Saturday, November 12, 2011

Review: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Heiber

From the Back Cover:

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.

My Thoughts:

This was really different, but in a good way, and I was hooked from the first page. An endearing heroine, a delicious mystery, the ambiance of the seedier side of New York during the Gilded Age, Spiritualism, romance, danger, magic, and a touch of horror all combine into a cohesive and compelling story. Natalie Stewart is probably one of the best YA heroines I've come across in the past two years. She's not a privileged debutante, but the daughter of a prominent art scholar, living on the fringes of high society. She's smart and sassy, yet demure and shy. And she's mute. She witnessed her mother's gruesome death at the age of four and hasn't spoken since. She's fortunate to have a father who adores her, educates her, and gives her the freedom to forge a life despite her disability. I think she's very realistic and very well-drawn. She's an unusual type of girl to go about solving mysteries, but she's the kind of heroine a reader wants to root for.

Her father is the director of the fledgling Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the musem's newest acquisition is the talk of the town. Rumored to be haunted by the spirit of its subject, Lord Jonathan Denbury, whose untimely death is shrouded in mystery, his portrait is sought after by practitioners of the Spiritualism movement sweeping through the country, and by starry-eyed society girls. Natalie is drawn to the portrait, too, and not just because it's the most realistic rendering of the most beautiful man she's ever seen, but because the portrait seems to be communicating with her. Subtle changes in the portrait seem to be designed to catch her attention. After a frightening encounter with a very real and very different Lord Denbury in the museum after hours, the portrait changes again. Touch Me. She does, and her life will never be the same. Jonathan's spirit is trapped in the painting, and Natalie is the only person who can save him.

The situation becomes intense as Jonathan's alter ego prowls the back alleys of New York, leaving death and horror in his wake. Natalie can't stand by and let innocent victims suffer, but she's torn between her desire to help and her fear of the unknown. She's having horrible nightmares. She's hiding from a madman. And she's falling in love with his spirit. But of the two versions she's met, which one is the real Jonathan? Can she trust him? Can she trust herself? With the help of an eccentric and wealthy museum patron, Natalie starts to piece together what happened to Jonathan and searches for a way to rescue him before it's too late.

I really enjoyed this story. It has all the elements I like in a book. I've already told you how much I like Natalie and her character arc is really meaningful and moving. The only thing that bumps this book down a notch for me is the ending. I just think things happened a bit too easily for the level of difficulty of what Natalie and Jonathan were dealing with. And while I liked what happened, I didn't really care for the epistolary style of the ending and the notes from other characters who hadn't really been involved in the story. I'm not saying the ending isn't satisfactory, because it is, I just thought the manner in which it was done took away a bit of the intimacy. But overall Darker Still is creepy, intellectual, and very romantic. I'm a fan of supernatural historicals because they they deliver that glimpse into the past I love so much and combine it with a fanciful story, giving it a bit more weight, and I'd like to see more like this in the YA market.

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

*Please Note: This review references an advance digital copy received from NetGalley, and the final published version may differ. Though I was given this copy for review, these are my unbiased thoughts and I was not compensated in any other way for this review.

1 comment:

  1. This books sounds like it has a lot of great elements plus a wonderful heroine!!

    ♥ Melissa @ Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf


I love comments! Getting feedback on my posts makes my day! Thanks for being here!