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Darker Still (Review)

Title: Darker Still

Series: Magic Most Foul (Book #1)

Author: Leanna Renee Hieber

Publication: 2011

Rating: ★★

Summary: I was obsessed.

It was as if he called to me, demanding I reach out and touch the brushstrokes of color swirled onto the canvas. It was the most exquisite portrait I’d ever seen—everything about Lord Denbury was unbelievable…utterly breathtaking and eerily lifelike.

There was a reason for that. Because despite what everyone said, Denbury never had committed suicide. He was alive. Trapped within his golden frame.

I’ve crossed over into his world within the painting, and I’ve seen what dreams haunt him. They haunt me too. He and I are inextricably linked—bound together to watch the darkness seeping through the gas-lit cobblestone streets of Manhattan. Unless I can free him soon, things will only get darker still.

Review: I wanted to like this book so badly—I absolutely loved The Picture of Dorian Gray, and it seemed to me that a book roughly based on the same thing would be amazing. However, I found myself really disappointed with the way the plot turned out, and the romance between Natalie and Lord Denbury was completely unbelievable and lackluster—definitely not a driving, let alone convincing, plot point. This hasn’t been a great reading year for me, and slogging through this book really put me in a reading slump that I have yet to conquer.

In short, this book epitomized everything wrong with the young adult genre. The main character does absolutely nothing except when she is emotionally propelled forward by her overwhelming love for the handsome man in the paining. Ordinarily, I completely love journal-style novels because journals are deeply personal and they provide a believable place for narration—but here, Natalie would write in the most ridiculous places (for example, in the back of a mysterious carriage when she thinks she’s been kidnapped), and at the most ridiculous times. I got terribly sick of her devotion to Denbury, and other plot elements fell apart at the seams the further into the novel I read. All in all, the whole thing was a waste of time, and I’d recommend just reading Dorian Gray instead of something that attempted to draw inspiration from it.

What I Liked: Spoilers!

  • I think Natalie’s inability to speak did add to her character, and although the journal style kind of fell apart, it made sense in the beginning. A journal is the perfect place for a mute girl to be able to write her feelings and her story, when she cannot find the ability to say anything in the real world. The discussion of her place in society because of her disability was interesting, and I think this was the only thing that added a real depth to her character—without her muteness, she would have completely driven me nuts with her obsession with Denbury. However, this is really the only good thing I can say about this novel. The writing itself wasn’t bad, either, but I also don’t recall it being very amazing.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Perhaps the most frustrating element of this novel was the way Natalie obsessed over the painting. She instantly falls in love with Denbury, and once she crosses into his world, he’s just as head-over-heels as she is. Normally, I’d be able to roll my eyes and move on (though irritated), but something struck me as…wrong about their interactions. What bothered me most was the fact that Natalie first met Denbury’s “body” through the demon that had possessed him—and he was creepy and disturbing. He made me uncomfortable, and I wasn’t even in the same room with him. Natalie doesn’t seem to have any issues without associating that same face with the man she loves, though—I can’t say I’ve ever been in the position, but someone who looks exactly like a guy who tried to rape me would not be my number one choice for a boyfriend. (Denbury himself also says some weird stuff about pleasuring themselves in the painting, which wouldn’t shame them in real life—just, no.) Natalie doesn’t actually care, though. In addition to that, Natalie only participates in the story because she’s attracted to Denbury—if she wasn’t oh-so in love with him, she wouldn’t investigate the painting or care about what happens to the man trapped in it. She is guided by her hormones, and that is pretty much it. I’ve never been a fan of instalove, but this kind of pushed it a little too far. 
  • Perhaps it was the instalove itself, but the entire plot felt unreal and unbelievable. I thought the journal element would add something interesting and unique, but since Natalie decided to write in the strangest places at the strangest times, it didn’t seem that the journal was meant to draw us into the story and make it more believable and realistic. Instead, the journal became a ploy to make the writing stand out from all the present-tense young adult novels of the time. And when everything was said and done, all Natalie had to say was say a few words and the spell was broken. Not exactly a climax to hold your breath about. In addition, Natalie could speak in Denbury’s painting, the two of them shared dreams, and Natalie was haunted by some crazy spirits that liked to behead other spirits…I’m not sure how any of that worked, or how it was related. I’m sure it’s explained in the next book (where Natalie runs away from her adoring father in order to be with her one true luv), but I don’t think I have the energy to waste on attempting to figure it out.  The whole thing was painfully boring by the end, and I looked forward to the end of the book.

