Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul

Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul

3.9 99
by Leanna Renee Hieber
     
 

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A lush gothic tale that begs for reading...I couldn't put it down." —New York Times bestselling author Sarah Maclean

I was obssessed.

It was as if he called to me, demanding I reach out and touch the brushstrokes of color swirled onto the canvas. It was the most exquisite portrait I'd ever seen—everything about Lord Denbury was

Overview

A lush gothic tale that begs for reading...I couldn't put it down." —New York Times bestselling author Sarah Maclean

I was obssessed.

It was as if he called to me, demanding I reach out and touch the brushstrokes of color swirled onto the canvas. It was the most exquisite portrait I'd ever seen—everything about Lord Denbury was unbelievable...utterly breathtaking and eerily lifelike.

There was a reason for that. Because despite what everyone said, Denbury never had committed suicide. He was alive. Trapped within his golden frame.

I've crossed over into his world within the painting, and I've seen what dreams haunt him. They haunt me too. He and I are inextricably linked—bound together to watch the darkness seeping through the gas-lit cobblestone strets of Manhattan. And unless I can free him soon, things will only get Darker Still.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hieber applies some real imagination to the story. Her depiction of the dark magic involved and of the demon's murderous activities adds some good suspense . . . a good romp." - Kirkus Reviews

""Darker Still was delightfully strange and charming. The book absorbed me within its first couple of pages. . . . This novel is chock-full of mystery, suspense and a most magical romance! I absolutely loved it and I absolutely recommend it."--Kristin Feliz, Growing Up YA" - Growing Up YA

""I highly recommend this book! It was just the right mix of paranormal and romance and I hope you all like it as much as I did!"--Sara Teitelman, Catching Books" - Catching Books

""Darker Still screamed eerie, spooky suspense from the first page and its claws dug into me and didn't let go. . . a masterpiece-twisted, dark, and chillingly possessive. . . I highly recommend Darker Still as a must read."--Debbie Wentlein, I Heart YA Books" - I Heart YA Books

""This is one of the most amazing Young Adult books I've read this year. Leanna Renee Hieber takes you to a time and place where anything and everything is possible."--Colette chmiel, A Buckeye Girl Reads" - A Buckeye Girl Reads

""Darker Still is such a unique novel, in a very good way! "--Novia Chang, Truly Bookish" - Truly Bookish

""Darker Still is such a unique novel, in a very good way!"--Novia Chang, Truly Bookish" - Good Reads

""Darker Still is such a unique novel, in a very good way!"--Novia Chang, Truly Bookish" - Barnes & Noble Review

""Gothic, dark and oh so good!"--Novia Chang, @TrulyBookish" - Twitter Mention

""The whole book was an amazing read. The setting, the story, the characters, the plot, the pacing of the story was perfect for me.
Five stars!!!"--Sandee Quimbao, Random Ramblings" - Random Ramblings

Kirkus Reviews
Fans of Victorian gothics can get another fix with this new twist on The Picture of Dorian Gray. Framed as a "diary" confiscated by baffled 1880 New York police, the story finds Miss Natalie Stewart entranced by the portrait of tragic young Lord Denbury. She soon learns that Denbury did not commit suicide as reported but still lives, trapped inside his portrait. She allies herself with Mrs. Evelyn Northe, a wealthy and knowledgeable spiritualist, in an effort to battle the demon that has imprisoned him and to release Denbury from the evil magic cast upon him. Natalie, however, is mute, having lost her voice at age 4, when her mother died. But surprise! Natalie can enter the portrait to meet Denbury face to face, and when she does, she can speak. Of course, she and Denbury instantly fall in love, thrilling to every accidental and forbidden touch and building up to the all-important, breathless goal of Victorian gothic romances: The Kiss. Although she follows most of the conventions of the genre, Hieber applies some real imagination to the story. Her depiction of the dark magic involved and of the demon's murderous activities adds some good suspense and stands out as the strongest element of the novel. Characterizations work fine, although none surpasses two dimensions. A good romp for those who enjoy the genre, with some effective suspense. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart, mute since a traumatic childhood incident, records a life rife with incident in the journal gifted to her on her exit from the Connecticut Asylum. Her mannered, overwrought prose suits the character of a privileged young woman from the 1880s, and her descriptions of 19th-century New York City have charm. An encounter with a cursed painting draws Natalie into the world of spiritualism and demonic possession. Jonathon Denbury, a young English lord missing and presumed dead, is actually trapped inside a portrait acquired by Natalie's father for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Natalie is the only connection Denbury has to the real world, and she and Mrs. Northe, a wealthy intellectual spiritualist, strive to free him before his soul is forfeited. The premise of this novel has great appeal, but dense narrative dampens both momentum and suspense. Characterizations are convenient rather than organic; mid-novel the oft-nearly-swooning Natalie suddenly emerges as a master of disguise with sword-and-staff fighting skills. Convenient plotting undermines any accrued believability. (Denbury decides he can project himself to Natalie's side to protect her; Natalie's voice returns because "something supernatural" cures it.) Elements of melodramatic gothic and supernatural swashbuckler never quite meld, and the conclusion is foregone long before the climax. Readers seeking historical adventure, romantic or magical, should look to Philip Pullman's Ruby in the Smoke (Knopf, 1985) or Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty (Delacorte, 2003).—Janice M. Del Negro, GSLIS Dominican University, River Forest, IL

