A review by waywardskyril
Five Lords of Dusk by F. Malbeck

adventurous hopeful mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


There's so much to say about this book, it's difficult to put my thoughts in order to find a starting point. I'm so sad Five Lords of Dusk is practically undiscovered because there's so much magnificence here, and while there were a couple of things that could have been rearranged or cleaned up a bit, this was a spectacular, magical, lyrically-written fantasy with vibrant, queer characters, a distinctly-crafted world, and a heady plot with so many twists and moving pieces! While I don't think every reader would love it, there is absolutely an audience for this equisite novel, and I'm among them.

"You disturb my Empire just by existing and there is much I could do to correct that. This is not a land where the Blooded can just roam free, without consequence."

First, I have to discuss the worldbuilding here, which, while a bit overwhelming in the prologue and first chapter or two, soon becomes manageable and is rich from start to finish. It's amazing to me how much thought and care clearly went in to shaping this world, not only from the landscape, but to the trades people work in in various regions, to styles of hair and wardrobe worn, to types of wine, where they're made, and why one kind is rarer than another. It's a delicious, transporting world that took me to another place everytime I read it, and it never stopped being extraordinary all the way through to the end. One usually only finds this type of care in high fantasy, so to find it here, quietly, in a brave, gorgeous, queer book was a rare gift that NEEDS more appreciation than I can give it.

Thunder cracked through the sky. Dorian's head whipped up in alarm, then they noticed Shye's face had gone dark and cold, his eyes burning like glacial moons. Lightning split the gathering clouds and a storm broke from nowhere over Ashridge Below, spilling chilling frostfall rain down on them.

In this creamy, delicious, magical world made of glass and pale grass and brightly-colored quartz and jewel is a scarred and damaged kingdom. This kingdom has only, now, its human prince with his stolen crown, where once were four fae-like rulers who passed the crown with the change of each season. Since then, these fae-like people, the Dusk Blooded, have been oppressed more and more, pushed from the kingdom and into hiding. Now, this kingdom is on the precipice of forcing out the Dusk Blooded forever, right as our main character's, Shye's, storm powers awaken. With more Dusk Blood than anyone has seen in generations, he feels his wind calling him to come out of hiding and go back to this kingdom right as the human prince is preparing to be crowned king.
This is only the broadest of sweeps of the lush plot in Five Lords of Dusk and only mentions two of the many moving parts - the prince and Shye. There so many more characters, pushing for their own desired outcome, all moving against one another while mysteries and secrets come out along the way - and Shye has increasing feelings for the very person who brought him there, the nonbinary, flamboyant Hunter Dorian.

Dorian ignored the pleased hum that followed from the Stormborn's mouth. They didn't have much experience with yearning for things beyond the freedom to be as they pleased and to hunt as the pleased, and they were too aware of the dangers of wanting to entertain any sign from Shye that incited them to want at all.

The romance between Dorian and Shye wasn't the focal point of this book, with so much going on with the plot, but it was still just as important and held just as much feeling and promise, if not more. These two characters were instantly magnetized to each other, but this wasn't a case of insta-love, and I found the growing chemistry, while subtle-ish, to be ideal with enough time for feelings to emerge without drawing out too much, especially amongst all the plot of politics, betrayal, and schemes. They were soft for each other, and they suited each other, and I loved them as a pair, different, but suited to each other like the clouds and the wind.
Their story amidst everything else really gave heart to the book and added the perfect addition of sweetness to a savory meal.

While there were a handful of things that could have been clarified, such the occasional turn of phrase I had to re-read to understand, overall, this was a unique and exceptional experience. I could go on about everything I've already touched on and more, at LENGTH. It's incredibly impressive for a debut novel. Five Lords of Dusk is 100% a hidden gem that needs more eyes on it. I'm lucky I found it and decided, one day, to read it, and I can't recommend it enough to anyone who thinks they even MIGHT enjoy the flavors I described here. This is special, and I hope more people have the chance to discover it.
Me, personally? I'm going to read any other books this author puts out, especially hoping for more tastes of this world. They have an amazing mind, and I love the worlds they can create.