Dr. Balthasar Hearne and his wife Telmaine Hearne are Darkborn, a blind people who are cursed to die if they come into contact with light, and navigate via sonar, which they call “sonning.” Their roughly Victorian-era world is populated half by their own people, and half by the Lightborn, who are vulnerable to darkness in the same way the Darkborn are to light. One night Tercelle Amberley, a woman Balthasar once knew, comes to him about to give birth – and her children, incredibly, are born sighted. Meanwhile, Telmaine meets the battle-scarred, traumatized wizard Ishmael de Studier, and finds for the first time that she may have met someone from whom she can’t hide her darkest secret – that she is a powerful wizard, something shunned in Darkborn society.
The setting of the book was interesting, particularly the strange ways the Darkborn and Lightborn find to communicate. I appreciated that Telmaine, who in this sort of story would usually end up staying at home cheerleading, was by far the most active of the main characters, and the driving force of the action for most of the last part of the book.
I liked the idea of a race of people who using sonar, but had a lot of issues with the execution, when Sinclair made it just a little bit too much like sight. For instance, there’s a scene where one character sonns another character’s face “framed in the open window.” …what, exactly, are all these blind people likely to be framing? It’s nitpicky, yeah, but little details like that make or break a book’s ability to convince you of its world’s reality. I was never convinced of this one.
The characterization suffers a similar problem with consistency – except for me, this one is much worse. Cut for a spoiler: Continue reading Darkborn, by Alison Sinclair