Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Review: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber


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...
Jonathan 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.

I really loved this novel – I was intrigued by the gothic New York combined with a take on Dorian Grey, and it more than lived up to my expectations.
There were a few things I wasn’t entirely sold on, but for the most part I really loved the book and was utterly entranced by Jonathon – and am hoping that there might be a sequel in the works.

One of the reasons I picked up this book was due to Natalie – the idea of a heroine who couldn’t speak was a pretty interesting concept, and I wanted to see how it played out. The book is told in the form of diary entries, from the point that Natalie is released back into her father’s care, until the conclusion of the book. It’s a concept that works really well, the diary entries colour everything with Natalie’s perceptions, but she aims to be a very honest and detailed narrator which makes the whole tale infinitely more pleasurable to read.
I liked that she was a strong character, despite her impediments, and worked hard to overcome them and do what she had to to help Jonathon.
I did find some of the casting the devil out moments to be a little too close to The Crucible to be entirely comfortable, but for the most part that was really well judged as well. The plot was intricate enough to be engaging whilst not being overly complex – there was a distinct lack of twists and turns.

I liked Jonathon for the most part. Of course, handsome doctor, what’s not to like? But I would have liked a bit more development of his ‘evil’ side. He popped in from time to time and spoke quite randomly, and then ran off again. I would have liked more of him, more motives and explanations, because whilst for the most part everything is wrapped up neatly in the book, there were a few loose ends. Whether that is due to another book to continue on those unfinished threads will remain to be seen – I kind of hope so, because I really enjoyed the story and would like to see how Natalie and Jonathon cope beyond the painting.

I have to admit I was never fully comfortable with Mrs Northe – I kept expecting her to suddenly turn out to be evil. This probably speaks more for me having read too many books with double crossing and twists, which this book was remarkably clear of, than to her character.

A lot of the secondary characters felt a little flat, and I would have liked to have a little more development of them. Natalie’s father for one, but particularly Maggie. Now again, this may be a development for another book, in which case that’s great, but if it was a standalone novel then I felt a little underwhelmed by her. There was such a wealth of things that could have been done with her, and I wanted to see more. As it was she just kind of flitted around without any real true purpose.

The only thing that I wasn’t really sold on was the language at some points. It didn’t quite ring true at some points although for the most part it was pretty good. The setting remained a little ambiguous – I know it was New York, but a good deal of the book is set in the painting, so I didn’t really feel as though I got a true sense of the city, of the life out there that Natalie had lived long before Jonathon came into her life.

All in all I really enjoyed this read – it was a quick romp with plenty of spine chilling moments, as well as some swoon worthy points. And with a fresh and imaginative plot to boot. I’m looking forward to see if this book will be broadened out into a series.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read any of Hieber's books yet and I seem to own a few. I definitely want to read this one. Also it was great to meet you on Saturday.