ShoRic Publishing (2018)
Reviewed by Skyler Boudreau (YA Reviewer) for Reader Views Kids (1/19)
“Scarlet Reign: Malice of the Dark Witch” is a young adult fantasy by R.D. Crist. After her mother dies on the night of her fourteenth birthday, Natalie finds her way to a strange orphanage with even stranger inhabitants. It seems the orphanage is hiding secrets, both fascinating and dangerous, and Natalie must learn to protect herself from the dark forces that would do her harm.
I felt many of the characters lacked clear motivations driving their actions. Such was the case of one of Natalie’s biggest adversaries, a fellow orphan named Melissa. Melissa bullies her relentlessly, doing everything from dumping her food on the floor during lunch period to harassing her until she agrees to dangerous but pointless tasks for Melissa’s own amusement. When Natalie’s friend Philian defends her and stands up to her, Melissa responds with, “I have the time and energy to bully the both of you” (Crist 80). That doesn’t come across as a genuine response in how bullies speak to or treat their victims. Despite the fact that Melissa seems self-aware enough of her actions to say lines like that, she lacks any motivation for her cruel actions towards the main character beyond adding tension to the plot.
The romance aspect of this novel fell a bit flat to me. I didn’t understand the attraction between Natalie and her love interest and didn’t notice they were in love until Natalie mentioned it. They meet for the first time in a store while Natalie is shopping with both her roommate at the orphanage and Philian. Upon seeing him, before speaking to him or having any kind of interaction, Natalie decides that she is madly in love with him. I can understand this because of her young age. What I don’t understand is the following scene when she is initially too shy to approach the boy and Philian tries to encourage her by saying, “A girl thinks she looks average, or fat, or cheap, but that’s just because she’s her own worst critic. We don’t understand that men see us differently. If you have confidence, they’ll grovel at your feet. So either he’ll think your hot, or he’s not worth it” (116). Aside from this being outside of Philian’s established character as a kind, supportive friend, it is an offensive statement towards both men and women. It was an uncomfortable scene as a reader, and I didn’t like the message that if a man doesn’t find a woman attractive, he’s not “worth it.” Much of the novel delivers mixed messages like this to its young audience.
I did enjoy the second half of the novel more than the first. The two sections are vastly different and read like separate books in the same series. Overall, the story itself felt disjointed to me. “Scarlet Reign: Malice of the Dark Witch” by R.D. Crist is a fantasy story geared toward the young adult crowd.