Book Review: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

DARKER STILL by Leanna Renee Heiber Book Review
Series: Magic Most Foul, #1
Publication Date: November 8th 2011 by Sourcebooks Fire
Rating: |

Summary: The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart’s latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing…

Jonathan Denbury’s soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.

Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber Review Overview:

  • Denbury is kinda hot, but not as hot as others made him out to be
  • I actually learned something new about New York City?!
  • Steamy romance but still manages to stay PG-13

This is how you write a historical novel, people. Most historical YA I’ve picked up lately sound like contemporary teens transplanted into another time. Their voices are the voices of today’s teens. I get that authors are trying to appeal to teen readers, but to me it seems historically inaccurate. However, Leanne Renee Hieber does not do this in DARKER STILL. On the contrary, Hieber’s character Natalie writes in her diary from her perspective and captures the voice of a seventeen-year-old living at the end of the 1880s. The writing style is still easily accessible to teen readers but still has the feel of being a bit dated.

Natalie Stewart is a girl rendered mute after a traumatic experience witnessing her mother’s deadly accident. A recent graduate from a school for the mute, deaf, and the blind, Natalie goes back home to live with her father in Manhattan. Despite her lack of voice, Natalie’s father loves her unconditionally and dotes on her by allowing her to apprentice at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he works. And this is where the drama all starts … Natalie hears about the striking portrait of Lord Denbury.

Natalie was a fairly likeable character and she did experience a lot of growth in her character throughout the novel. It has been a while since I read a novel in the form of a diary, and the experience was made interesting because for the most part, the written word is the only way Natalie can communicate with most people.

Everyone online is all the rage about Lord Denbury, but he really did not leave me with a strong lasting impression. What stuck out most about him was his very handsome look, but nothing about his personality quite stuck with me. I guess it’s a bit hard to know him as a character when he is effectively stuck in a painting, so I will cut Lord Denbury a bit of slack. However, I wish I heard more about his experiences studying medicine.

One of my favorite places to read about in novels is historical New York City. However, one thing did strike me as unfamiliar: the neighborhood called Five Points. For those who do not live in the City or even those like me who need to brush up on their NYC history, the neighborhood of Five Points is where the Civic Center now stands downtown. The Five Points had a reputation of being ridden with disease and violence. The area had once been where the Collect Pond, a fresh water resevoir, stood before it had been reclaimed for land. For the movie buffs, the Five Points was the setting of the film The Gangs of New York.

DARKER STILL does quite push the boundaries when it comes to romance – get ready for some steamy scenes between Natalie and Lord Denbury. Hieber writes some amazing kissing scenes. I’d say that the romance gets a little bit risqué for a younger teen, but as Natalie puts it, she remains a lady and Denbury, a gentleman, all the way until the end of the book. There’s nothing past kissing and a bit of rumpled clothes. Totally PG-13.

DARKER STILL concludes nicely but does have openings for future subsequent novels featuring Natalie and Jonathon. I like Hieber’s writing style and I look forward to reading more of her work. The young adult genre definitely needs more historical fiction from writers like Hieber.

Why I’m Biased: CURSE YOU READING SLUMP. Also, I really, really wanted to like that book because the gown that the model is wearing on the cover is my prom dress! Eeeeeep.

Other Reviews:
Supernatural Snark

About the Author

An author, actress and playwright, Leanna grew up in rural Ohio, graduated with a BFA in Theatre, a focus in the Victorian Era and a scholarship to study in London. She’s adapted 19th Century literature for the stage and her one-act plays have been produced around the country. Her novella “Dark Nest” won the 2009 Prism Award for excellence in Futuristic, Fantasy, or Paranormal Romance. The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, first in the “Strangely Beautiful” saga of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels (Barnes & Noble Bestseller), named a favourite of 2009 by 14 book blogs, won two 2010 Prism Awards (Best Fantasy, Best First Book) and was optioned for musical theatre adaptation currently in development. Her new Historical Paranormal YA series begins with DARKER STILL: A Novel of Magic Most Foul, set in 1880 New York City, and is named an INDIE NEXT title; a recommended buy by the American Book Association.

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