Title: Innocent Darkness
Author: Suzanne Lazear
Genre: YA Steampunk
Series: The Aether Chronicles (Book 1)
Publication Date: August 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 408 Pages
ISBN-10: 0606264469 (Flux)
ISBN-13: 978-0606264464 (Flux)
Reviewed by: Emmy
Wish. Love. Desire. Live.
When spirited sixteen-year-old Noli Braddock and her best friend Steven “V” Darrow take a flying car out for a joyride, neither expects Noli to be sent to reform school to mend her hoyden ways.
While at the dreadful school, Noli’s innocent mid-summer’s eve wish summons Kevighn, a mysterious man who takes Noli with him to the Realm of Faerie. At first Noli believes she has been rescued. But the sinister reason behind the handsome huntsman’s appearance quickly become clear—he wants to use Noli as a blood sacrifice to restore his dying world.
V, who has secrets of his own, shows up to help Noli escape and return to the mortal realm—but first, they must navigate the dangerous intrigues of the Otherworld. If they are successful, Noli will live.
But if Noli lives, the entire Otherworld civilization will die
Quick & Dirty: Though the novel starts out as a promising steampunk, it quickly becomes another paranormal love triangle with some confusing contradictions in the story line.
Opening Sentence: ”Still working, Noli?” V’s voice startled her, making her bang her head against the undercarriage of the automobile.
At the very beginning of the novel we learn our heroine’s a troublemaker. Fighting the constraints of Victorian California society, she tinkers with her father’s flying car and eventually causes more trouble than the legal system is willing to tolerate. The system takes Noli out of her mother’s care, revealing more about her family than Noli knew. Our heroine gets sent to a reform school in San Fransisco — though she’s too naïve to understand what that really means — where they’re going to mold her into a marriageable young lady. Forcefully.
Lucky for Noli she has what the faeries call a Spark. More than enough Spark to attract the Faerie Queen’s huntsman Kevighn. The last girl he kidnapped ended up killing herself before the Sacrifice — meaning that the Otherworld is dying. With it, so will the mortal world’s creativity. But Noli’s different from the hundreds of other girls Kevighn has kidnapped over the years, and he falls in love with her.
The characters ring a distinct lack of development. Noli is of course so wonderful Kevighn, the jaded opium addict, becomes inspired to love her. V, the boy-next-door that Noli has actual feelings for, starts out sweet (if cliché) and ends up being given the role that gives him a real chance at saving Noli. None of it rang true. I didn’t believe Kevighn would ever fall for Noli, didn’t believe V’s super-big secret. Kevighn’s character is left so open-ended that as a reader the fact he’ll be incredibly important in the sequel is lit up in neon lights. V becomes a little ridiculous, no matter how much I tried to like him.
And then we get to our heroine. She was so incredibly naïve I almost came to doubt her intelligence. The main reason I didn’t is because she did, in fact, build a flying car. While I love the way Lazear demonstrates her strengths in the reform school, tackling huge subjects like sexual abuse, it was still hard for me to get into her head. Maybe part of this was the POV changes that never seemed to flow together, but I think it was mostly how naïve she was. Then, even though the author has made it clear Noli’s real feelings are for V and Kevighn sacrifices girls, she struggles for pages on who she truly belongs with.
This book could easily have existed without the steampunk elements, and it might have turned out better that way. There is just so much going on that Lazear never goes into the technology that’s supposed to define Innocent Darkness as a steampunk. The story was torn between Victorian Gothic and the steampunk genre, so neither one actually prevailed in setting an engaging atmosphere for the novel. In fact, it was far more a Faerie novel than either of those two. I hope the sequel delves more into the world-building that I found lacking here. I’m also hoping the sequel begins to move away from the convenience-issues Innocent Darkness had and actually strives to make the characters complex.
Her life flashed before her eyes as she gagged and choked on the water pouring through the cloth. Images of her father, her mother, Jeff, V…
Yes, she was going to die. All because she hid a book. Her mama would never know how much she loved her, how sorry she was. Tears rolled down her face as she waited for death.
The cloth rose again. Air. Sweet air. She gasped for breath. Heart speeding, she waited for Miss Gregory to put back the cloth.
But she didn’t.
“Never be disobedient again, Magnolia,” Miss Gregory warned, every word making Noli tremble in terror. “I guarantee that you won’t like the consequences.”
The Aether Chronicles:
2. Charmed Vengeance (2013)
FTC Advisory: Flux provided me with a copy of Innocent Darkness No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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