What would life be like if the air we breathe was slowly, consciously, being robbed of oxygen itself?
What if the dark side in all of us could be manipulated by a soulless fiend, converting us into unwilling weapons against our own people?
While Air of Vengeance, the first book in the Windhollows series dealt more with issues of overcoming differences, friendships and family, Darkness Falls is more of an adventure/quest: characters from the first book bent on vanquishing evil and saving friends and family…
Windhollows is an idyllic land populated with fantastical creatures, where its peoples live symbiotically, producing complementary air-like Essenses necessary for life. Its way of life is threatened by a brilliant, twisted genius who vows revenge on the people who rejected him because he was different, whose arsenal of weapons both rob the air people breathe and turns others into creatures whose purpose in life is to destroy the ones they once loved.
As the second book opens, Doctor Molskin, father of Billy, the hero of Volume 1, discovers that the breathable air in parts of Windhollows, is being robbed of some of its essential chemical makeup called Essense. He understands almost immediately that the problem has been created by his former assistant who now calls himself Rip Stinker, a brilliant but twisted soul whose dismissal from the doctor’s Essense labs has caused him to seek revenge against the doctor, his children and all “normal” Windhollows denizens.
Stinker was born a “bare pants,” children lacking Essense and therefore societal outcasts. His revenge has been to rob a group of healthy children from birth of their Essense, including Billy, turning them “bare pants.” More menacing, he has now created another weapon that can transform these same children into misshapen monsters seeking their own revenge for their flawed destiny.
Two stories alternate throughout most of the book. First is the quest to find and destroy Rip Stinker and his evil technology undertaken initially by Dr. Molskin, and eventually by his son Billy along with two friends. The other story is built around Skylar, the sweet, innocent young barepants girl who was the object of Billy’s infatuation in the first book. She and other “bare pants” have been wooed by Rip Stinker’s seductive message of regaining their full Essense but she has her doubts about what this Faustian bargain will yield.
Along the way to Rip Stinker’s castle, Skylar discovers she has a mysterious ability to talk to the wild animals that no one else has. Just as she is reveling in her new powers, she runs afoul of Rip Stinker’s technology that turns her into a monster similar to Stinker himself who now is ruled by a darkness within her that she never knew existed, and she now finds her waging a war within, of light versus the darkness, even as she joins Stinker and his nefarious plans.
How these two quests intersect becomes the race-to-the-finish theme of this admirable middle-grade fantasy novel.