Kill Your Darlings by L.E. Harper

Publisher: Shivnath Productions, IBPA, Member’s Titles

Date of publication: May 24th, 2023

Genre: Fantasy, Mental Health, LGBTQ+

Trigger Warnings: Mental Illness (anxiety, depression), Suicidal Ideation, Self Harm

Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N | AbeBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

“INKHEART meets INCEPTION in this allegorical masterpiece.”

Fantasy author Kyla knows dreams don’t come true. Isolated and grappling with debilitating depression, she copes by writing about the realm of Solera. Fearless heroes, feisty shapeshifters, and mighty dragons come alive on her pages. She adores her characters, but she doesn’t believe in happy endings. And if she can’t have one, why should they?

Kyla’s on the verge of giving up on everything when she wakes one morning, magically trapped in her fictional world. Now she’s with her most cherished characters: the friends she’s always yearned for, the family she’s never known. There’s even someone who might be Prince Charming (if Kyla could get her act together and manage some honest communication). She’d surrender to the halcyon fantasy, except she knows a nightmarish ending awaits. Solera is at war, and its defenders are losing against the insidious villain spawned in the depths of Kyla’s mind. He feeds on the energy of dreams, seeks the destruction of all who oppose him—and Kyla’s become his number one target.

Kyla must trade her pen for a sword and fight to change her story’s ending, but this isn’t a fantasy anymore. No happily-ever-after is guaranteed. And mental illness has robbed her of everything she needs to succeed: love, fighting spirit, hope. If Kyla can’t overcome the darkness inside her, she’ll die with her darlings.

Depictions of mental illness including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and self-harm.

First Line:

Oblivion is a funny thing. It’s human instinct to fear the proverbial abyss, but now that I’m here, it’s not so bad.

Kill Your Darlings by L.E. Harper

Kyla, a fantasy author, loves her characters, her darlings and loves creating the world that they live in. But, to shock her readers, Kyla decides to kill all her characters except for her namesake. But that decision to kill her darlings off is made while Kyla is in the midst of a horrible depression. On the verge of giving up, Kyla goes to sleep one night and wakes up in her make-believe world. Knowing what she has written and realizing what she has left behind in the real world, Kyla is desperate to save her new friends and return to the ones she left behind. But with a villain who spawned from her mind tracking her, Kyla needs to make a plan fast. Because things aren’t what they seem, Kyla must return to the real world before something horrible happens.

I will start with trigger warnings before diving into the review. It is essential to read these. Even I got triggered by what the author wrote, which doesn’t happen often. The triggers are:

  1. Mental Illness: Kyla suffers from severe depression and anxiety. Both have colored her life in ways that she never expected. Her depression and anxiety are carried over into Solrea, and Kyla uses that time to understand why she suffers. Her aha moment was pretty sad, and honestly, it got me so upset for her.
  2. Suicidal Ideation: During the book, Kyla often wonders if the world would be better off without her. Again, her time in Solrea shows her how valuable and wanted she is.
  3. Suicide: I can’t get into this, but yes, there is a suicide attempt, and it is rather graphic.
  4. Self-harm: Kyla uses self-harm to soothe her anxiety.

If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book. If you are struggling with your mental health, please dial 988 and connect with someone who can help. You are worth it, and you matter.

The author included a forward where she explained that this book was semi-autobiographical. After reading this book, my heart went out to her. If she was like Kyla, then she was in a bad place.

Kill Your Darlings is a fast-paced book mainly set in the fictional world of Solrea with brief (very brief) glimpses into Kyla’s life in New York City. The book did drag a bit in the middle (and I got very frustrated with Kyla at one point), but the author got the book back on track.

Kill Your Darlings main storyline centered around Kyla. For a reason explained later in the book, Kyla has swapped places with her fictional namesake. She wakes up in Solrea. Convinced she is lucid dreaming (having trained herself to lucid dream), Kyla realizes she is in her book with no way out. After a wise dragon explains that something is happening with Kyla’s body in the real world, she starts on a quest to figure out how to get back to it. I liked that the author had Kyla come to terms with some things that were causing her to have suicidal thoughts. I also liked that Kyla was committed to getting the fictional Kyla back where she belongs and not in Kyla’s body in the real world. But an undercurrent of something with this storyline made me slow down and read. And once I figured out what was going on with Kyla (because she was having effects), I was rooting for her to get back quickly.

As a character, Kyla was very complex and was often hard to like. That was fine with me. I liked having a character that made me love and dislike them simultaneously. I did think that her behavior, once she started to get to know fictional Kyla’s friends, began to change. She became more open and more friendly to these characters. She confided things in them that she had never told another person. Some of those confidences were gut-wrenching. By the end of the book, Kyla grew into herself (for lack of a better word). I wish I could tell you what happened with her, but it is a huge spoiler.

The secondary characters made this book. They added extra nuances and depth to the storyline.

I loved the fantasy angle of Kill Your Darlings. It was well written, with unique characters that came off the page.

There was a romance angle in Kill Your Darlings. While I expected it, I wasn’t expecting Kyla’s reaction or what she told her wanna-be lover. That threw me for a loop. But, at the same time, it was also an aha moment for me.

The end of Kill Your Darlings was interesting. Again, I can’t get into it except that Kyla did what she had to and defeated the villain.

I recommend Kill Your Darlings to anyone over 21. There are no sexual situations. There is graphic violence and no language. Also, see my trigger warnings.

Many thanks to Shivnath Productions, IBPA, Member’s Titles, and L.E. Harper for allowing me to read and review Kill Your Darlings. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

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