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Darkest Hour / Literature

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Darkest Hours in literature.


  • The Age of Fire series has its Darkest Hour start near the end of the penultimate book, Dragon Rule, and run through nearly the entire final book, Dragon Fate. RuGaard is ousted as Tyr by NiVom and Imfamnia and sent into exile with his siblings, while their loved ones are held hostage to enforce their compliance. And while NiVom plots to Take Over the World, he's manipulated by Imfamnia, who it turns out is actually possessed by the Red Queen, who is working with Rayg in order to decimate and enslave the dragon race, which nearly succeeds.
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  • The Alienist: Dr. Kreitzler leaves the team after the shooting at his home. This almost derails the investigation.
  • In The Dagger and the Coin, the fall of Porte Oliva to the Antean army is this. Porte Oliva was supposed to be the place of safety where the refugees who had escaped Antea's earlier conquests would be safe. And the heroes even get a Hope Spot with the arrival of Barriath Kalliam's fleet to break the Antean blockade, and the dragon Inys to help defend them from the Antean land forces. Then Inys is defeated and nearly killed, the city falls quickly, the heroes have to flee for their lives, again, and Cithrin falls into despair. It is after this that the tide begins to turn.
  • Given the press of events (many of them bad news), these crop up fairly frequently in the Deryni works. A partial list:
    • Soon after King Brion's death, as he's troubled by vile rumours and worried about the Shadowed One, and having just been acquitted of treason and heresy, Alaric Morgan stands contemplating Brion's new tomb in Deryni Rising:
      ...That the good and gentle Brion should end this way was not fitting. Life had been too short; the good done well, but not enough done, for lack of tiem. Why? Why had it been necessary for him to end this way?
      You were father and brother to me, Morgan thought dully. If only I had been at your side that day, I might have spared you this indignity, this useless gasping out of your life's breath! Now, with you gone...
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    • Morgan again, late in Deryni Checkmate. He's barely escaped from men who wanted to burn him at the stake, his people are in revolt against him, the Church Militant has excommunicated him and his cousin (who's radiating his own misery over his threatened priestly vocation), his king and country are facing immenent invasion, his beloved sister Bronwyn and her fiance have died from a badly set love charm. He withdraws to the grotto on his castle grounds and overhears his bard weeping and composing a lament in honour of Bronwyn.
    • Duncan has one that begins in Dhassa, once he learns his father's army is missing; he stares out the window wracked by guilt over his duty to his father (Duncan is now the elder Duke Jared's only heir) and troubled by conflict between his priestly vocation ("at once held and not held") and his Deryni powers. Then one of his father's pages arrives on a foundering horse and collapses, and Morgan Reads the boy's memories to learn of Jared's betrayal at the hands of Bran Coris. Duncan doesn't entirely snap out of his funk until Richenda asks him to hear her confession two or three days later.
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    • When Derry realizes the extent of Wencit's control over his mind in High Deryni, he tries to kill himself to avoid betraying Morgan and Kelson. His failure (caused by Wencit's implanted psychic compulsion) reduces him to weeping bitterly and stabbing the dirt floor of his cell with the dagger he cannot bring himself to use on himself.
    • Morgan has another one in The Quest for Saint Camber. Kelson and Dhugal are thought to be dead, Nigel is wasting away before his eyes, and Royal Brat Conall looks set to be the next king. As Morgan meditiates in preparation for a ritual, he has a vision of himself in the Haldanes' royal crypt looking down on Nigel's body on his funeral bier.
  • Fortune has one in Dragoncharm when the Maze spits him out. He wakes up on a mountainside, separated from Cumber and with no idea where he is.
  • Dragons of Requiem:
    • By the end of Tears of Requiem, Benedictus is dead, and Dies Irae is still alive and ready to kill the last Vir Requis.
    • A Dawn of Dragonfire ends with Nova Vita and Requiem in ruins (again) and most of its population killed. Adia and Lord Deramon are killed during the invasion, Solina's wyverns still control Requiem's skies, and Princess Mori is kidnapped and taken to Tiranor.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • In Changes, Harry gets beaten so badly that his spine is broken. He finally decides to give in and accept Mab's offer to become the Unseelie Court's Winter Knight.
