Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul~Leanna Renee HieberPaperback: 336 pagesPublisher: Sourcebooks FirePublish Date: November 1, 2011ISBN-10: 1402260520ISBN-13: 978-1402260520
From the author's website:
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. And unless I can free him soon, things will only get darker still...
As a young child, Natalie Stewart was witness to a traumatic incident that rendered her speechless. Now 17 and mute, Natalie is finished with school and convinces her father to offer her a job working with him at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.
The big news in the art world is that the famous painting of Lord Jonanthan Denbury is for sale. This painting is surrounded by rumors and speculation about the strange disappearance of the subject and the almost mystical feel to the painting. Her father knows the museum can't afford to buy it, but he brings Natalie to meet Mrs. North, a wealthy widow, who is the most probable purchaser, in the hopes that she will lend it to the museum.
Natalie strikes up a sort of friendship with Mrs. North, their obsession with the painting as their initial shared preoccupation. Mrs. North is also interested in all forms of spiritualism, and is convinced there is something peculiar and magical about the painting. When she takes Natalie to see the painting, she's convinced Natalie has a special connection with the painting and encourages her to explore the connection. When Natalie notices a note for her in the painting, she reaches out to touch it, and falls into the painting!
Young Natalie discovers a curse, a gentleman, a murderer, and her inner voice; taking her far beyond the boundaries of what she thought she knew about the world she lives in...
I have not yet read Ms. Hieber's adult series, but when I saw the blurb for her YA book, Darker Still, I knew I had to read it! A mute heroine and a hero stuck in a portrait painting? Set in the 1880s? YA? Yes, please.
I enjoyed the POV as coming from Natalie's journal entries. It was a nice way to get around her inability to talk, and also gave the heroine time to think about the events as she writes them, making it more introspective than had we gotten her POV as events happened. Natalie was a good heroine - clever, open-minded, loyal, and kind-hearted. I kind of feel like we didn't really get a good look at Lord Denbury's personality, mostly because the story was told from Natalie's POV, and, of course, because he was trapped in a painting - there wasn't much he could do.
I liked the secondary characters, especially Mrs. North. Her niece was a bit annoying and I have the feeling we'll be seeing her again. The villian in Darker Still is suitably creepy - I think Natalie did a much better job of standing up to him than I would have done! I loved the mystical/spiritual aspect of the story and hope that will continue with the series.
There were spots where the story moved slowly; I can't put my finger on exactly why, but I did find myself occasionally trying to read ahead to where we get more information or something exciting happens. That being said, while I liked the ending, it was the only part of the book that felt a bit rushed; it seemed to wrap up quickly. I am looking forward to the next book in the series though; I can't wait to see what Ms. Heiber has in store for these characters!