Saturday, April 20, 2013

Darker Still (Magic Most Foul #1) by Leanna Renee Hieber

I was obsessed.

It was as if he called to me, demanding I reach out and touch the brushstrokes of color swirled onto the canvas. It was the most exquisite portrait I'd ever seen--everything about Lord Denbury was unbelievable...utterly breathtaking and eerily lifelike.

There was a reason for that. Because despite what everyone said, Denbury never had committed suicide. He was alive. Trapped within his golden frame.

I've crossed over into his world within the painting, and I've seen what dreams haunt him. They haunt me too. He and I are inextricably linked--bound together to watch the darkness seeping through the gas-lit cobblestone streets of Manhattan. Unless I can free him soon, things will only get Darker Still.



Released: November 1st 2011          Pages: 317
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire            Source: Library

First Look: ***** This has been on my to-read list ever since it came out.  It looked a bit creepy.  And it had a purple cover.

Setting: ***** 
I got some sense of the Victorian society they lived in, but I wish I would've been more immersed in it.  It wasn't a setting I could sink myself into, imagine myself right in the center of it all.  It took me a few chapters to figure out that it wasn't happening in London, but New York.  Even though the back cover says Manhattan--I must've missed that.  I pretty much assume that every novel in this time period is set in London unless told otherwise (and I almost always assume correctly).  I wish the author would have clued me in sooner, especially since I was just in New York the day before starting this, so it should've been easy for me to pick up on the exact location.

Characters: *****  Natalie was likable, if not very three-dimensional.  I wanted her to succeed, but I never got to the point where I felt like I knew her, that she was a real person.  I was instantly interested when I found out she couldn't speak, as I've always wanted to see how an author would handle a character without this ability.  (If the back cover had said anything about this, I might have picked up this book sooner.)  I was actually a bit disappointed when she *spoiler--highlight to read* regained this ability. *end spoiler*  Not that I didn't want her to have this ability, but the resolution was too convenient and made her previous struggles with it seem false and cheap.

Lord Denbury was too perfect.  Edward Cullen Syndrome, everyone.  At first, it made sense, because he was this supernatural figure calling out from within a painting.  At that point it seemed logical for him to project an image of perfection.  Once we got to meet the real Denbury, though, he still showed no flaws.  No signs of human imperfection, which is utterly unrealistic and downright annoying.  Writing lesson: Flaws in characters are a billion times more interesting than strengths.  Flaws make the character come to life.  Anyone can have strengths, but what makes the story is the weaknesses.  This story would've been so much cooler if he'd shown some actual, say, creepiness.  If Natalie had reason to doubt him.  If it had been less Twilight and more Phantom of the Opera.

Finally, Mrs. Northe was not so much a person as an information dispenser.  That's all she ever did.  I wish she would've had more of an actual role in the story.

Plot: ***** It was highly formulaic.  Natalie would have a strange encounter with the painting.  She would enter the painting and drool over  meet with Denbury.  The antagonist would do something to freak them out.  Natalie would go to Mrs. Northe, who would explain everything and infodump for a chapter.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  This formula made the book quite predictable.

I get the impression that some of this story was supposed to be creepy, but I wasn't creeped out in the slightest.  Not even a twinge.  I'm not sure whether this is on my end, or the book's end.

And then there was the all-to-easy resolution of *spoiler--highlight to read* Natalie's inability to speak.  First, she couldn't, and then she just...could.  I have absolutely no experience with this subject, but it seems that she relearned more quickly than was realistic.  I felt like it was just getting to hard for her to write or sign things, and so...this happened.     

Uniqueness: *****
It had a bit of a Phantom of the Opera feel to it, except that Phantom is creepy and this, well, isn't.  It also had some overused cliches, like the all-other-girls-are-shallow thing and my-supernatural-boyfriend-is-perfect thing.

Writing: *****
Way too many words were spent on Denbury's perfection.  Do we need to spend paragraphs and paragraphs recounting his gorgeousness every single time he appears in the story?  It got very annoying, very fast.  At first it made sense, since Natalie was being supernaturally compelled towards him, but later it was redundant and unnecessary.

Other than that, I don't recall any other major complaints with the writing. 

Likes: Nothing not already mentioned above.

Not-so-great: Nothing not already mentioned.

Overall: This book had a cool premise, but it ended up being just okay.  I couldn't connect with Natalie, Denbury was way too perfect, and Mrs. Northe was nothing more than an infodump machine.  The plot wasn't as creepy and haunting as the back cover promised, and one major conflict of Natalie's was resolved in a too-convenient manner.  Dialogue with Denbury was often interrupted to elaborate on his perfection.  Overall, three stars.
 
Similar Books: It has a strange/otherworldy picture like Through Her Eyes, has a Victorian setting with added supernatural elements like Clockwork Angel, an attractive, seemingly perfect love interest who's not quite of this world like Immortal and Dreaming Anastasia, and feels a lot like Prophecy of the Sisters.
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