    • In Ghost Story, when his apprentice is having her darkest hour, we learn that what Harry actually did in the previous book was ten times worse. She realizes that Harry's choice was a mistake, and decides to scrap her original plan and do the right thing.
  • Older Than Dirt: The death of The Hero's best friend, Enkidu, in The Epic of Gilgamesh triggers the first Heroic BSoD.
  • In The Fault in Our Stars, once Gus reveals to Hazel that his cancer has returned, you have a saddening feeling that it's going to be a downward spiral from that point. And it is.
  • The Gauntlet (2017): Farrah, Essie, and Alex lost the final challenge by running out of time before they could rearrange the last two words, meaning they're now stuck in the game for good. Then the clockwork monkey shows up and tells them that The Architect had so much fun watching them overcome his challenges that he's giving them a fourth one to do.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Philosopher's Stone, Harry throws away for his House any realistic competition in the House Cup and resolves to give up saving the Stone.
    • In Chamber of Secrets, the school is under intense lockdown, devoid of hope, and Cornelius Fudge and Lucius Malfoy have banished the people who would be of most help. And then Ginny is abducted.
    • In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry has failed in his rescue, a vile man has escaped into the ether, and everyone believes he has been magically confused into believing utter lies.
    • Goblet of Fire's Darkest Hour, oddly enough, is fairly early in, when Harry, in becoming a champion, is shunned by most of the school, including one of his best friends.
      • A secondary one occurs when Harry and Cedric Diggory are transported to a graveyard filled with Death Eaters, Voldemort is resurrected and can touch Harry without being hurt by Lily's counter-charm, Cedric is killed, and Voldemort challenges Harry to a Duel to the Death.
      • In this book, Voldemort cites his own Darkest Hour as the years between the first book and fourth book after he failed to steal the Sorcerer’s Stone, when he began to despair that any Death Eaters would find him and help him return to power.
    • In Order of the Phoenix, Umbridge is swiftly taking over and souring everything great and good about Hogwarts. This ends when the trio find a way to fight back.
      • There's a secondary one during the climactic fight at the Ministry. Voldemort's inner circle is there in force, at least half the party is wounded, and there's no sign of escape or support. Then the Order of the Phoenix shows up.
    • In Half-Blood Prince, The Cave. Dumbledore is in so much physical and emotional pain he can hardly stand, and there’s literally an army of Inferi rising out of the water to attack him and Harry. Even worse, the Horcrux they came there for was a fake.
    • In Deathly Hallows, beginning with Ron walking out and ending with the Silver Doe.
      • From Scrimgeor's death onwards, the entire wizarding community faces its darkest hour.
      • To say nothing of the final battle against Voldemort and the revelation of Harry's destiny.
  • "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream": the ending to the short story functions as this. On the other hand, most of the videogame functions as a Darkest Hour until the endgame.
  • Journey to Chaos: A Mage's Power: Eric and Kasile have been arrested on charges of sedition and locked in the castle dungeon. The Dragon's Lair is about to be raided so its members can join them. Power Nullifiers make Dengel's magical knowledge worthless. At this point Eric gives up and shouts for Tasio to send him back to Threa. Tasio doesn't arrive, and Eric realizes the Awful Truth — Tasio planned'' this outcome. Not only will he not help Eric, he's laughing his ass off at his expense. Then Siron arrives with a proposition.
  • The Langoliers: The plane has just flown back through the time rip, but the world is still lifeless. The plane barely has enough fuel to make it to LAX, but without reverse thrusters, it crashes into a terminal, not fatal for the survivors, but that likely means it's no longer suitable for flying.
  • In Chapter 21 of The Pilo Family Circus, Shalice the fortune teller has gotten her crystal ball back, ending the Freedom Movement's attempt to destroy the circus and curtailing any future bids for freedom. For good measure, Kurt Pilo has had Winston tortured as negative reinforcement.
  • In The Princess Bride (both the book and the movie), the boy gets a little upset at the part where Westley is dead and Buttercup supposedly marries Humperdinck. What's the point of reading this story? That's not how it's supposed to end! It takes him years to realize just how deeply that moment affected him.
