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 was on the cheering squad for this book even before I'd read it, when only the title, the cover and the summary had been released. I felt a kinship with it. Because -
- Dorian Gray! That's the first thing that crossed my mind. And I'm so fascinated with anything and everything to do with/related to Dorian Gray, I HAD to read this. And this clearly had the Dorian Gray concept going for it. Suffice to say, Oscar Wilde (that man I LOVE!) is right on top of the author, Leanna Renne Hieber's acknowledgment list.
- I have a thing for the Gothic. So naturally, Gothic romance appeals to me greatly. See that summary above? Perfect Gothic romance fodder for me.
- Magic Most Foul. That's the tagline for this new series. What's not to love? Magic (um, ghosts, too) is the thing I love above all fantastical or paranormal elements. It has my heart. So this book had it, too.
- Dude, cover love!
I have to say, right from the beginning, I've thought this book has a very clever concept. And Leanna Renne Hieber works on that well. The book starts off as very, very intriguing. It's in epistolary format, and while the majority of it is written as part of Natalie's diary entries, there are a few excerpts from the New York City Police Record Case Files and letters exchanged between the characters.
A mysterious - and delicious - new portrait of a handsome young Lord moves into town (actually, into the Art Association on Twenty Third street, New York) and catches the fascination of many, including Natalie, thus triggering off a series of unexpected happenings involving magic most foul.
I like Natalie. A trauma at a young age took away her speech, rendering her mute. She is gutsy (remember this is the 19th century we are talking about, so gutsy now is different from gutsy then, but gutsy nevertheless), thoughtful and a heroine to commend.
And Lord Denbury? (I prefer calling him that than by his first name) He is delicious. For some reason, I kept picturing him as Ben Barnes. I'm guessing its the Dorian Gray effect.
Except for the fact, you know, Denbury lives in a portrait. I wasn't really crushing on him (as much as I was on my fantasy Barnes) but I think the author does a good job of putting across to the reader why Natalie was so taken by him. Fact is Denbury is delicious in his own way.
Darker Still is well-written and the author does a good job of capturing the 19th century suitably. And the added magic bit to it does wonders.
However, while the book got off to an exciting start, it was, well, kinda bland in the middle. Not to say there weren't things going on. There were. Secrets were being discovered and all that jazz, but for some reason, it left me feeling a little underwhelmed. I'm thinking that while the diary format is an interesting addition, the book could have done with being written in the present tense. It could have added an immediacy to the action. Thing is, the middle made me stall. It almost made me give up reading (although I blame that on the fact that this was on netgalley and I HATE e-reading).
Fortunately, I didn't. Because hells yeah, the last quarter's a romping ride of excitement. I really liked how Darker Still ended. It didn't leave me with a cliffhanger but it left me with the possibility of a lot more exciting and magical stuff to come.
Although it has its ups and downs, Darker Still is intriguing with a magical mystery at its core that will keep you on its pages. I'd say you give this book a chance. It's the new Dorian Gray on the block. And a pretty cool homage-of-sorts to Wilde.
I'm already looking forward to the next installment :)
What classic story would you like to see given a new twist?