycle
Sequence in Series: Book 1
Paperback: 424 pages
Publisher: Skyscape
Publication Date: July 1, 2015
Rating: 4 Stars
ISBN-10: 1477830790
ISBN-13: 978-1477830796
Genre: Teen | Urban Fantasy
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

For Reviews and More Check out: http://tometender.blogspot.com

Profile Image for Ellen Gail.
833 reviews375 followers
June 30, 2015
Darkness Brutal: a review in pictures
(because I am lazy, and also tired because this damn book kept me up past my bedtime!)

Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,402 reviews988 followers
July 27, 2015
I LOVED this one. Thanks to Khan for bringing it to my attention.

Darkness Brutal is a Young Adult urban fantasy story that has some really terrific and imaginative world building, a cast of eclectic characters all of whom were well drawn and emotionally connectable and a really rocketing plot with monsters and magical mayhem galore.

There were a couple of things that made this so addictive for me - first the very low key focus on romance, I often find that when there is too much "boy meets girl and spends half the book gazing into her eyes" I grow bored but Rachel Marks has walked the line here brilliantly. Secondly the world building is some of the most ingenious and vivid I have seen for a while within this genre - the author gives you a real feel for the things that hover beneath the surface of the world we know, it is superbly plotted and very compelling.

The writing is punchy and darkly humerous, Ms Marks developing the relationship between her characters and the world they live in, and by extension the reader's relationship with them, in a really gripping way - while you are reading it you believe every word. Plenty of action, offset with some more emotional moments manage to endlessly engage you as a reader and as things head into a very traumatic and intuitive finale (Gosh do I want the next book now!) you will be in it all the way.

Also really enjoyed how some myth and biblical legend was woven into the narrative, giving it a kind of a grounding and for me it was the ensemble cast and the intricacies of plot detail that made this so fantastic.

Highly Recommended for YA fans of all ages.

Happy Reading Folks!
Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
663 reviews90 followers
August 13, 2019
I listened to the audible version of this, and first off think the narrator did a pretty entertaining job! He is not so great at female voices but it had me cracking up when Ava (an 11 year old girl) was speaking!

So, what is the book about? Aidan is an orphaned teen, with a sister in foster care...and he ends up being essentially the chosen one, the most powerful, etc, and the sister is..... part of the mystery

Honestly it's a trope that's been beaten to death but I enjoyed watching Aiden come off the streets and into the L.A. Paranormal house, where he starts learning about who he is and what he is capable of.

The story gets biblical and it may just end up being all out angels vs demons by the end of the trilogy.

So I really liked the premise. The book seemed verrrrrry long though and a lot of it was spent with Aidan fussing between two girls, and lord knows I hate love triangles. It thankfully didn't take that route but I got a little annoyed. The Aidan and Ava relationship was also a little annoying, I won't pretend to know much about 11 year old girls but I didn't like how they kept so much critical information from each other. Ava is obvioualy mature far beyond her age and a lot of it seemed like miscommunication.

On that note....come on Aidan seriously grow up, everything being "too much" and "crazy right now" and "just can't" ... Those aren't excuses to shut out the people you're dragging into this pursuit😂

Anyway. I still give it 3 stars for a great premise and the whole thing potentially getting better. Also OMG cliffhanger alert!
Profile Image for Danielle Cloakey.
62 reviews9 followers
June 16, 2015
I got this as a Kindle First book after looking over the other three choices and deciding on this one. I am so glad I did! I am a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and I am also a big fan of Supernatural, and Darkness Brutal reminded me so much of those two shows. I had no idea what I was in for when I started reading this book. It delighted me to no end. The editing was superb, only minimal mistakes. I wanted this book to last me more than books usually do (I am an avid reader and writer too) so I took my time with this. A few parts made me super excited and I actually was giggling with glee at the major plot twist. If you are a fan of Supernatural, you will adore this book. The only downside to reading it is that this is the first book in a trilogy and the second book won't be out until early next year!
Profile Image for Dani.
417 reviews177 followers
June 25, 2015
An imaginative, engaging urban fantasy. The fantastic world, overlaid over the familiar, is interesting, different, and disturbing, as is the history and mythology behind it. Not a huge fan of the love triangle in this novel as it seems rather forced, but it doesn't occupy a large part of the story, and I'm interested in knowing the reasons behind why it exists. Really liked the sibling relationship between Aidan and Ava (reminds me a bit of River & Simon Tam), and I am looking forward to more of their story in Darkness Fair.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,277 reviews42 followers
November 7, 2018
Aiden has some supernatural powers that he has kept hidden for most of his life since his mother was brutally murdered by a demon. He is living on the streets and trying to keep an eye on his 11-year-old sister, Ava, who he believes the demons are after. Desperate for help, he finds himself joining a group of paranormal investigators. He begins to learn more about his powers but feels manipulated by everyone around him (with good reason). His only goal is to save Ava but it turns out that fate might have a bigger purpose in store for him as a knight in the battle against evil.

