Monday, March 22, 2021

Review: DARK ONE Vol. 1 by Brandon Sanderson


Rating: 1.5/5 stars

As a massive Brandon Sanderson fan, I knew I had to get my hands on whatever new book he comes out with next. Dark One, his latest release, is about Paul who lives on Earth but can see visions of another world called Mirandus, including seeing Nikka, a ghost girl who befriends him. He thinks he's going crazy, but in reality, he's prophesied to become the Dark One in Mirandus. 

I have to admit that I was pretty confused during the whole story. I've always struggled with fantastical graphic novels because there's never enough worldbuilding for the story to make sense, and magic and character motivations are shallow as well. I didn't understand the connection Paul had to Mirandus, or what exactly his dad's role was either. I'm also not sure about his mom's client's role, and that seemed to be pretty important, yet it went right over my head. Paul was from New York yet took so quickly to his role as the Dark One that I just didn't find it believable. I personally feel like we needed a lot more page time getting to know the background of the world and getting to understand Paul's thoughts, which is why I think this story would have been better as a prose novel instead of as a graphic novel. 

I also struggled with this story because I expected this to be very different from what it was. I've seen Brandon mention this story in the past, a spin on "What if Harry Potter was prophesied to be Voldemort instead of the one who defeats Voldemort?" That would be a very different story, he explained, if the boy was prophesied to be the Dark One instead of the Chosen One. So somehow I imagined the story would be set in a more classical fantasy setting, something similar to Mistborn, and we would follow a good young boy as he learns he is to grow up to be an evil ruler and how he comes to grips with that. I thought we'd watch him grow up and slowly give over to the evil even though he didn't want to, something along those lines. But that is not at all what Dark One is about. The modern-day Earth setting threw me off, as did Paul being an adult when he learned about the prophecy and his willingness to accept the prophecy. Plus I'm not sure we even saw a real prophecy, it was more like someone just told him that was his role, and he was like, "Oh, okay." 

This graphic novel isn't actually written by Brandon Sanderson though. As far as I'm aware, he came up with the idea and wrote an outline for it, and then someone else wrote the graphic novel based on his idea. But anything that has Sanderson's name on it I will read, and this is no exception. I just wish it had more of a Sanderson feel to it because his prose novels are so good about fleshing out the world and filling the plot holes. 

The art style in this book reminds me of a classic grungy superhero story. It's set partially in downtown New York City and partially in Mirandus, and each panel has a mostly monochromatic color scheme with thick lines and gruff drawings. It's not my favorite art style—in fact, I really didn't like it—but I do think it matches the tone of the story. 

Dark One is not my favorite thing I've read from Brandon Sanderson. I enjoyed his epic fantasy novels and young adult sci-fi stories more, and I even liked his other graphic novel series, White Sand, better. In fact, I hate to admit this, but this book might be my least favorite story I've read from Sanderson, and I've read almost everything he's written. Ultimately, my expectations were way off so I was left disappointed and confused. I think the concept is cooler than the execution. If you, too, liked the concept but didn't like the execution, check out Brandon's full-length novels, which do a much better job of fleshing out the world and explaining the plot. I will be continuing on with this series, but only because it's Brandon Sanderson; if any other author wrote this book, I wouldn't be reading any future installments. 

I'm really sad I didn't end up loving Dark One, but you can't love every book an author writes, even if it's your favorite author. I think if you like the gritty art style, know what the story is actually about beforehand, and don't set your expectations too high for the plot, you would enjoy this graphic novel. Like I said, it still is a cool idea, just not done at all in the way I thought it would be. 

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