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Portrait as Portal to Mystery, Murder, and Romance

TITLE: Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul

AUTHOR: Leanna Renee Hieber

LENGTH: 336 pages

Cover Blurb: 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.

REVIEW: THUMBS UP! When I first began Darker Still I was so intrigued. I couldn’t put the book down for the first 100 pages. But after that, I lost the fervor but still wanted to finish it. My disappointment came in waiting for a plot twist that never came – it all seemed to be fairly straight-forward and there was little for the reader to puzzle out. The characters lead one on a fairly straight path to the story’s resolution. The characters are believable if a little one-dimensional which readers could attribute to the proprietary  constrictions of the time period. I would have loved to learn more about Lord Denbury. I enjoyed the setting and the description of Victorian New  and customs is accurate. The book is true to its Gothic genre and readers of Gothic horror and romance will love this book. With Natalie’s selective mutism, I understand the need for a diary-narrative but the use of the diary/letter format seems a little contrived toward the end of the novel.  Overall, it’s a pleasant read and I would recommend it to others.

BRIDGE: This book could definitely be used as a bridge to more classical texts. The first to come to mind is A Picture of Dorian Gray but really any Victorian text could be paired with this book. The writing quality is good and would be a great jumping off point for lessons on diction and sentence structure. In addition, struggling readers would find success with Hieber’s writing and could be bridged into more complex YA and classic writing about the Victorian period after using Darker Still as a primer. With an Magic Most Foul series in the works, readers could build up stamina to more complex plots.

READERS: Gothic fans and chaste romance fans will enjoy this read. Readers who like the fantastical will enjoy the story and fans of period fiction will not be disappointed.

OTHER TITLES: Readers who enjoy this novel would also enjoy The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray, The Luxe Series by Anna Godberson, or Jane Austen’s novels.



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