Wednesday, May 23, 2012

REVIEW: Darkness Becomes Her (A kinda PG-13 fun Anita Blake or less funny more action-oriented Paranormalcy/Stephanie Plum

Keaton, K.  (2011).  Darkness Becomes Her.  New York:  Simon Pulse.

273 pages.

Appetizer:  Seventeen-year-old Ari has gone searching for information about her mother.  The woman had given her up to the state of Louisiana years ago.  Soon after learning that her mother spent time in an insane asylum where she eventually committed suicide, Ari finds a cryptic letter.  Then she is attacked by a supernatural being.  Lucky for her, she's been raised by bounty hunters for the last few years and can handle the creature attacking least the first one, anyway.

Realizing that there's more going on, Ari's quest for information about her family's past leads her to the ruins of New Orleans, AKA New 2, (which had been devastated by hurricanes thirteen years previously and has since been dominated by a handful of wealthy families called The Novem who want nothing to do with the outside world).  While in New 2, Ari makes new friends, learns more about the magical curse that has haunted the women in her family and realizes she has a powerful and ancient enemy to battle.

Darkness Becomes Her proved to be a fast read (when I had the time) that was easy to get into and that I was willing to read, "just another chapter...okay one more than I'll long is the next one--okay, one more...."  I liked Ari as a character.  She was tough and could handle herself in a fight (In that way, she reminded me of Kiersten White's protagonist in Paranormalcy).  I thought it was interesting that Avi in Darkness Becomes Her had such a dark past and history of abuse (Keaton does a good job of not dwelling on this, but rather briefly showing what Ari has endured, making it impressive that the character has survived and is as strong as she is.)  Overall, the book is a light quick read.  So, since I didn't get bogged down in the darkness, it was easier to focus on the romance (with a vampire-warlock named Sebastian...oorh, in theory.  In reality, he was kind of blah.  I thought he needed to be developed more.  Aside from the requirement of being handsome, providing necessary exposition about New 2 and showing up at the right time, there wasn't much to her personality.

I could also focus on the fluff and rich descriptions of the surviving (and familiar!) parts of Southern Louisiana and New Orleans.  Keaton has created a protagonist whose world and experience are easy to escape into.  (I know I used the book to avoid grading for a little longer.)

On a tiny note, I wasn't crazy that the author included a word in Greek as a part of the name of the monster hunting group:

I have no idea how to pronounce the word!  Sigh.  I guess I can add that to my to-do list:  learn Greek, ancient and modern.  I also felt like Keaton had to work a little too hard to establish the rules of her world.  Don't get me wrong, this is important for an author to do, but I felt like she had to work a little too hard to accomplish there were some weaknesses in the world building.  All this means many rules.

Plus, I wasn't completely crazy about the way the Greek goddess Athena was portrayed.  But there were a still a lot of great tensions with the conflict with her.  Keaton focuses on the myth of how Medusa was created and Athena's role in that.  It has the potential to be a strong critique of the way victims have historically been treated after surviving rapes and abuse.  I wanted Keaton to push those critique and commentary more.

I liked the way voodoo, fantasy and Greek myth were all combined.  It was reminiscent of an actual New Orleans Mardi Gras experience (to which there are several scenes devoted in the book).

And since I mentioned Mardi Gras, here are some pictures I took of my own Lundi Gras parade experiences.  Think of it as setting the mood for the novel:

The sequel to this book is A Beautiful Evil.  I'll be reading it soon.  :)

Dinner Conversation:

"Under the cafeteria table, my right knee bounced like a jackhammer possessed.  Adrenaline snaked through my limbs, urging me to bolt, to hightail it out of Rocquemore House and never look back.
Deep breaths.
If I didn't get my act together and calm down, I'd start hyperventilating and embarrass the shit out of myself.  Not a good thing, especially when I was sitting in an insane asylum with rooms to spare." (p. 1).

"'After your mother gave you up to social services, she spent the remainder of her life here at Rocquemore.'  His fingers fidgeted with the file.  "Self-admitted," he went on.  "Was here six months and eighteen days.  Committed suicide on the eve of her twenty-first birthday."
An inhale lodged in my throat.
Oh hell.  I hadn't expected that."  (p. 2).

A letter from Avi's mother:  "Stay away from New Orleans, and away from those who can identify you.  How I wish I could save you.  My heart aches, knowing you will face what I have faced.  I love you so much, Avi.  And I am sorry.  For everything.
I'm not crazy.  Trust me.  Please, baby girl, just RUN." (p. 12)

"The Novem never confirmed or denied any rumors.  They never gave interviews, never stepped into the spotlight except to make the purchase.  And then they retreated into their ruined city, leaving the rest of the country to wonder.  It's wasn't long before they joined the ranks of Area 51, Roswell, the Loch Ness monster, and all the other conspiracy theories and paranormal speculations out there.  The undercover reporters and truth seekers who'd come out of the city later on with grainy photographs and accounts of monsters and murders only added to the speculation.  And now, thirteen years later, a large percentage of the country believed New 2 was a sanctuary, a hot spot, for the paranormal." (p. 29)

"'New 2 is home to a lot of what the Novem call 'gifted' people.  What do you think would happen if Violet or Dub--or I--lived beyond The Rim?'
Easy.  "If they couldn't hide their abilities, life wouldn't be so kind," I answered in a quiet voice, thinking of my own experiences.
"Exactly.  New 2 is a place where you don't have to hide, but if you want to, that's okay too.  No one is going to judge you because you're different.  That's what the Novem wanted all along." (p. 98)

"'I have asked to see you to offer my protection while you're in our city.  Together we will delve into your past and uncover this gift you have been given.  But in return, you must grant your allegiance to me, a blood oath to the Arnaud family and no other."
"Was that what you asked of my mother?  You weren't just helping out of the goodness of your heart?"
Josephine laughed.  'I don't have a heart, my dear.'"  (p. 108)

Tasty Rating:  !!!.  (AKA 3.5 explanation points of excitement)

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