Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book Review: A Night of Blacker Darkness by Dan Wells (Whitney Finalist)

Title: A Night of Blacker Darkness
Author: Dan Wells
Enjoyment Rating: 7/10
Referral: Whitney Finalist
Source: Electronic copy
Books I've read this year: 43

I read a whole bunch of books on the way to China, and once we got there and got Rose, I didn't blog about them. Then I read more books in China, and didn't blog about them, either. Then we came home, and between the jet lag and spring break and settling in, I didn't blog about those either. And now I'm in trouble, because I feel an obligation to blog about the books I read (for you, fair reader), especially these Whitney books, because it's kind of my thing, writing about all of the books, even if I'm mostly just doing it for myself (and therefore justifying this long, rambling introduction that has nothing to do with the book so far). Anyway, I'm getting to my point, which is that after a while, all of the books started to blend together in my mind. I blame it on the fact that I read a lot, but I have a memory for plots like most people have for where they put their car in long-term parking. I can remember what I need to as long as I'm reading, but the details tend to fade away quickly. Annie keeps asking me minute details about The Hunger Games, which I read almost four years ago when it was brand new (and with the new baby I think I am probably the only person on the planet who has read all three books and not made it to the movie yet, but that's a digression on top of a digression), and then she gets mad at me when I don't remember. "Are you sure you really read that book, Mom?" I feel her rolling eyes saying to me when I tell her I can't remember who provided the poisoned berries or whether Cato was killed by wild dogs or at the hand of another kid in the arena. Anyway, my point is that while so many of the other books I read blended together, this one really stood out. And for that, I give it major props.

Frederick Whithers and his girlfriend Gwen plan to scam an old rich guy with one foot in the grave out of his fortune of 90,000 pounds, which back in the early 1800s was a lot of cash. But Frederick is in jail when the rich guy dies, and he has to find a way out. When his cellmate dies, Fred bribes the coffinmaker to bury him too. The only problem? He's spotted leaving the coffin by a bunch of vampires who believe that he is The Great One, come to save them. And it just gets crazier from there. Whithers hooks up with John Keats (yes, the poet) who speaks only in rhyming verse. Together the two work to get back at the underhanded Gwen, escape from the vampires, and secure the inheritance for themselves. Along the way they get assistance from Mary Shelley (yes, that Mary Shelley, robbing graves in the name of research), talk about Jane Austen, and leave the reader wondering if these two really deserve to come out on top at the end of the novel (they are just so goofy!)

A Night of Blacker Darkness is zany and weird and wonderful, and all of the things that make it zany and weird also make it a little bit frustrating to read. As a reader, I found myself having to suspend disbelief in a lot of ways. Well, duh, you say, it's a book in the speculative category about vampires and John Keats! But it's also written in a very twenty-first century style. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the Downey/Law incarnations of Holmes and Watson, where everything is so witty and fast-paced it feels almost anachronistic. Regardless of the anachronisms, I thought the book was great fun.

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