Book Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Certain Dark ThingsCertain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (October 25, 2016)

Length: 323 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

I’ve been champing at the bit to read Certain Dark things ever since I first heard about the book. Back then it still didn’t have a title, but the mere description of it clinched it for me. I’m not someone who’s ever needed much motivation to pick up a vampire story after all, and after learning that one of the main characters is a descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, I was even more intrigued.

That the book takes place in Mexico City was a compelling factor too. Gangs, drugs and corruption run rampant in the capital, but what you won’t have to worry about are vampires. That’s because the city has declared itself to be a “vampire-free zone”. But as with all rules, there are times when individuals have found a way around this particular edict.

This is something Domingo knows all too well. A homeless teenager who ekes out a meager living by salvaging landfills for usable goods to resell, he is on his way home one day when he spies a pretty girl trailed by her large Doberman. To his surprise, she notices him back. And actually talks to him! It isn’t long before the girl confides in him her name and true nature. She is Atl, and she is a member of a subgroup of vampires who trace their line back to the ancient Aztecs.

Atl is in trouble, so she cuts to the chase: some other dangerous vampires are after her, and she needs to get out of Mexico City and head south right away. But while she’s here, she will need a place to hide as well as a “Renfield” to feed on and to assist her during the day. Completely smitten by this confident, beautiful girl, Domingo readily agrees to help her out—the fact that she’s a vampire and wants to drink his blood be damned.

However, it turns out Atl’s troubles are worse than he realized. The vampire gang she’s on the run from are headed by Nick Godoy, a real nasty piece of work. Brash young Nick is a “Necro”, a subspecies of vampire that most closely resembles the classical vampire archetype, and he has a grudge to grind. Bent on seeking vengeance for a long-ago slight, Nick has tracked his target to Mexico City where he and his Renfield Rodrigo have been getting into all sorts of mischief, attracting the attention of a police detective thus causing even more problems for Atl and Domingo.

I had high hopes for the world-building going into Certain Dark Things, and I was not disappointed. Instead of charging in with an attempt to turn the vampire mythos on its head though, Silvia Moreno-Garcia does something more subtle—and ingenious, in my opinion. As we go deeper into Atl’s past, we get to learn a wealth of information about vampire lore in general. We find out about the subspecies, of which there are many. Considering how many cultures throughout history have developed their own version of the “blood-sucking/flesh-eating monster” legend (the Chinese and the Jiang-shi, or the stories of the Wendigo in Native American folklore, to name a couple) I thought this to be an especially clever twist. By drawing from inspiration taken from all over the world, the author has formed a basis for her story that at once feels fresh but still has roots firmly planted in our reality. The results are very effective and pleasing because the reader feels an immediate affinity for the setting and characters.

The plot was also kept rather simple. It’s also fast-paced as hell. Everything about this book is slick and elegant, furnished with all the best features without being weighed down. This lack of complexity is perhaps the only thing holding me back from giving it a full five stars, but while it may not be phenomenal, it is still great. Certain Dark Things easily ranks among my most interesting and entertaining reads of the year.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia offers a whole new world to discover in Certain Dark Things, a novel that offers rock solid world-building and compelling characters that are guaranteed to charm you and open your eyes. So if you’re getting a hankering for a vampire story, why not give this one a try? You won’t regret it.

4-stars

Mogsy 2

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24 Comments on “Book Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

  1. I think I said the same thing about the plot in my review, that there really isn’t much to it, but it almost didn’t matter because everything else was so good. Now to go back and read Signal to Noise!

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  2. This book has been on my “most wanted” 😀 list since the first time I heard about it: thank you for confirming that it’s all I imagined it to be and more. When an author manages to take a well-established trope and breathe some new life into it, it means that readers are in for a great experience, indeed…

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  3. Although I loved this one a bit more than you did, I agree that the plot was pretty simple. It’s really just a vehicle for amazing world building and character development, in my opinion. Regardless, Moreno-Garcia has shot to the top of my auto-buy list and I can’t wait to see what she writes next!

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  4. Vampires descended from Aztecs! Love that. And I’ve always been fascinated by Wendigo myths and similar, so the fact that she world builds around that idea of different subspecies of vamps and various cultures have their own legends- sounds very cool. And the fact that it sounds fast paced and a bit dark intrigues me even more. Adding this one!

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    • She doesn’t actually go into all the various vampire myths of the world, but we do get a lot of world-building around the Aztec vampires. Much more was also in the glossary which is just amazing to me, how much work she put into creating her world 🙂

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  5. Yay – glad you enjoyed this one too. The world building is great. I don’t think I’d really picked up about the plot but you’re spot on of course, I think I was loving the characters so much I didn’t really notice. The Mexican setting is really inspired and I loved the glossary of vampires at the back.
    Lynn 😀

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  6. Ohhh this is tempting. I saw Danya give it a glowing review, too, so two trusted bloggers enjoyed it! I’m definitely bookmarking it and getting it soon. I like what you wrote about the worldbuilding, it’s nice to have a different setting. I haven’t read any similar vampire novel, so I’m very, very interested. Great review!

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  7. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

  8. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Underrated Books & Hidden Gems that I Read in the Past Year | The BiblioSanctum

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