Racing the Dark

August 19, 2009

I spent the last couple of days down sick, but it gave me time to read a loaned copy of Alaya Dawn Johnson‘s Racing the Dark. I can usually tell how much I’m enjoying a book based on how fast I power through it- in this case, if it were not for the needs of sickness and sleep, I would have done it in one day instead of two.

Racing the Dark is a great fantasy set in a world very loosely based on Hawaii, with an interesting premise- there are elemental spirits, and they can be bound, and, they demand sacrifice. You have great spirits of Fire, Water, Wind and Death, and binding the great spirits has allowed the people to live safely and in harmony.

But the spirits do not want to be bound and long for freedom… and recent natural disasters point to the bindings coming undone…

We follow the tale of Lana, a girl marked by the spirits from an early age, who ends up apprenticing under a witch with her own plans, and from there? Nothing but terror and adventure.

Johnson writes very human, very down to earth characters, even with magic, spirits, death and all kinds of otherworldly stuff flying about. The magic has laws of poetic justice more than simply spells, and it never feels safe, almost always being something that will probably mark you for life. The supporting characters are brought back time and time again, weaving in the larger tale, you don’t have a ton of throwaway characters.

I consider this book to be a spiritual descendant of the Wizard of Earthsea stories- in that it’s a fantasy setting about the prices of magic with very human characters, and I’d recommend it if you enjoyed those books as well. Perfect material for either a Sorcerer or Burning Wheel game in a very different setting.



  1. An Earthsea-like book with a female protagonist? I put a library hold on it as soon as I read this post.

    • The next book is out in February as well!

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