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* - The Whispering Dark




NINTH HOUSE meets THE ATLAS SIX in the enemies-to-lovers dark academia debut everyone's talking about . . .


Delaney Meyers-Petrov is tired of being seen as fragile just because she's Deaf. So, when she's accepted into a prestigious program at Godbole University that trains students to slip between parallel worlds, she's excited for the chance to prove herself. But her semester gets off to a rocky start when she has an awkward encounter with a pretentious upperclassman, Colton Price, whom she has every intention of keeping her distance from.

Colton has been ordered to keep far away from the new girl, and the voices that call to her from the shadows. But the pull of her proves impossible to ignore, and he can't help but be fascinated by her unusual talents.

After a fellow student turns up dead, she and Colton are forced to form a tenuous alliance, plummeting down a rabbit hole of deeply buried university secrets. They soon find themselves up against something old and nameless, an enemy that threatens to tear them - and their forbidden partnership - apart.


Oh boy! It’s not often a read makes me physically angry, but The Whispering Dark is an exception. Buckle in as I start my rant… I mean, review.

We’ll start with a positive first; it’s refreshing to have a deaf main character in a book that’s written by a deaf author. There’s a lot of lived-in experience that feels present within the narrative and it really opened my eyes to certain aspects that I had not thought of before.

I’ll start my negatives off gently and that is with the fantasy and world-building aspects of the book. This isn’t a fantasy with a romance element, it’s very much a romance with a bit of fantasy thrown in. Lane is granted a scholarship to a programme at Godbole University which teaches its students to walk through to parallel worlds. We start off seeing her first lecture where she is given a 3-minute monologue about what is expected in the course and told to get some rest to prepare. Then… that’s it. That’s the only lesson we are a part of – we know they learn Latin and calculus (for some reason), but this is the last time anything that is taught at the Uni is referenced until they have a test to see if they can walk through to another world. In this test Lane just stands in the room, listens for a minute and then slips through easily – it was hard to see what anything they were teaching them had to do with it. The world-building is also non-existent, it's difficult to understand whether this program is a secret, if parallel worlds or demons are a known thing in the world as a whole, how this university exists etc.

The plot is also paper-thin - the first half and the majority of the second half is just setting up the heavily problematic (we’ll get to that, don’t worry) romance between Lane and Colton and the rest is either confusing or predictable with no in-between. There is a mysterious villain of ‘The Apostle’ but after one chapter from his point of view I correctly guessed who it was, so the ending ‘twist’ didn’t have any impact at all.

My main issue with this book is the portrayal of the relationship between Lane and Colton. From the blurb I had assumed that Colton was perhaps an older student and that would have made some of it a little better. However, he’s actually a TA and is responsible for marking her coursework and some of the grades for her Uni course. This heavily shifts the power dynamic between the two of them and makes some of the scenes seem uncomfortably like grooming which I’m sure wasn’t the intention! Added to this, the relationship is abusive, controlling and manipulative and nowhere in the narrative is this ever pointed out as a bad thing.

I’ll give you a spoiler-free example of what I mean – Lane is worried she will fail her course, so Colton seeks her out while she’s vulnerable and crying in the library to offer to provide her private tuition. She says she’ll think about it and comes back to him to accept his offer whilst one of his peers is in the room. He then says he doesn’t know what she’s talking about, puts her down and throws her out of his office. He then comes back to her to say that he will do it, but they shouldn’t tell anyone about it – ‘the fewer people who know the better’ (you see what I mean about the grooming thing now?). He then sets a condition for the favour that was his idea in the first place and says he’ll only do it if she paints something for him, she asks where and he says at his house, in the evening, after class!

Nowhere in the narrative is this presented as a sign of a bad relationship, in fact Lane apologises twice during the example I just gave! Colton is given excuses such as a bad childhood, traumatic event etc but this doesn’t excuse his behaviour at all. I think this romanticising of an abusive, controlling and manipulative relationship is unacceptable in 2022 and is really dangerous for a young adult audience in particular. I said to my partner that the only way I’d give this book more than one star was if Lane drop-kicked Colton off a volcano so perhaps this review does have one spoiler in it!

Overall, The Whispering Dark is fantasy with no world building and a paper-thin plot which romanticises a heavily problematic and dangerous relationship to its young adult audience. Thank you to NetGalley & Orion Publishing Group – Gollancz for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for a (very) honest review.


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