CERTAIN DARK THINGS
Written by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia
Published by Tor Nightfire, September 7th, 2021
My star rating – 3 stars
Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.
Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.
Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?
I feel like the first line of the book or the entire synopsis should have been “A vampire, a gangster and a cop walk into a bar…” and it would have worked perfectly! As soon as I heard that this was a vampire book, I decided I needed it in my life. Vampires in books making a resurgence was the best news I’ve ever gotten! It was vampire books that brought me back into reading after all. But this one…. Wasn’t quite what I was hoping it would be! Don’t get me wrong – I liked it and there were some really great things happening. Let me try to explain.
Before I go into all of that, this book has a bit of an interesting story behind it. Originally published in 2016, I believe, it went out of print for one reason or another and gained a bit of a cult following. Her newer releases were gaining steam and popularity (Gods of Jade and Shadow and Mexican Gothic) so, when people were looking for her other published works, they saw this book on her backlist, but couldn’t find it anywhere. They finally decided to do a reprint and, here we are now.
Not only is the above fact interesting, it’s also the main reason I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I hoped. When you read an authors newer works and then go back to previous publications, there’s the rare time where the growth in their writing is apparent. It was VERY noticeable here! Everything from descriptions, character development, and even sentence and paragraph structure felt like a step back. Her sentences weren’t as fluid and descriptions felt very sterile. We even had paragraphs go a little something like this:
“The character wanted to do this” then “The character did this and this happened” then “The character left and did this”.
The atmosphere, flow, feelings and attachment just weren’t what I had gotten from her previous books. And it was my lack of emotional attachment and connection to the characters that took it out of me. Plain and simply put; I didn’t much care what happened to these people.
Ouch. I know. Sounds harsh BUT I will say that it really made me appreciate her growth as an author and what she’s now capable of!! Mexican Gothic was one of the weirdest and creepiest books I’ve read in recent years. It’s been months since finishing it and I still think of it on a weekly basis!!!
This book wasn’t all that bad. Not even close! The premise was amazing and the plot kept me interested all the way through. But the vampire history and descriptions….. STELLAR!! The vampires in this book aren’t what you would expect and they’re not all the same! They have different abilities and rules to follow. They even have roots in countries all over the world. If she wrote an encyclopedia just info dumping an outline of the histories of these vampires, I would be all over that!
And the atmosphere – it was so close to being perfect! This book never once tells you it’s going to be a sparkly vampire novel. It’s dark, dirty, gritty, and raw, right from page one. That’s what I love about her novels. They feel so dirty and close to rotten – but in the best way possible!
So yes – it was the writing that held my love of this book back. If I could have fallen for the characters then it would be a different story. Knowing what she’s capable of now and how her stories pull me in so completely now, I’ll still read everything she writes!
Until next time, happy reading!