Reviewed: January 28, 2012
Genre: Paranormal Gothic Romance
Series: Fairwick Chronicles, Book 1
Rating: 3 Stars
Length: 448 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Ballantine Books publisher Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
It was as if she was under a compulsion, her rash acceptance of the teaching position at the small, middle-of-nowhere Fairwick College in upstate New York. It wasn't as if city lover Cailleach McFay could seriously imagine living in such a remote backwater. Still, from the moment Callie set eyes on the ramshackle but historically significant Victorian known as Honeysuckle House, nearly overrun by the nearby forest...or overrunning it, she wasn't quite sure, Callie's long-term goals seemed to vanish in a puff of smoke. She accepted the associate professor position. She bought the house. She moved to Fairwick. Moved into Honeysuckle House.
And the dreams began.
Dark, seductive, deeply sexual, she dreams of a mysterious man of moonlight and shadow slipping into her room, taking control of her body to rapturous ends. These dreams wring her out, leave her worn of body and mind and wan by the light of day, yet she yearns for him, for her ghostly lover's embrace. Until she finds out what he is, what she is, and exactly what sort of town she's moved to.
Callie has been ruthlessly seduced and drained by an incubus, she's a witch, and Fairwick is hometown to all manner of supernatural beings. It is, after all, the home of the last door between the human realm and Faerie. A fact that had been rather pointedly withheld from both the town's and college's informational materials.
Atmospheric and highly stylized, Dark's narrative pays tribute to classic Gothic horror in more ways than one. It's beautifully written, with passages that are pristine in description and dipped in the quagmire of emotional obfuscation. There were moments that were effortlessly creepy and rich with portent, and others that were more amusing than dark. In all, the theme and the style of the story were fully satisfying and artfully crafted.
I just wish I'd liked the actual story being told.
In truth, it wasn't what I was expecting. For some reason I'd gotten the impression it was more of an urban fantasy romance, or paranormal romance, and instead it was more like...Harry Potter goes to college on Quaaludes. Or like it's intended to be a bit more towards the high-brow literary reading end of the spectrum than mass market consumption, if you know what I mean.
Hey, don't get me wrong. I like the high-brow just as much as the next girl, but when you're expecting one thing and get another it's a bit jarring. And I can't even say there's anyone to blame for that erroneous impression but myself, either. I don't even know how I got it, but had it I did. Because I did, my expectations for the pace of the story and the content of the plot were skewed. I'm sure that affected my impression of the book, too, which is a shame.
I was expecting something significant to happen, for example, and nothing ever really did until close to the end of the book. Instead of settling in to admire the way in which the story unfolded, I was put off by how slow the plot was to develop, how it seemed to meander aimlessly in the middle, and how laborious the wait seemed before anything of note actually did occur. The book had its creepy moments, and it had parts that hinted at things not being quite right, but the storyline was more a culmination of several little things and few of those developed into notable action.
As far as the characters went, my favorites were the secondary characters, who were underutilized but charming and vibrant in their scenes. I couldn't quite pin down Callie, though. She had her strengths as the lead character, and I think there's potential there, but she wasn't the most aware or intelligent chickadee in the nest for much of the tale, and some of the things she did towards the end of the book bothered me. I didn't like her choices.
Frankly, I felt more sympathetic to the "bad guy" of the piece than I did her. In fact, I was a little disturbed by how the plot ended.
Beautifully written as it was, the story was too disappointing for me to actually enjoy the read. Maybe part of that was the unrealized expectations I had, but regardless, I can't say I liked this one. Even more, given the ending, I'm leery about seeing how things develop and progress. Callie's choices and actions were so suspect to me at the end that I'm not sure revisiting her world would appeal. Maybe some distance will change my mind about that. I'd at least have a firmer grasp on what to expect, and there were a couple of characters and a few plot threads I am truly curious about. We'll see.
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