Review: Darker Still by Leanna Rennee Hieber

Publication Date: November 8th, 2011
Sourcebooks Fire
Format: Paperback, 317 pages
Rating: 4/5 Stars
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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.
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Initial Reaction After Reading:
At a time when YA is flooded by novels that are cut from the same cloth, Darker Still was a refreshingly, original read. It’s Victorian gothic at its best – dark, historical and mystical but simplistic in a way that the reader will not be too encumbered with the formal writings of the time. 
HIGHLIGHTS:
  • Traumatized by her mother’s violent death, Natalie Stewart hasn’t been able to speak since childhood. Left to flourish under the care of her father, she has learned to cope with the possibility that she wouldn’t be blessed with a life like girls her age – no marriage proposals and no family of her own. When a supposedly haunted portrait of Lord Denbury comes into the possession of a decidedly spiritualistic rich matron, Natalie’s days and nights become a succession of believing the impossible and dreaming of the handsome Lord imprisoned inside the mystical, gilded frame of his own portrait.
  • Strong Heroine. Despite being blighted with the inability to speak, Natalie stands out as one of those admirably strong female lead. She fought for herself in any way she knew how. I loved that nothing could deter this girl from anything she sets her mind to. Aside from one instance when she threw a hissy fit and walked away from three dubious, oblivious girls, there didn’t seem to be anything that could faze her – even an evil version of Lord Denbury. 
  • Old Days, Old Ways. I’ve always been fascinated with the Victorian era. The propriety and the customs, the formality of the language – the author did a phenomenal job of creating a world genuine to the period. 
  • Goosebumps. If Natalie’s nightmares doesn’t give you nightmares, well, hats off to you. Ms Hieber has a penchant for writing visceral scenes that added to the seemingly sinister Gothic theme of the book. 
LOWLIGHTS:
  • Foregone Conclusion. Because this book was written in a journal form, there was a definitive lack of suspense throughout the novel. I wasn’t worried that Natalie would come out of each conflict unharmed because, well, otherwise there wouldn’t have been an entry in her diary. 
  • Lack of dialogues, pardon the pun.  I didn’t mean that because Natalie was mute, there wasn’t much talking involved. Sheesh. I’m not a fan of narrative novels. And as previously mentioned, this book was a succession of diarized entries so it was mostly Natalie telling you the story. I tend to lose interest in novels if I don’t see much quotation marks. But this novel had some saving graces that I managed to get through it just fine. 
  • He is, indeed a dashing Lord, but… What is it about aristocratic, British men? *sigh* I for one, am a sucker for these proper gentlemen and no one can deny about Lord Denbury’s hotness. But there is something disturbing about how perfect this man is. Rich, smart, philanthropic and have I mentioned handsome? I know this is a work of fiction but come on, a flaw or two wouldn’t hurt. But hey, that’s just me. You’re probably wondering what in the heck I’m complaining about. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just tired of reading unrealistically perfect species of men. 
FINAL THOUGHTS:
There was a great balance to this novel. The romance was tasteful and the air of mystery was not overdone.  The thrill of learning about runes and curses and the events leading up to Lord Denbury’s imprisonment captivated me to the end. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and I’m positively hungry for the next one. 




  • 🙂 Thanks, CYP.

  • I love my strong heroines too. But hm, I think courageous/brave/kickass heroines is kinda oversaturating the YA market nowadays. Not that I don't like them, it's just..well… I LOVE historicals a lot, more so if it's a YA one. Maybe it's the horse-riding and stuff, and that I can relate to the teenage way of thinking.

    I LOVE THE PUN! HAH. That's a good one. Though unintended. But funny. The only mute heroine novel I've read is The Mermaid's Knight by Jill Myles, and it was GREAT. But I don't like the diary thing…Only ever read one and I didn't like it.

    I haven't read DARKER STILL, but….I don't like the diary thing so I think I'll save it for a later date.

    Great review, by the way. The point forms were easy to read and I agree with almost all of them, if not all.:)