It took me several chapters to get into this story and I'll also admit to being confused most of the time while Aiden slowly unravels the mystery of his origins, the powers he has, and the connection he has to the other characters. I was especially confused about his connections to Rebecca and Kara, and still am to some extent. Now that the world building is complete and there is a clear direction that the plot is going to take, I feel better and will continue the series. As I told the buddy I am reading this series with, "it's all weird and shit, but I'll buy it for now".
Profile Image for Elisa.
139 reviews7 followers
June 7, 2015

If I could banish this book back from wherever hell it came from I would: it's such a terrible ridiculous mumbo-jumbo. They should tell the author to remove the seal of bad writing, the curse of laughable characters and the jinx of horrible story lines, and then maybe it could be readable.

I wish I could take back the time I spent reading it but unfortunately it's trapped in a vortex and can never be recovered.

Profile Image for Jenn.
1,698 reviews286 followers
November 27, 2018
Umm... this was kind of a mess. So we have Aidan, a homeless teenager who can see demons and speak about 6 languages. When he was younger, he watched a demon kill his mother and mark his sister. Now he's on a mission to keep his sister safe. The problem is, the demon's want her and they are getting closer to her. On top of that, he teams up with this group of "ghost hunter" type characters who all have paranormal gifts themselves. Their leader, Sid, believes that Aidan is the key to saving the world but he just needs to unlock his power. You know how Sid wants to do that? Through sex. Yup, you read that right. Sid convinces another one of their group, messed up Kara, to seduce Aidan and get him to have sex with her. That is so messed up on so many levels. But that pretty much sums up this book - messed up.

Aside from a grown up pretty much whoring out a teenage girl (this actually made me very mad), the author then weighed down the book with biblical references that just felt out of place and really took me out of the book. This was just some of the many reasons why I couldn't connect with the characters and because I couldn't connect with any of them, I found that I didn't care when things happened to them. Add this to the jumbled set up, and I was just confused a majority of the time.

Also, what was with the "love triangle"? I put that in quotations because this was one of the most ridiculous love triangle set ups I've ever read. First, there's Kara- the girl who's trying to sleep with Aidan but yet she also feels something more for him and she has since the first time they met when she just kissed him in a club. Then there's Rebecca - the girl Aidan saves from a potential gang rape scenario and suddenly they can't stop thinking about each other. There was just instalove all over the place.

Actually, the more I write in this review, the more I realize I didn't like.

I own all three of them so I'm going to read them. I just hope there's more demons because at least they were interesting.
Profile Image for BookLoversLife.
1,801 reviews9 followers
February 2, 2016
What an incredible unique and entertaining read.

All Aidan wants to do is keep his half sister Ava safe, and keep the demons from knowing that he sees them. Ava has been passed from foster home to foster home and Aidan is waiting till he is of age and has a safe place before he can take her. But Ava has been marked and is reaching the age when her powers will come and the demons are intent on claiming her. Aidan needs help and fast, so he goes to some people calling themselves the LA Paranormal. These people claim to help with the strange and upon seeing Aidan, they explain that they aren't all they seem and Aidan may be the one they have been waiting for.

That's all I'm going to say about the synopsis because I don't want to spoil it. The only other thing I'm going to say about the plot is that it's fast paced and gripping and the world the author created is amazing. There were some unique parts which really impressed me!!

Character wise, Aidan is a flawed hero, which is always a good thing. He has powers that he tries to hide since he saw his mum murdered by a demon. He knows that if the demons know he can see them, his life will be over. I admired the way he was so protective of Ava and how much of a normal boy he is. So often the heroes of books are all ones with big egos but not Aidan!!

Kara is the love interest (well one of them anyway). She is one of the LA Paranormal gang. She is such a broken character but you know that there's more than meets the eye. She is one tough cookie and whilst I liked her, I didn't think much of the romance between them. It felt like they would of been better off as friends. There is also another love interest for Aidan, whom I really liked, though I loathe a love triangle!!! It really and truly puts me off a book!

Anyway, in all this is an engaging and entertaining read. The audio is over 13hrs long but felt shorter. There is much to like about this and I'm sure the rest in the series is going to be just as good. I'm looking forward to more from this world and author.

Will Damron did a great job with the narration. His tones for the demons was really creepy!! He was able to make each character distinguishable and gave a good performance.

