Barbara Hambly is a name I saw a fair amount of when I was haunting SF&F bookshelves as stores as a teenager, but I never got around to trying any of her books. I later found that I indeed had been missing out, and have been slowly going back and reading her books. In this case, I got a Kindle edition of her first work, The Darwath Trilogy,  on sale; in all, the book was well put together, and I did not notice any glitches, though the few maps seem to be a bit extra small, and not well cleaned up from a scan.

The Time of the Dark starts as something of a standard Visitation Fantasy. Gil Patterson is a post-graduate student at UCLA, who keeps having disturbing dreams of a world under siege by creatures just known as The Dark. These become more than dreams when a wizard from that world, Ingold Inglorion, crosses over to visit her, hoping to find a temporary refuge, or short cut, for an escape plan. Things go wrong, Gil and Rudy Solis (who happened by) end up trapped in the fantasy world, as going home could lead to the Dark invading Earth.

Past the beginning of the first book, Gil and Rudy share viewpoint status for the rest of the series, which is a bit awkward at first, as the viewpoint shifts between the two inside the same chapter, which gets a little confusing. Past the first book, any viewpoint changes happen at chapter breaks, which works much better.

Rudy, a mechanic and artist in a biker crowd, discovers magic, and Gil… moves from scholar to swordswoman. This actually works well, and puts the two on different paths as the narrative grows in the second book. The two make their way through vastly changed circumstances, and stay central to, but not the mainsprings of, the plot.

That, of course, is the coming of the nightmare creatures of the Dark, and the destruction of the kingdom of Renwrath, with the ensuing fight for survival of the remnants of the human population. Things get creepy, things get scary, things get political, and things get tragic, and it all keeps up over the rest of the trilogy.

The series does get a good and satisfactory ending (though there are further books in the world written years later), and while all the central mysteries are brought to light, there is a small number of dropped threads. There are a very few places where I could see something the characters couldn’t (most notably in the final climax, alas), but they were fairly beat up and tired by that point, and most of the time, the action stayed ahead of me. Well recommended; partly traditional epic fantasy trilogy, partly bucks the trends.