Title: Darker Still
Author: Leanna Renee Hieber
Genre: YA Gothic Historical
Series: Magic Most Foul (Book 1)
Publication Date: November 8, 2011
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
ISBN-10: 1402260520 (Sourcebooks Fire)
ISBN-13: 978-1402260520 (Sourcebooks Fire)
Reviewed by: Macie
I was obssessed.
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. And unless I can free him soon, things will only get Darker Still.
Quick and Dirty: I absolutely loved this novel from the lifelike characters to the intriguing plot sprinkled with myths and demons battling for eternal souls.
Opening Sentence: Sister Theresa handed me this farewell gift with such relief that it might as well have been a key to her shackles.
The novel starts with a note from the 1880 New York Police Records stating that the journal of Natalie Stewart is part of an unbelievable, utterly insane account of what took place concerning the portrait of Lord Denbury. If that doesn’t make you interested in Darker Still, I hope this review might. I absolutely loved this book, and am anxiously waiting for the sequel due out in November.
Natalie Stewart is a vivacious young woman who is smart, but not properly challenged. She is easily bored, and craves something to take her mind off of how mundane her life has grown since she has matured and left school. She wants to do something worthwhile with her time, and working with her father at the Metropolitan Museum is her first choice. For being a mute, someone who cannot or will not talk, Natalie knows how to effectively communicate. She finds a friend in Mrs. Northe, an eccentric widow interested in the supernatural, since they both know sign language. Natalie becomes enthralled in the acquisition of the highly publicized portrait of Lord Denbury, a young man who was thought to have committed suicide. It is via this piece of art that Natalie and Mrs. Northe first become acquainted.
Natalie finds a motherly figure in Mrs. Northe since her own mother passed away, taking Natalie’s voice to the grave after her traumatic death. Mrs. Northe is very wealthy, and thus allowed by society to be eccentric and still acceptable. Her eccentricities extend to in depth knowledge of spiritualism and the paranormal world. This knowledge comes in handy when they are dealing with the portrait of Lord Denbury. Denbury seems to have been cursed and his soul put into the painting while his body is possessed by some demonic force. It is up to Natalie and Mrs. Northe to save him as they are the only ones near enough who can. Natalie has a special connection with the portrait, and finds that she is able to interact with it, and Lord Denbury, especially in her dreams. What she does not account for is falling in love with Denbury.
This novel has magic, demons, history, mythology, literature, and love. Each new detail made the novel that much more exciting to read. I could hardly wait to get to the end to see if Natalie and Mrs. Northe would succeed. The character interactions between Natalie and the others felt very real. Natalie is an outcast because of her disability which most people do not understand. She has no friends her age because she lived so long at the Connecticut Asylum with other girls who cannot see, hear, or talk, and has not attended the regular social functions of other people her age since the majority of young people would not take the time to understand her. Natalie is sick of pity and sympathy, and just wants a normal friendship. As it turns out, she finds that friendship in Mrs. Northe.
I really enjoyed the character of Mrs. Northe. She is independent, smart, and very considerate of all people that deserve it. She has a knowing about her that endeared her to me as she helped Natalie and the trapped Lord Denbury. Her understanding of social situations and relations, and her disdain for the superfluous ones marked her out as a dangerously independent woman in a male dominated world. I always love reading a strong female character who does not allow social conventions to constrain what she does and does not do. Her interest and familiarity with the supernatural and spiritualism was also refreshing to see in an adult of such stature.
Natalie has to race against the clock to try and figure out how to get Lord Denbury back to his whole self before his demon possessed body murders again. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the fact that Denbury was bound to his painted world unless Natalie figured out how to reverse the magic since I enjoyed Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Leanna Renee Hieber thanks him in her Afterword as an inspiration. Overall, this book was great. I personally would not have written so much about how infatuated Natalie is with Lord Denbury, but for the novel and Natalie’s first real love, it worked. I highly recommend this novel, and cannot wait until The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart comes in the fall!
“It’s like he’s magnetic, isn’t it? He compels us, doesn’t he?” she murmured. I nodded. It would do not good to pretend I wasn’t fascinated; it was far too late to hide that.
“Did you notice anything different about the canvas? I highly doubt you passed by last time without peeking.”
I wondered if besides being a spiritualist, she was a mind reader. I blushed, and that was enough for her to smirk.
“I’d be disappointed in you if you hadn’t,” she continued, and we were silent as we ascended the stairs to his level, as if ascending a dais to the throne of a king. He would have made a good king, I thought, wistfully imagining myself as one of his loyal subjects, falling upon my knee to kiss his smooth, white hand. My blush persisted. This painting had done wonders for my already overactive imagination.
We stood on the landing, and she drew the curtain back. Were I in the habit of making noise, I would have gasped. But I did inwardly with a small contraction of my rip cage and a skip of my heartbeat. Even though his face was emblazoned upon my memory, every time was like seeing him for the first.
This, I determined, was what it must feel like…
I was in love.
With a two-dimensional object. A mute in love with a painting. Lovely. Just lovely. I could do nothing but stand there and accept my absurd fate.
The Magic Most Foul Series:
1. Darker Still
FTC Advisory: Sourcebooks Fire provided me with a copy of Darker Still. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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