The Darkest Bloom is a layered fantasy build on several interesting and original concepts. The role of scent as such a dominant sense was interesting, and how Aramtesh was build around as well, but at times it felt like it was lacking the complexity that other parts of it had.
As the first book of a duology set in a secondary fantasy world, the world building is fairly solid. The path that the two main characters follow to achieve their quest of saving the Crown Prince Nisai lends itself well to exploring the different parts of Aramtesh. I would have appreciated a map here, because I admit that it was a little difficult to visualise the country as a whole, but each province that they visited didn't just feel like a cookie cutter copy of the first one that we were shown. I also liked the idea of the Council made up of the Emperor's wives, one from each province, I hope that this gets built on because I think it's an interesting concept.
Some of the language felt a little bit try-hard, terms like starwheel turns and moons. This may just be a personal issue, but I feel like this kind of takes me away from the world because I'm trying to figure out what things mean, and as something unusual used as a replacement for something common place it was a little jarring, but it wasn't necessarily a massive distraction by the end of the book.
The story is told from the point of view of two characters, Ash and Raquel. They both have different backgrounds and different motives, but end up coming together to fulfil the same goal: find a cure for Prince Nisai, who was poisoned. What I liked about Ash was how vague his background was, and how he knew so little about himself. I thought that this added to the tension of the story, as well as the worldbuilding in a way. It took me a while to warm up to Rakel, because the way she thinks is so different to me, but I found her motivations solid and I liked her resourcefulness and daring.
My favourite character was Nisai, which was slightly disappointing considering the whole plot revolves around him being in a coma, but he was smart and caring, which I can definitely get on board with, and I'm hoping to see more of him in the next book. An honourable mention to Esarik, for being a character who surprised me several times.
The plot itself felt slightly rushed, because they moved on quite fast, and figured everything out quite fast as well, but it would have been a very hefty novel if the plot were more detailed so I can understand why it was so condensed. I liked the quest-like nature of it, classic as it is in this particular genre, and I thought the way that the scent dominance of Aramtesh was blended in with the quest.
The Darkest Bloom slots itself quite nicely into YA secondary fantasy as a genre, in terms of the building blocks it uses, but while it did feel slightly cliché at times as a matter of personal preference, namely in terms of the relationships, it brought some interesting world building to the table and is overall still a solid debut and addition to the genre. I've already acquired the second book, and am interested to see where it goes.