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781402260520
Publisher:
Sourcebooks
Publication date:
11/08/2011
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
320,045
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile:
830L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

June 1, 1880

Sister Theresa handed me this farewell gift with such relief that it might as well have been a key to her shackles. I'm a burden to her no more. Someone else will have to glue her desk drawers closed and exchange her communion wine for whiskey.

But now I trade the prison of the asylum for another. The prison of home.

Oh, I suppose I ought to clarify the word asylum, as it has its connotations.

The only illnesses the students of the Connecticut Asylum have are those of the ears and the tongue. The mute, or the deaf, are not the mentally ill. Those poor souls are cloistered someplace else, thank God. We had enough troubles on our own.

But now that I'm home, a prison undercurrent is here too. The desperate question of what is to be done with me lingers like dark damask curtains, dimming the happy light of our dear little East Side town house. For unfortunates like me, firstly, a girl and, secondly, a mute girl, life is made up of different types of prisons, I've learned. If I were a man, the world could be at my command. At least it would be if I were a man and could speak.

Every night I pray the same prayer: that I may go back to that year of Mother's death and startle my young self to shake the sound right out of that scared little girl. Maybe I'd have screamed. A beautiful, loud, and unending scream that could carry me to this day. A shout that could send a call to someone, anyone, who could help me find my purpose in this world. But since that trauma, I've yet to utter a word. Not for lack of trying, though. I simply cannot seem to get my voice through my throat.

I've often thought of joining a traveling freak show. At least there I wouldn't have to deal with the ugliness of people who at first think I'm normal and then realize I can't speak. I hate that moment and the terrible expression that comes over the person's face like a grotesque mask. The apologetic look that thinly veils pity but cannot disguise distaste, or worse, fear. If I were already in a freak show, people would be forewarned, and I could avoid that moment I've grown to despise more than anything in the world. But would I belong beside snake charmers and strong men, albinos and conjoined twins? And if not, where do I belong, if anywhere?

• • •

As a child, I heard a Whisper, a sound at the corner of my ear, and saw a rustle of white at the corner of my eye. I used to think it was Mother. I used to hope she would show me how to speak again or explain that the shadows I see in this world are just tricks of the eyes. But she never revealed herself or any answers. And I stopped believing in her. I stopped hearing the Whisper. But what does remain are the shadows that come to me at night. There are terrible things in this world.

I don't have pleasant dreams. Only nightmares. Blood, terror, impending apocalypse. Great fun, I assure you. (Perhaps it's good I can't speak; I'd share dreams at some normal girl's debutante ball and send her away screaming or fainting.) There are times when I feel I need to scream. But I can't.

I've so much to say but don't dare open my mouth. The sounds aren't there. I tried, years ago. Therapists soon gave up on me, saying I was too stubborn. But it wasn't me being stubborn. I was anxious, nerve-racked, afraid; I hated the foreign, unwieldy sound that crept out from behind my lips so much so that I haven't dared try since. Perhaps someday.

That's why I was given this diary. Other girls were given lockets or trinkets. When I've nothing to occupy my mind or my hands, I resort to mischief. Now if the asylum had just had more books (I'd read them all, twice, within my first two years), I'd never have bothered with the communion wine. I wouldn't have had the time for glue, tacks, or spiders.

