Book Review: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

4 Apr

Natalie Stewart is mute, and she is in love with a portrait. It isn’t just any portrait, thImageough–it’s that of Lord Denbury, an attractive young man from England who tragically lost his life soon after the death of his parents. Everyone is drawn to the portrait, which seems almost alive… and when Natalie touches the paint, she discovers that it is. She discovers that Lord Denbury’s soul is trapped in the painting, and a demon is walking around in his body, killing girls who bear the names of saints. With the help of Evelyn Northe, a lady of good standing and something of a medium, Natalie begins to unravel the curse in hopes of setting Denbury free. But as their love grows, the likelihood of them being together seems to shrink, especially when it looks like the demon’s next target is Natalie herself. To escape, she will need to regain her voice. Is it true that love can conquer all?

This book was a bit of a surprise for me. I picked it up thinking, “Hm, romance, well… okay.” I actually liked it quite a lot. There WAS an awful lot of romance, which I felt was “too much too soon.” I felt like Natalie was too smart to fall for someone so quickly. It’s explained that they were meant to meet and because their souls met before their bodies they had a stronger connection or something… but perhaps the real problem was that we simply didn’t know enough about Denbury, and the fact that in a few days she went from thinking he was just a portrait to running away with him made it all a bit too Disney with too few catchy songs.

Still, it was also fantasy and ghost story and mystery all wrapped up in one nice shiny package. Walking into portraits? Demons? Magic spells? Talking to ghosts? Count me in. The fact that Natalie was mute added a whole new level of interesting. Imagine for a moment, if you will, being inside a character’s head because you HAVE to be, because she can’t talk to anyone. I think it would have been even more interesting if she’d been mute the whole time, but whatever, it was new and different and I liked it. I won’t say that the other elements were faultlessly played out–I could see things coming from a mile away and had seen much of the same before–but it was a fun, fast read and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel.

I will say that the characters were pretty well-drawn. I enjoyed the narrator, which is good since we were in her head so much. She had overcome a lot of obstacles but wasn’t down on herself for it. Instead, she was a bit frustrated with her father for never learning sign language and got appropriately angry at others who assumed she was deaf and dumb rather than just mute. Perhaps I took a little bit of joy in it since it reminded me of my elementary school years, when I got picked on for never talking… though of course, my case was less extreme.

I didn’t really see the point of Maggie in it all, though. I wonder if she’ll have a larger role in the sequel. Not that this book really needs a sequel at all, which is why I’m questioning it. She was a friend, then an annoyance, then almost-got-in-the-way-of-the-big-finale-but-miraculously-didn’t. I was waiting for her to be the crux–like, all was going according to plan and then Maggie gets attacked and throws a wrench into everything and these things that make Natalie that much stronger happen to save both Maggie AND Denbury. Alas.

The other thing I will mention is that while the setting is Victorian, the characters’ speech and whatnot isn’t exactly on par. So I guess what I’m saying is if you’re going in hoping for incredibly accurate historical fiction you’re not going to get it.

But if you want a fun, fast read of magic and mystery, go for it. I enjoyed every page, and I think fans of books like Haunting Violet and other Victorian ghost stories will too.

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2 Responses to “Book Review: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Book Review: The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart by Leanna Renee Hieber | More Than One Page - October 21, 2013

    […] this sequel to Darker Still, Natalie and Lord Denbury are back and on the train out west to escape the magical and demonic […]

  2. 2013: A Year of Reading in Review | More Than One Page - December 26, 2013

    […] Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber […]

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