Book Reviews

Review: This Dark Descent by Kalyn Josephson

Talk to me about a book you didn’t realize you’d fall so in love with? I’ll start. It’s 100% This Dark Descent. This is for you if you love horses in YA fantasy, deadly competitions, and high stakes. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Mikira Rusel’s family has long been famous for breeding enchanted horses, but their prestige is no match for their rising debts. To save her ranch, Mikira has only one option: she must win the Illinir, a treacherous horserace whose riders either finish maimed or murdered. Yet each year, competitors return, tempted by its alluring prize money and unparalleled prestige.

Mikira’s mission soon unites her with Arielle Kadar, an impressive yet illicit enchanter just beginning to come into her true power, and Damien Adair, a dashing young lord in the midst of a fierce succession battle. Both have hidden reasons of their own to help Mikira — as well as their own blood feuds to avenge…


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Let’s just start off by thanking Rosiee Thor for recommending This Dark Descent to me. With big The Scorpio Races vibes, I wasn’t sure what to expect. One of my main complaints with that book was that there weren’t enough horses? But This Dark Descent – in regards to the horses – is everything I thought I’d be getting. There is rich world building which weaves magic into the world, the horses, and the stakes. As a big world building nerd, I thought this was going to be my favorite element. But the truth is I just can’t pick one.

I adored the way the Jewish folklore is woven into the story, into the magic and the exploration of our powers. There’s secret magic, discoveries which quake our foundation, and plenty of intrigue. This Dark Descent is a story which had be entirely wrapped up in the next page, the next word. There is a richness to the world, to the stakes, and the betrayals. The characters are delightful, not afraid to get their hands bloody, and are all fighting for their future and ambition. I loved Mikira, Arielle, and Damien. Normally I have a favorite, but I could not pick a favorite.

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This Dark Descent also brings introspective themes to the pages about what success means to everyone. How it can change without us realizing it. It’s a book where the characters have to work through trust. We can have this idea of who we think everyone is, how we expect them to be. And it’s about opening up our ideas, and our hearts, to have people surprise us – to prove us wrong. The games people play and the costs, the ruthlessness, they are willing to pay even if they can’t win. Find This Dark Descent on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.


What is your favorite YA fantasy horse?

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