  • In The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist, the most prominent one of these is the ending to A Crown Imperiled, with Pug, Magnus, Miranda and Nakor supposedly being dead, Drakin-Korin has returned, an angel has been killed by a strange creature and the Kingdom of the Isles is seconds away from civil war.
  • In Septimus Heap:
    • Queste: When Septimus is taken away from Jenna and Beetle in the House of Foryx.
    • Darke: After Jenna has told Septimus about Sarah being trapped in the Darke Domaine, he is completely broken.
  • Most of J. R. R. Tolkien's work has at least one of these. But the The Silmarillion stands out specifically:
    • Toward the End of the War of the Jewels came the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, or Battle of Unnumbered Tears, which was inspired by the success of Beren and Luthien's quest for a Silmaril. The full power of the Noldor under High King Fingon, and his cousin Prince Maedhros, their human allies led by Hurin Thalion, The Dwarves out of Belegost and Nogrod led by their king, planned to clean out the orcs in the western part of the country. They lost, badly. Primarily due to treachery among some of their human allies. This defeat essentially annihilated Elven and Human morale for decades, and more or less ensured that Angband would never be defeat without help from the Valar. Things only got worse due to infighting over Oaths and one of the Silmaril before ultimately the Valar finally did send help.
  • Someone Else's War: Matteo and his friends have come up with a clever plan to arrest the ranking officials of the LRA without any violence. And then half his friends are wiped out in a single move when the LRA decides they've got too many mouths to feed.
  • The Star Trek: Destiny trilogy by David Mack has its Darkest Hour (and arguably, the Darkest Hour of the entire Star Trek franchise) at the end of the second novel, when enough Borg ships to lay waste to every planet in known space come screaming into the alpha quadrant and tear through the combined forces of Starfleet, the Klingons, the Cardassians, Romulans, Ferengi and Talarians as if they were made of tissue paper.
  • Sword of Truth: The ending of Soul of the Fire sees Kahlan hanging to life by a fragile thread and having lost the child she was carrying, Richard believing that the Imperial Order is impossible to defeat, and a general lack of anything good having come from the events of the book, with Richard, Kahlan, and Cara quietly leaving in utter defeat.
  • Trapped on Draconica: After Yusef betrays the Eastern Alliance this trope occurs. The only remaining military threat to Baalaria is gone, Daniar is lethaly poisoned, Ben and Kalak captured, and all their possible allies refused or tapped. Then Rana shows up.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Deus Sanguinius, Rafen first, under psychic attacks, nearly commits suicide. Fighting against the attacks, and a vision, free him from the compulsion but make his duty clear to him: he tries to blow up the city where his fellow Blood Angels are breaking with their Chapter. It fails, they pursue him. It ends only when they catch him in a factory, and it explodes.
  • In Warrior Cats, the darkest hour comes when Scourge kills Tigerstar, who had been the Big Bad up until then and declares that he and his clan are taking over the forest. Points for the book actually being called The Darkest Hour.
  • In The Witling, everyone but Pelio comes very close to death just before the climax of the book: The three witlings are in the descending ablation skiff (basically a reentry vehicle with a parachute) with Bre'en, a Defiant Captive who would kill them all given the chance, and Samadhom, the Team Pet whose Psychic Powers are the only thing protecting them. And then Samadhom—who, by the way, has been Pelio's treasured companion and only friend for his entire life—passes out from blood loss due to an earlier injury. And then Bre'en kengs Yoninne, scrambling her brain. Oh, and Ajão is already slowly dying of heavy metal poisoning.
  • The Witchlands: Merik is abandoned by Cam, who tells him that he's an self-absorbed jerkass fighting windmills before he leaves, sending the man beyond his Despair Event Horizon and leaving him with no allies. As he ponders abandoning his humanity completely, the strange connection he has with the villain is compelling him into a trap, and before he regains his senses, he's pulled into a tavern filled with bad guys out to kill him.
  • In Andre Norton's Witch World novel The Jargoon Pard, Kethan is Switched at Birth for a woman's daughter, because only a son can inherit. At the climax, this is revealed to the woman and his parents; they reveal that actually, they knew it for a long time, practically from infancy, and still consider her their daughter. Kethan nearly despairs, because his purported mother no longer wants him, because she can no longer use him. After the fight, however, his parents eagerly lay claim both to their biological son and the daughter they raised.


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