The Dark: A Division 53 Novel
by E.M. Johnson
Soul Fire Press

"His whole division is secret. Division 53 of Homeland Security, otherwise known as the ASA, or American Security Association."

The main viewpoint character, Satyrna Hennessin, is a twenty year old woman who works for her family grocery store in the small town of Cavington, Minnesota, in 2036. America has undergone some changes, it seems, with a new genetic mutation of the eyes, thus called "the darks" being the new “other” to be feared and hated. Marked by black eyes, they are considered criminals in Cavington. Also new is an organization of “knights,” a homespun militia supplementing the police force, who seem to have it out for the “darks” in particular. Satyrna meets a newly arrived dark man and is irresistibly drawn to him. The trouble is that she has just broken up with one of the head “Knights” who has it in for the same newly arrived competitor. A jealous ex plus an enigmatic dark who pushes her away fills Satyrna with challenges and obstacles.

The plot is involved, taking place over a few weeks in December. Secrets, spies, and subterfuge hamper Satyrna as she attempts to find out the truth about her new boyfriend’s past. Kidnapping, swordfights, and duels are the new norm. Themes touched are prejudice vs. openness, commitment vs. safety, and responsibility vs. rationalization. Characters are unique enough to pique interest, yet universal enough to make Satyrna’s frustrations with her family’s disapproval of her love interests seem familiar. Part of a rather large series, the world-building in this near future novel is not so complex as to preclude comprehension of stand-alone books. Part science fantasy, part young adult-coming of age, perhaps a little vampire slayer too; issues of prejudice and government secrecy are fought by youth while adults remain placid. It is an ageless theme, skillfully retold here.

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