Pros: Good vs. evil is a good basic structure
Cons: Most of the characters
Rating: 2 out of 5
In Gilliam Ness’s The Dark Rift (The Last Artifact Trilogy Book 1), the world may well end for all of the good people on the planet Earth. Gabriel and Natasha, two special people who have been kept separate all their lives by the people they trust, need to return a great artifact, the Cube of Compostela, in order to prevent the calamity, and in order to lift humanity up to a new spiritual level.
The two leads annoy me, particularly as a fated romantic coupling. Both have hugely stereotyped views of romance and partnering that even ends up in a brief ‘nice guys vs. jerks’ lecture at one point. I find the pair, Gabriel and Natasha, to have almost zero chemistry between them, which makes it difficult to take the plot seriously, because that chemistry is supposed to be the backbone of the tale. It doesn’t help that Natasha is portrayed as a weirdly naive child-like woman who pouts a lot (I got to a point where if she’d pouted one more time I would have ditched reading the book). She’s supposed to be an adult and a professional, and I think that as a character I’m supposed to like her. All the ‘bad boy’ treasure-hunter vibe Gabriel started with seems to have washed away in the rain, leaving him just kind of ordinary. They both seem to have a child’s understanding of romantic relationships.
The Bishop who helps Gabriel and Natasha might as well be Santa Claus. He’s very jolly, right up to and including a brief:
“Right you are, my child,” … with an adoring wink.
There’s a weird disparity in here between what people believe in and what they don’t. Gabriel has been made to understand that there are actual demons in the world, and yet the idea that a single-piece artifact might glow without needing an obvious power source trips him up.
With better pacing and characters this could have been a decent treasure-hunting conspiracy-uncovering book. Almost all our main characters do is follow instructions from one helper character to the next. They need to be more proactive themselves; they need greater agency once the cube comes into play.
NOTE: Book provided free for review by publisher.