Darkness in the Shadows by Chris Little
Natalie’s parents weren’t the nurturing type—and she has the physical and emotional wounds to prove it. For sixteen years she’s hidden behind a wall of sarcasm and decadent desserts, but now her father is back, and she has only one thought: to kill him before he can hurt the family that took her in.
But there’s more to his darkness than even his own daughter can understand, and a gun is no defense against magic that can raise the dead.
It turns out those scars he left on Natalie’s back were more than just a sadistic hobby. Now her father demands that she finish a ritual so ancient, so terrifying, that even the vampires and werewolves are nervous.
Can anyone protect her?
I received this book from Netgalley a couple of days ago. I was intrigued by the dust jacket description, and was anxious to dig right in—after all, I enjoy a good bout of necromancy now and then.
Unfortunately, I genuinely believe that if I hadn’t read the description, I wouldn’t have had a clue as to what was going on. The writing seems to assume you already have a decent idea of Natalie’s history, which would be fine if the teaser bits of information made a little bit more sense. There were points where I think we slipped into Natalie’s memories rather than present-day, but I found the switch unclear and jarring. I’m generally fine with bouncing back and forth in the time stream to tell the story, but the execution is critical. I found myself generally confused.
As far as characterization goes, I quite liked Natalie’s voice, but I found her very flat as a character. I didn’t feel that she had realistic reactions to the events going on around her, at least at the beginning—at times I felt like she was completely void at emotion, and at other times she was getting angry for something that wasn’t entirely clear to me.
I had similar issues with the dialog. I frequently had to guess at who was talking because it both wasn’t called out by anything other than a pronoun (which is of little help when two females are talking) and the supporting characters had a similar voice at Natalie. Again, I didn’t understand her motivations enough to be able to pick her apart based on her reactions or knowledge.
This was an interesting concept though—the story builds up to be somewhat of a mystery/horror, I guess, though the pacing is a bit off to be particularly effective at either. I think making the background info a little easier to follow would have helped with that, as well as some practice at building suspense. I don’t need a particularly high amount of action to be satisfied with a book, but I need something to keep me engaged.
I ended up skimming most of the book once I resigned myself to staying confused and lost. To be honest, I think Little has a lot of potential as an author, but I would highly recommend some practice with dialog (I might try my hand at some screenwriting-esque scenes where you have just dialog and no narration to be able to show who is speaking). I think just that would go a long way toward cleaning this up, because if you can pull that off successfully, everything else I’ve commented on should improve with it.