Successfully mimics the style and feel of 19th century gothic novels,
This review is from: Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book a lot and I think if you are a fan of 19th century gothic fiction, you will, too. Leanna Renee Hieber's book deftly mimics the style and feel (and some of the plot) of these novels, to create Darker Still and the end result won me over. It's melodramatic and a little bit silly, but so are the books it's aping and Hieber employs enough knowingness and humour to make it work well.
Natalie is a charming heroine. She's a mute, which does the twin jobs of immediately engaging the reader's sympathy and serving as a metaphor for 19th century women being essentially voiceless in society. Natalie's father runs the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which leads Natalie to befriend the wealthy New York doyenne, Mrs Northe, when Mrs Northe purchases a painting of the English Lord Denbury. Lord Denbury is presumed dead, but his painting is astonishingly lifelike and it's not long before Natalie learns its secret: the real Denbury's soul is trapped inside the painting; a demon has taken over his body and is using it to commit murder on the New York streets.
Natalie and Mrs Northe team up to save Denbury and it's delightful to see Natalie become stronger over the course of the novel and to eventually find her voice. Denbury mainly serves as a vehicle for Natalie to explore all this, and her sexuality, but I did find their scenes together pretty cute, as they struggle between their feelings and keeping propriety. The character of Mrs Northe kept me guessing the entire book as to whether she's really as good as she seems or is secretly sinister and I think my interest in the sequel is pinned on finding out more about Mrs Northe.
And yes, like all YA books nowadays, this is the first in a series. Having finished Darker Still, I have no idea what plot the second book could possibly have, however, I'm sure I will enjoy revisiting Natalie, and the author, again.