ONE DARK WINDOW
BY Rachel Gillig
Elspeth needs a monster. The monster might be her.
Elspeth Spindle needs more than luck to stay safe in the eerie, mist-locked kingdom of Blunder—she needs a monster. She calls him the Nightmare, an ancient, mercurial spirit trapped in her head. He protects her. He keeps her secrets.
But nothing comes for free, especially magic.
When Elspeth meets a mysterious highwayman on the forest road, her life takes a drastic turn. Thrust into a world of shadow and deception, she joins a dangerous quest to cure Blunder from the dark magic infecting it. And the highwayman? He just so happens to be the King’s nephew, Captain of the most dangerous men in Blunder…and guilty of high treason.
Together they must gather twelve Providence Cards—the keys to the cure. But as the stakes heighten and their undeniable attraction intensifies, Elspeth is forced to face her darkest secret yet: the Nightmare is slowly taking over her mind. And she might not be able to stop him.
One Dark Window is a dark and gothic fantasy novel inspired by “The Highwayman.” It’s a haunting story that entails magical bargains, begrudging allies and mysterious magic.
Elspeth has a monster living in her head. Whether he’s an actual monster though has yet to be determined. I enjoyed the balance between the two and how they interacted with one another. The story of the Nightmare is slowly unwoven alongside the highwaymen trying to undo the mistakes of the past. It’s fiction and folklore finally being unraveled to give way to the truth.
Elspeth herself was a woman who knew her own mind. Minus the whole Nightmare part. She knew how society viewed women and was willing to play the game to stay invisible and keep her secrets from being discovered. It’s not until she finds her find her little found family that we see her really open up and start to fight for the life she really wanted.
I love a good fake dating trope and Gillig delivers. Our love interest Ravyn Yew, like Elspeth, is hiding secrets. He wears a carefully crafted mask of stone and indifference while secretly plotting against the king. It’s only in the comfort of his family and with time Elspeth that you see his soft cinnamon roll self come out. He’s a consent king and I loved their moments together. The tension was perfection and broke at just the right moment. There was a smidge of steam that left me begging for more.
The magic system in this book was so incredibly unique. There were 12 different types of magical cards called “providence cards” that could be wielded by anyone. Each had a specific power and flip side, or cost, to that power. On top of that there is a magical disease that if survived gives the survivor a certain type of magic that varies person to person. All magic comes at a cost though. We also get to see the repercussions of magic which is brought up multiple times throughout the book.
One Dark Window was a beautifully written story told as poetic fairytale. It’s fast paced and keeps you engaged from start to finish. The romance was slow enough to burn but delivers by the end. The ending however is one that leaves you begging for more with a cliffhanger you won’t soon forget.