Thursday, November 17, 2011

Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

Release date: November 8, 2011
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Ebook available from: Barnes & Noble | Amazon
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.
When I read on Goodreads "The Picture of Dorian Grey meets Pride & Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" I was sold on Darker Still. I love The Picture of Dorian Grey for its darkness and fascinating premise, and I just can't get enough Pride & Prejudice. Darker Still seemed like a book tailor-made for me. That being said, coming in with those kinds of expectations can ruin a book, but my expectations were met and thoroughly exceeded.

I knew going in that the story was told through Natalie's diary entries, and was excited because I can't remember reading an epistolary novel since I read a ton of the Dear America books in elementary school, which I always loved. Natalie is mute, so diary entries were the perfect way for the reader to get to know her. In diaries people freely express themselves, and given that she couldn't carry on conversations, Natalie could have seemed like a distant protagonist, but that was absolutely not the case with this method.

The romance between Natalie and Denbury was also a standout. There was definitely an element of love at first sight and very quick infatuation, but it seemed natural and unforced and comfortable. Plus their relationship was sweet and impassioned, but it also fit for the time period, which is important. I would also very willingly spend many hours alone in a picture with Lord Denbury without hesitation. :)

I also loved that while the romance was important, and so very sweet, it wasn't the central theme or struggle. In order for Natalie and Denbury to even have a future, they have to overcome his situation so that is the focus. The elements of magic fit in perfectly and are developed so they're easy to understand. But the most striking part is definitely the evil. Our bad is just downright BAD. He has no redeeming or sympathetic qualities. The method in which he does is evildoing is also just really bad. I have no reaction other than disgust.

Darker Still has elements of all of my favorite classics and modern novels, mashed with a wonderfully executed and adorably romantic story.

Risk a paper cut? A paper cut is only a small payment for the magic of Darker Still.

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