Way Down Dark by James Smythe

Way Down Dark by James Smythe Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Format: Trade paperback
Published: 2nd July 2015
Book Depository | Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Chan’s ancestors left a dying Earth hundreds of years ago, in search of a new home. They never found one. This is a hell where no one can hide. The only life that Chan’s ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive.

This is a ship of death, of murderers and cults and gangs. But there might be a way to escape. In order to find it, Chan must head way down into the darkness – a place of buried secrets, long-forgotten lies, and the abandoned bodies of the dead.

I really enjoyed this. It was dark, gritty and way more violent than what I would expect from a young adult book. It also doesn’t have any of the cliques I’ve come to expect from YA (no insta-love) which I really liked. In fact the only reason you know it’s YA is because at one point the character mentions being 17 and it’s pretty much never mentioned again.

I liked the fact that the character is constantly being told how she isn’t any more special than anyone else and that she has to look after herself. In my opinion thats pretty important on a ship where everyone is trying to kill you. This is a tiny detail but I also really liked the fact that the author doesn’t come straight out in the first few pages and tell you the main character is a girl. You don’t actually find out she is a girl till about 20 pages in. Its a really good example of showing rather than telling.

However there were a few things I didn’t like. The story takes place on board a ship. Now the layout of the ship is really important because gangs taking over certain areas is like integral to the plot. But I found it really difficult to visualize the ship. You’re told its laid out in hexagonal levels with a shaft in the middle. But the stairs are really confusing because they seem to drop two levels at a time, then you find out the ship is split vertically in half. It was really confusing. I would have preferred some sort of map.

(Highlight to see the spoilers)

The last problem I had is with these Across The Universe, The Forever Watch type books in general. As soon as you read “generational ship sent out from earth after bad thing happened” you just know there is going to be some sort of twist. Its got to the point where “generational ship” now automatically means “our ancestors have been lying to us” and there is going to be some sort of plot twist. Admittedly in this the plot twist is sort of interesting, the ship turning out to be a prison isn’t something I’ve seen before, but it was kind of obvious considering the ship is called Australia. Its just annoying that you go into these sorts of books expecting a twist so you’re not surprised when it happens.


However I was genuinely surprised by how good this book was. I’m really interested to see how the series continues.

Buy Way Down Dark on Book Depository

More like this:
Wool by Hugh Howey
The Forever Watch by David Ramirez
Red Rising by Pierce Brown.

Thanks for reading.
Find me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads.

*I received a copy of this book from Hodder & Stoughton in exchange for an honest review.


9 Responses to “Way Down Dark by James Smythe”

  1. Tasha

    I am so behind on Bookbridgr books (AGAIN). Good job really that I haven’t ordered any more from the new batch!

    • bluchickenninja

      Yeah I didn’t get anything from BookBridgr either. There are a bunch of books coming out in the next month that I want to read, but bookbridgr just doesn’t seem to have anything interesting on it just now.

  2. the poppyseed bee

    awesome review! I’ll definitely have to check it out. I love sci-fiction thrillers. 🙂

  3. What I Read In July | bluchickenninja

    […] Way Down Dark by J. P. Smythe. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but I think the backstory to this is a little cliched and over done right now. But I was still really surprised by this (see my full review here). […]


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