Publication date: November 8th, 2011
Published by: Sourcebooks
Genre: Historical YA, Paranormal Mystery
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 couldn't have come at a worse time for me. I have tons of things on my mind and get easily distracted. So, admittedly I kinda struggled to finish it, it took me a while. That being said, I strongly believe that Darker Still is different from other YA because not only does it combine two genres (historical/paranormal), it's also written the way historical books are written, Jane Austen style, which is something you're either going to find innovative and intriguing or confusing and boring. I was both intrigued and bored.
I liked the characters. It didn't have a lot of them, only 3 major players and 2-3 who weren't important to the story. I liked Natalie. I liked her naivete, her shyness, which seemed real and believable throughout the book, even when she finally succumbs to Lord Denbury's charms. Lord Denbury was the obvious love interest, good looking and alluring. I just can't bring myself to call an 19 century lord "hot", sorry :)
Granted, the story Hieber chose to write isn't the most original, as the basic idea is inspired by Oscar Wilde's "The Picture Of Dorian Gray". Even though Darker Still isn't, understandably, as deep and existential as Dorian Gray was, it still made a good and entertaining read. It focused more on Natalie's and Lord Denbury's romance and how that came to be, rather than the paranormal part of the story and Denbury's malevolent half.
I would have liked more of that, I'm afraid. Not that I didn't enjoy the romance, quite the opposite. However, I think if the book was equal parts romance and actual plot/story, it would have a better flow and would be way easier to read and concentrate on. The flow of information and action was slow at times and that certainly didn't help to move the story forwards. I wanted more magic, more mythology and more bad guy scenes, which regretfully were very limited. Too bad, I kinda liked vicious Denbury!
If you like Victorian era type books and intricate but elegant writing, read Darker Still. Story-wise though, I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.