Today I'm happy to be part of the blog tour for Jeff Hirsch's The Darkest Path. Thanks Book Nerd Tours for the opportunity!
The Darkest Path by Jeff Hirsch.
Page Count: 336.
Published: September 24, 2013.
Published by: Scholastic Press.
Source: Received an ARC from Scholastic Canada for review for the tour.
USA TODAY bestselling author Jeff Hirsch once again creates a futuristic world with stunning, dramatic realism.
A civil war rages between the Glorious Path--a militant religion based on the teachings of a former US soldier--and what's left of the US government. Fifteen-year-old Callum Roe and his younger brother, James, were captured and forced to convert six years ago. Cal has been working in the Path's dog kennels, and is very close to becoming one of the Path's deadliest secret agents. Then Cal befriends a stray dog named Bear and kills a commander who wants to train him to be a vicious attack dog. This sends Cal and Bear on the run, and sets in motion a series of incredible events that will test Cal's loyalties and end in a fierce battle that the fate of the entire country rests on.
It is clear just from the cover and the synopsis that this is an explosive, wild ride with high tension and higher stakes. The Darkest Path definitely lives up to this promise. A well-crafted novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat, then lull you into a false sense of security only to sneak back up and shock you again. A wild ride, indeed!
The Darkest Path has a great main character but is overall a very plot driven novel. There are many times when it feels like the action is never going to end and the danger just keeps mounting. This novel really took me up, down and around as a reader because the possibility of hope or freedom goes in and out of Callum's hands time after time. While the pace of some scenes did occasionally feel a little slow, I was certainly never bored with the book because the explosive action kept turning up around every corner. It almost felt at times like poor Callum just could not catch a break, but in a way that made both him and the ending of the novel stronger.
Callum is an excellent narrator for The Darkest Path. He is strong, but has his vulnerabilities; determined, but not unwilling to stray from his journey to help others; and he is genuinely a nice guy, one who sees the good in others more than the bad. This is just the kind of narrator I love to root for. Even though he can make some frustrating decisions, these make for a more intense and exciting story, so it's easy enough to forgive him. On top of that, the friendship he forms with the stray dog he finds, Bear, is heartwarming. While no man/animal duo can compare to Patrick Ness' Todd and Manchee to me, they are just who Hirsch's duo reminded me of, which is a testament to what a fine pair they are. Though, like I mentioned before, this is a plot-driven novel, both this partnership and Callum's relationship with his brother, James, play very strong and important roles in the book. It was compelling to watch the way they each affect Callum and how they alter his perspective or his plans accordingly. It was great to see the main character truly be impacted by those around him the way Callum was. It made him an even more interesting and endearing narrator.
One thing that really stood out to me in The Darkest Path was how there is so much destruction and pain throughout the book, but how seamlessly Hirsch weaves in some tender, touching moments to contrast. There is no doubt that this is a war book. There is plenty of shooting and there are lots of explosions. There are characters that are killed before you can connect to them and characters that are killed just as soon as you connect to them. The book also provides an interesting look at how war can change people, which is not always for the better. However, Hirsch excellently places some truly wonderful, hopeful scenes (my favourites being those that show how deep the personal connection between Callum and Bear becomes) that keep this novel from turning into an all-out war-torn pit of despair. His masterful balance is what makes this book, as dark as it can be at times, the interesting and enjoyable read that it is.
In all, I thought this was a strong novel that anyone who loves the darker side of action and adventure will completely adore. It impressed me by being harsh but enjoyable at the same time: a conflict-packed war novel that also has heart.
About Jeff Hirsch:
I live in upstate New York with my wife and a small passel of animals. I used to write plays (I actually have an MFA in it, which is number 8 on US News and World Report's list of the top twenty most useless masters degrees) and now I write books for teens. I've written three, The Eleventh Plague, Magisterium and The Darkest Path.
A few random facts about me:
- I’m incredibly superstitious.
- I believe in baking as the ultimate stress reliever. I mean, sure, I write pretty good books but have you tasted my Triple Chocolate Espresso Cookies?
- I’m deeply obsessed with the work of Joss Whedon, Stephen King, Bryan K. Vaughn, Prince and Tom Waits.
- I started writing because of two women—Susan Cooper, author of the Dark Is Rising Series and Denise Stewart, my 7th grade English teacher.
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