*I received a copy of this for review. This in no way affects my thoughts.*
Profile Image for Kristen Jett.
Author 1 book39 followers
June 13, 2015
I'm honestly not sure I could be MORE pleased with this book. Had the sequel been out, I'd have read it immediately. IMMEDIATELY.

What if you saw all the dangers lurking in the everyday world? And if to protect your remaining family, you had to try to pretend you couldn't? Aidan's been on the run - but while most runaways are just running from a dark past, he's running from something even darker. Deadlier. Demons. The ones who killed his mother - and want his sister.

I'm a sucker for a paranormal YA - especially where someone is hunting demons. DARKNESS BRUTAL brings an entirely different take to a genre you may have thought you knew. This certainly isn't something you've seen on Supernatural before. Witchcraft. Demons. Secrets. Hidden pasts.

As the name implies, darkness is an overlying element of this plot, layered with depth, complexity, and adventure. Dark plot. Dark events. Dark characters. The characters are complex - and it seems like all of them have something they're not telling.

I highly recommend DARKNESS BRUTAL, especially to fans of paranormal fiction and urban fantasy - of all ages. I gasped, squealed, and raved while reading this. Simply put, this is a book you won't want to put down.
Profile Image for Kat Heckenbach.
Author 33 books228 followers
November 17, 2015
I've no doubt this is going to be a hit in the YA reader community. Romance, magic, demons, and a voice that suits the genre to a T. This is the first of a series, and -- yay! -- it actually has its own story arc, rather than feeling like an extended introduction (one of my pet peeves). The writing is strong and I very much liked the main character--a male protagonist, which this genre needs more of! The supernatural elements are well thought-out, giving a rich background (although at times the explanations of the backstory slowed the story down a bit), and I loved that there were unexpected twists that added layers to the story in regards to those elements. Definitely a series I will continue and recommend to my fellow YA fiction readers.

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My YA fantasy series:
book 1
Finding Angel (Toch Island Chronicles, #1) by Kat Heckenbach
book 2
Seeking Unseen (Toch Island Chronicles, #2) by Kat Heckenbach
Profile Image for Colleen.
956 reviews19 followers
May 8, 2017
I'm not having much luck with the Kindle firsts. This was marginally better than some of the others I've read, but it still didn't quite live up to what it wanted to be.

Aidan is a decently drawn character, I just don't find teenagers particularly interesting protagonists. The love triangle and we-must-have-sex-to-save-everyone is pretty ridiculous. I find Kara amusing, she single handedly bumped my 2-star rating to 3.

The plot relies too heavily on characters withholding information from each other and, by extension, the reader. That feels realistic for the teenagers, but Sid seems to dole out information in bits and pieces at random intervals (which to me feels like sloppy writing because it is so obviously "for the narrative"). Also he is incredibly frustrating with his "helpfulness" and slightly creepy with his "quasi-pedophile" vibe.
Profile Image for Cathy Ryan.
1,148 reviews64 followers
July 27, 2015
4.5 stars

Seventeen year old Aidan O’Linn has the ability to see the spiritual world, the ghosts, demons and angels which inhabit it. Since the night his young sister, Ava, was marked by a demon, his sole purpose has been to protect her from being claimed by the darkness. The demons want her and nothing will stop them. With their mother dead and Ava in foster care, Aidan is trying to stay under the radar, living on the street and keeping his strange abilities secret. He sometimes works for eccentric and wealthy club owner, Eric, who collects artefacts. Aidan can translate the ancient inscriptions and tell if the objects are genuine by their energy.

Demon activity is beginning to escalate as Ava’s 12th birthday approaches. Since that first time when she was three, the demon has tried to claim Ava every subsequent three years and Aidan is despairing of the situation. He is given the number of someone who helps troubled young people who also have extraordinary gifts. Sid, the mysterious mentor, has several other teenagers living under his protection. Together they comprise LA Paranormal, a reality show fighting demons and ghosts. Keeping the extent of his abilities, and particularly Ava’s, secret from Sid and the rest of his house mates, he joins the group.

The story is told from Aidan’s point of view, in the present and during the flashbacks to his childhood. I liked Aidan and the way he was portrayed as a more mature teen, not driven by raging hormones. Probably due to life he lead up to this point. He had the best of intentions, with regard to caring for his sister and the two troubled girls in the group, but his and others’ reluctance to share their pasts and secrets while wanting everyone else to be honest, was sometimes a little irritating. Aidan developed well though, and found out more about himself, his family and his powers as the story progressed.

