Friday, November 4, 2011
Age Group: Young Adult
Published: November 1, 2011by Sourcebooks
Format: eARC, 336 pgs
The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart's latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing...
Jonathon Denbury's soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.
Mini-Review: A wonderful homage to the literary canon, Darker Still has all the drama and detail, including the required handsome English gentleman, of the classics mixed with magic and mystery all with the stunning backdrop of nineteenth century New York.
Natalie Stewart is your average nineteenth century teenage girl with the exception that she hears Whispers, is drawn to the exquisite painting of a presumed dead English gentleman, and was scared mute at a young age. Needless to say, things are about to get interesting for the young lady.
Magic, murder, and mayhem abound in Hieber's Darker Still, and let's not forget about the romance. Although the connection between Denbury and Natalie is pretty much love at first sight (not something I'm terribly fond of, by the way), it works here; though if it hadn't been for the incredible situation and the involvement of magic, I may not have bought into their relationship. And while I, too, was drawn to Lord Denbury and all the mystery surrounding him, the novel's format kept me from fully enjoying all of the intrigue.
The book is told through Natalie's perspective by means of her diary, and, though this works for the majority of the book, it has a tendency to undermine the building tension in the most crucial scenes. Just as things get intense, we pause for Natalie to continue the story "later." In most cases this actually helps the flow of the novel, but in moments of action, the story comes to a screeching halt and then attempts to build the momentum back up.
There were also a few minor things with Natalie's character that irked me a bit: She starts the book out calling Lord Denbury by his surname then switches to his first name then reverts to calling him Denbury and then goes back to calling him Jonathon -- I found the back and forth to be a little annoying; and then there is the matter of her speech, which I don't think was given quite the detail it should have been. I understand that if Hieber had gone into any more detail concerning this matter she may have bored some of her readers, but personally I felt like such a huge moment would have been a little, well, more.
Overall, I really liked Darker Still. It particularly appealed to me as a former English major with a love for old British Literature as well as fantasy and young adult books. Hieber has captured all the best things in her newest novel; it's historical, has a gorgeous Englishman, makes use of the fantastic, sports a fabulous cover, and it features a teenage girl as a non-traditional knight in shining armor. What more could you want?
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