Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber (Magic Most Foul #1)
Historical Paranormal YA
November 1, 2011
Reviewed by Mandi
No one knows what to do with seventeen year old Natalie Stewart. Now that she is home from the Connecticut Asylum (a place for ailments of the ears and tongue, not the insane in the late 1800’s), where she was placed because she is a mute, she is glad to be home, but it still feels like a prison. Her father wants what is best for her, but he is not sure exactly what that is. Since the day her mother died, when Natalie was a young girl, she has not uttered a word. So she has taken to writing in a diary, all of her thoughts and events that happen each day. And this is how the book is presented to the readers.
Natalie’s father works for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and recently a painting has come to town that has everyone talking. The well liked, young English doctor, Lord Denbury has gone missing, although people are speculating suicide. But right before his alleged death, a beautiful portrait was done – so lifelike that some think something is living behind those eyes of his that stare out so real from the portrait.
It is known that a Mrs. Northe is the high bidder to get the portrait, and Natalie and her father pay her a visit, hoping to be able to convince her to show the portrait at his museum. But Mrs. Northe wants the portrait for more than just art. And once she meets Natalie, she realizes she might be the key to discovering what just lies behind Lord Denbury’s eyes.
I really adore Leanna Renee Hieber’s previous Strangely Beautiful series. I think Darker Still doesn’t have the same adorable romance that we had in her first series, but it does have a very unique story. How different it is to give us a mute heroine, with the story told in her point of view. Using a diary as the platform to tell her story, we not only get the events of each day but Natalie’s intimate thoughts. Her struggle with being different and trying to be a productive member of society without being able to talk comes through well.
We also get a paranormal world steeped in spirituality – with demons and curses and a sexy young doctor. I don’t want to go too much into why or how Denbury is stuck in the portrait, but I think this author does pretty well with giving us a relationship in such a confined space. If you think about it, Natalie’s world is very small. With her lack of talking, her friends and acquaintances are very limited. And then she finds love with a man trapped in a painting, only able to converse with him for a short spurts. Natalie has always had nightmares, and these strange whispers in her head – so the reality of a someone stuck in a portrait, doesn’t shock her completely.
I can’t help though but to compare this romance to her previous books, and like I said earlier, I wish there would have been a more emphasis on it. I also felt that there were a few times during the story that felt a little slow. I liked this book, but I will also say that this one might not work for everyone who has similar tastes as I do. It is very sweet and innocent book – and a nice look at spirituality. But I also feel it misses some romance – and the build up of their relationship needed more attention. I feel like we barely get to know Lord Denbury and I think that distracted from the romance as well.
I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the next in this series. I think I will have to wait to read other reviews to see if the romance is more prominent.