Darker by Four | June CL Tan


Coming April 2nd, 2024 from HarperTeen; 400 pages 

Content Warning: Death, child abuse, panic attacks, alcoholism, fantasy violence

About the Author: “June CL Tan is the author of the internationally bestselling Jade Fire Gold and the Darker By Four duology. Her books have garnered multiple starred reviews from Kirkus and BCCB, and are Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selections. In 2021, she was also chosen as one of Publishers Weekly’s Flying Starts. A Singaporean raised on a diet of teh tarik, classic books, and wuxia movies, she enjoys telling stories that draw on both the traditional and modern to create something fresh to the eye but familiar to the heart. June now resides in New York City, writing under the eye of her crafty cat” (Bio from author’s website).

Find June CL Tan on the following platforms:

“Fate binds us, connects us through past, present, and future. Our trust or distrust plays no part. It simply is.”

Eighteen years ago, the Fourth King of Hell disappeared, causing both the Underworld and the human world to start falling apart. Four years ago, Rui’s mother was killed by a creature created by the Blight from the Underworld. Now, Rui trains with her magic to become an Exorcist and help hunt down the same creature that killed her mom that night. Yiran is part of the most powerful magical family, yet he was born powerless. When a spell causes Rui’s power to be transferred to Yiran, everything changes. Yiran finally belongs, but Rui has lost the power she needs to avenge her mother’s death. As Nikai, a Reaper in the Fourth King’s court, investigates his king’s disappearance, Rui becomes involved because of the circumstances of her birth eighteen years ago. Rui might be the one person who can find the missing King, but at what cost?

June CL Tan has officially brought back YA contemporary fantasy, and she’s done it with style. I don’t remember the last time I’ve been so instantaneously hooked by a book. I knew the moment I read the first page that Darker by Four was going to become a new favorite of mine, and I’m already counting down the days until the sequel comes out. It was the perfect mixture of Lockwood & Co, the Shadowhunter Chronicles, and the Kane Chronicles. Rui and Yiran are training to be Exorcists who fight the creatures that come from the dead that fall prey to the Blight. I loved how the author mixed magic and the Underworld into a human world that felt akin to a dystopian novel. So many recent YA fantasy books have been high fantasy, and it was refreshing to read something different. It was reminiscent of the urban fantasy/dystopian books of the early 2010s. The relationships between each of the characters was really interesting. One character that stood out to me was Zizi, the unorthodox mage who found Rui after her mother died. He refuses to conform to the Exorcists’ rules, which creates an interesting dynamic between him and Rui. Him, Rui, and Yiran have an inexplicable connection, and one of the best parts of reading the book was trying to guess how each of them are related to the missing Fourth King of Hell. I would have liked for Nikai to be more involved in the narrative, but I’m hoping that changes in the sequel. Darker by Four is a must-read for anyone who loves YA and has been searching for the perfect contemporary fantasy. 

Darker by Four releases on April 2, 2024.

Pine Reads Review would like to thank SparkPoint Studio, NetGalley, and HarperTeen for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change before final publication.

Sam Yanis, Pine Reads Review Writer