The supporting characters were interesting and hopefully will be fleshed out more as the series continues. The integrating witchcraft, biblical and demonology themes worked well alongside great storytelling and plot. It has all the ingredients for a successful young adult urban fantasy and one that would also appeal to a wider age range, if paranormal and/or urban fantasy is your thing. Good pacing with plenty of tension and intrigue and the ending leaves enough ambiguities for book two. Excellent narration by Will Damron, the tone and characterisation just right. I especially loved Aidan’s ‘voice’.
Profile Image for Ezi Chinny.
2,517 reviews415 followers
September 6, 2015
I was really disappointed with this one. This novel featured two orphans, young man Aidan O’Linn who can see demons from other realms and his little sister Ava. They didn’t know much about their family lineage, but they knew they came from magic users. In fact, Aidan understands 5-6 languages despite never took any languages in high school including demon languages. His sister Ava can read people’s thoughts and also see bits of the future. Ava is being hunted by demons and Aidan is trying to keep his little sister safe.

Aidan and Ava meet a group called the Paranormal Investigative Agency, and the two young orphans joins them as a sanctuary. This group featured a couple of people with some magic/powers but not to the level of Aidan and Ava. But they used their power for monetary gain, kind of fleecing people who think their house is haunted or want to contact a loved one.

Aidan makes the acquaintance of two girls, Kara and Rebecca. Then a lot of time is spent figuring out who was actually supposed to be the one he should be with and the one that will bring about his down fall. Meanwhile Aidan is trying stay one step ahead of the demons bent on getting Ava and not revealing his full powers to the PIA people.

There was a lot of biblical references in this book but it was just boring and too much stuff going on. I couldn’t connect to the storyline or the characters. By the time the author chose to reveal stuff about Ava, Kara or even Aidan, I didn’t care anymore because I just couldn’t get with the plot at this point.

It looked interesting on the blurb but I wish I had avoided this one.
Profile Image for L.B..
Author 29 books527 followers
March 18, 2016
An interesting story with lots of mystery and surprises. A bit on the younger side of YA though some blush-inducingly suggestive scenes. I enjoyed the refreshing male POV of Aiden and appreciated the combination of action during his run-ins with various demons that contrasted beautifully with his deep and caring soul. All he wants is to protect his sister Ava from the Darkness of the demon world, which seems inexplicably insistent on grabbing her on her birthday. But how can he do that when he doesn't really know how he fits into everything or why he can see demons in the first place? It's especially difficult with Ava resisting, and when Aiden's thrown into an odd group of kids in the LA Paranormal agency, who along with their own gifts, seem to weave in with secrets of their own. The allusions to various historical and linguistic aspects of religion made for an impressive story and I enjoyed being pulled into Aiden's self-discovery, his constant battles with his stubborn sibling, and his conflicting feelings over the various seductive girls, standoffish guys and manipulative mentor of his new home. An interesting paranormal YA read; I'm eager to read book 2.
Profile Image for Briar Mitchell.
Author 32 books18 followers
May 17, 2016
I have to say that I did enjoy Rachel's book, Darkness Brutal. At first, I thought I might be put off about the language in the book (part of the up front disclaimer) but, it is definitely part of the character and totally works within the framework of the story.

As I got into the book, my first impression was how much this reminded me of the movie "Constantine" - particularly the description of the demons, the bar, the people haunting the bar, the way the main character sees demons and particular attributes of people around him (Aidan O'linn).

This did not bother me, or distract from the fun way the writing carries one along. I did like many of the secondary characters that drift in and out of the story. Let me put it this way...this story stands on its own...if you did like Constantine...you will certainly enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Harsha.
86 reviews2 followers
June 4, 2015
Too many story lines without any sense. The first few chapters were quite interesting, but by the time I read half the book, I was very frustrated with the story and uninformative dialogues. The parent characters did not appeal to me at all. Especially the mother (I guess it could be translated as a constructive warning against teen pregnancy). Not to mention, this story did not deserve such a lengthy book (Could've wrapped it up in 250).
Profile Image for Laiceps.
19 reviews7 followers
May 1, 2016
I know we probably shouldn't leave reviews until we've read the actual book, but I HAVE read the first chapter and it's brilliant.
It really grabs you and pulls you right into the action. If you go to the author's blog you can read it. There's also a club scene that's great too.

Agh, still have over a month to wait.
Profile Image for Amanda Baird.
4 reviews
June 6, 2015
A good read

I was surprised by how well written this book is. It has a good flow, a feeling of realism, and was very entertaining. I would definitely recommend it to fans of young adult supernatural fiction.
Profile Image for Sterling.
437 reviews32 followers
February 22, 2017
I would actually give this 4.5 stars. I really liked this book. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because their where a few times I was pulled out of the story because of the way a transition took place. I will definitely be reading the rest of this series.
Profile Image for Kait Nolan.
Author 87 books1,057 followers
April 12, 2017
Really well done. It was like The Mortal Instruments meets Supernatural (with a very strong Dean vibe--minus the love of pie).
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