Title: Darker Still
Author: Leanna Hieber
Release Date: November 2011
Published By: Sourcebooks
Goodreads Rating: 3.88 stars
Review: Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart is fascinated by a mysterious painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. But soon she realizes that he's just a little too life-like, and that he's really a man's soul trapped in a painting while his possessed body commits crimes in the city slums. Sinister forces are at work, and despite her relatively sheltered life, Natalie finds herself irrevocably drawn in.
Like any good historical novel, DARKER STILL has the perfect historical fiction voice, with a formality to it that stays true to the time period without getting so dense that it's a struggle to read it. Additionally, it had a very unique voice because, well, the protagonist didn't have one. Natalie is a mute, and while it wasn't an element that got a super central focus, it was explored enough to be fascinating to see what obstacles mute people have to put up with.
The plot was also intriguing. Although the synopsis makes it sound on the spooky side, it wasn't very scary at all and didn't give me so much as chills, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The events that occurred were interesting enough to keep my attention piqued for nearly the entire book, and I was eager the whole time to find out what happens in the end.
However, I do have some quibbles with how the story was told. Most notably, it was written in a journal format, which is a pet peeve of mine because no one can have such perfect recall that they would chronicle, say, dialogues exactly as they occurred. I can perhaps understand it if there's some unique aspect of the book that a journal format would add to, but in this case, the book would have been almost exactly the same had it been written in a traditional format.
But probably what bothered me the most of all was the insta-love, a common facet of paranormal romances that made its way into this book with little explanation beyond the "it was meant to be" route. Natalie saw a painting and fell in love with the man behind the portrait. Three scenes later and they're making out on a desk. Half the fun in reading romance is the chase, the uncertainties of does-he-or-doesn't-he, the anticipation that heightens with each page.
While I do have some ambivalent feelings towards this book because of the insta-love and format, overall, I enjoyed DARKER STILL. It told an original story of love, magic, and the supernatural in historical times, and also explored something I've never really read in a novel before: muteness. Combined with a strong, fleshed-out protagonist, this is a book for anyone who loves historical fiction with a dash of magic and a whole lot of romance.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. This in no way affected my review.