Overall: Admittedly, it’s been awhile since I finished this novel and wrote this review. I had no favorable impressions of the book, though, and after reviewing it and flipping through my notes, I actually lowered the rating from what I initially gave it, once I had some time to think about how I really felt about it. If you’re looking for painful instalove, this is definitely the book for you. Everything else in it was used only the further the love of our main characters. Everything else was completely secondary to a bash-you-in-the-face-with-it type of romance. If you want something with any kind of substance or logic or interest, this definitely isn’t the book for you. The writing wasn’t bad, though, and I could see where it had potential to be so much better, so I’m not counting Hieber out completely—I think I’d be willing to give another of her books a try. (Given that there is not romance in it anywhere at all.) Fans of Dorian Gray should look elsewhere to see remnants of the classic. Those who haven’t read it should just go read it and leave this on the shelf where it belongs.

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magic-in-every-book:

Everyone else has been doing an updated version and I did mine very early in my book blogging career so there were a lot fewer blogs I follower. I’m still picky about who I follow, so this just goes to show how many phenomenal book blogs there are!
A-D
adventuresonpaper ★ ananasbooks ★ anothergenericbookblog ★ beccaandbooks ★ beckisbookshelf ★ bibliophylum ★ bittenandwritten ★ bluestockingbookworm ★ bookandwords ★ bookdrunkinlove ★ bookhauler ★ bookmad ★ bookphile ★ bookpillows ★ books-and-ashes ★ books-and-cookies ★ books-cupcakes ★ books-glorious-books ★ booksnbutterbeer ★ booksnmore ★ books-and-sketches ★ books-to-love ★ booksyrup★ books-wrote-my-story ★ didyousaybooks ★ duckduckbooks ★
E-Q
 endless-bookends ★ escapingintoabook ★ faery-tales-and-nightmares ★ intoxicatingstories ★ iprefertoread ★ isilluminating ★ kissabookworm ★ library-heaven ★ literatureloveaffair ★ livingthroughbooks ★ lovegoodslibrary ★ mariethelibrarian ★ ohsomanybooks ★ paperbackd ★ parchmentjunkie ★ partnersinbooks ★ prettypaperback ★ queennovella ★ 
R-Z
raisedinabook ★ readaroundtherosie ★ reignofbooks ★ samreads ★ she-was-too-fond-of-books ★ sincerelybooked ★ stashingbooks ★ stxrybooks ★ superbooked ★ teethequoter ★ thaliasbooks ★ thebooker ★ the-book-ferret ★ thebookishdragon ★ thegirlofnovels ★ tilly-and-her-books ★ treesofreverie ★ twentysomethingvagabond ★ what-lovely-books ★ yummibooks ★ 23books ★

Thank you so much, Dakota! <3 Yours is a blog I always recommend wholeheartedly!

magic-in-every-book:

Everyone else has been doing an updated version and I did mine very early in my book blogging career so there were a lot fewer blogs I follower. I’m still picky about who I follow, so this just goes to show how many phenomenal book blogs there are!

A-D

adventuresonpaper  ananasbooks  anothergenericbookblog ★ beccaandbooks ★ beckisbookshelf bibliophylum  bittenandwritten bluestockingbookworm  bookandwords bookdrunkinlove  bookhauler bookmad bookphile  bookpillows books-and-ashes  books-and-cookies  books-cupcakes books-glorious-books  booksnbutterbeer booksnmore books-and-sketches  books-to-love booksyrup books-wrote-my-story didyousaybooks duckduckbooks 

E-Q

endless-bookends  escapingintoabook faery-tales-and-nightmares intoxicatingstories  iprefertoread isilluminating  kissabookworm library-heaven  literatureloveaffair livingthroughbooks lovegoodslibrary ★ mariethelibrarian  ohsomanybooks paperbackd  parchmentjunkie partnersinbooks  prettypaperback queennovella  

R-Z

raisedinabook  readaroundtherosie reignofbooks  samreads she-was-too-fond-of-books  sincerelybooked stashingbooks  stxrybooks  superbooked teethequoter thaliasbooks  thebooker the-book-ferret  thebookishdragon thegirlofnovels  tilly-and-her-books  treesofreverie twentysomethingvagabond  what-lovely-books  yummibooks  23books 

Thank you so much, Dakota! <3 Yours is a blog I always recommend wholeheartedly!

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