I'd have been reading about trade routes to India, the impossible worlds of Gothic novels, or even the tedious wonders of jungle botany-anything other than this boring, dreary world we live in. And so, dear diary, you'll bear my written screams as I yearn for a more industrious, exciting life.

Unless I find an occupation or a husband, which in my condition is laughable, I'm destined to languish in solitary silence. Most men of Father's station would have whisked me off to some country ward upstate never to be seen again. (I've been continually reminded of this by scolding teachers who insist I ought to be more grateful for a doting father.)

And I am grateful for sentimentality on Father's part. I look too much like Mother for him to have sent me off, and goodness, if my sprightly nature doesn't remind him of her. So I've always felt a certain security in my place here a few blocks from Father's employer, the ten-year-old Metropolitan Museum of Art. A building and an institution I've come to adore.

Tonight, Father's having a dinner party with his art scholar friends. They're quite boring, save for his young protégé, Edgar. I could suffer Edgar Fourte's presence under any circumstance. But make no mistake, I positively hate that wench he proposed to. If only I could have fashioned some mad plot and sent Father away, I would have thrown myself at Edgar's mercy and become his lovely, tragic young ward. I'd have made myself so indispensable to him, not to mention irresistible, he'd never have considered another woman.

I've been told I'm pretty. And he's a man who likes quiet. What could be more perfect than a pretty wife who doesn't speak? But alas, I'll have to find some other handsome young scholar with a penchant for unfortunates since Edgar stupidly went and got himself engaged to one. So what if she's blind? She can't see how beautiful he is. What a waste!

Ah, the clock strikes. I must help Father with preparations and then make myself particularly presentable, if nothing else than for Edgar's punishment. I'll return with any notable gossip or interesting thoughts.

Later...

They've clustered into Father's study for a cigar, having stuffed themselves as scholars do at a meal they didn't pay for themselves, leaving me a few moments with these dear pages.

We're in luck; they did discuss something fascinating at dinner.

An odd painting is coming to town. An exquisite life-sized oil of a young English lord named Denbury is about to arrive for a bid. And they say it's haunted.

Now if there's one thing I can't help but adore more than Edgar Fourte's face, it's a ghost story. Perhaps it stems from that long-ago Whisper. Or the shadows I see at night. Wherever the thrill comes from, I can't deny my obsession.

Evidently Lord Denbury simply disappeared one day. Locals assume that it was suicide, that he was overcome with despair at losing his family. But it was odd, for he was so well loved by everyone in town. Such a tragedy! Only eighteen years old with no siblings, he lost his parents when they died in a sudden accident. Having to take on such a mantle of responsibility must have weighed heavily upon him, or so everyone supposed. He inherited money and lands with his title, but with no surviving family to help him, he simply went and drowned. A fine piece of clothing bearing a pin with his crest washed onto the bank of a quieter part of the Thames. A damaged body was later found farther downriver and assumed to be his, but was that conclusive?

In such a troubling case, people tend to seek a reason. Once they find one suitable, they'll close the matter in their minds and hearts for their own comfort. But I wonder...

He was devilishly handsome, they say, and studied medicine. Supposedly he helped open a clinic for the underprivileged in the heart of London. So absorbed in learning medicine, he hadn't taken the time to court anyone, though he was continually sought after. He attended a Greenwich hospital nearly round the clock, absorbing all the knowledge he could. I should like to have known him and commended him for being a credit to his class. They say he was a good-natured fellow, if not a bit mischievous, as most clever boys are, and had a way of talking to all sorts of people. Perhaps he could have found a way to help me.

All that survives him is a grand portrait by an artist who remains unknown despite the vast sum paid for the commission, as recorded in Denbury's personal ledger. Considering the portrait is of such fine quality, it's odd that no one sought attribution. Discovered behind a curtain by surprised housekeepers after Denbury's disappearance, the painting is said to appear nearly alive with the soul of its subject.

How a group of men like Father's friends managed to absorb and retain this fantastic gossip is beyond me, but since it involves art, it comes into their territory. Mr. Weiss suggested that when the item makes its way to New York, where the estate broker plans to sell the piece, my father and the Metropolitan ought to consider buying it.

I desperately want to see it. To see him. I must convince Father he ought to at least put in a bid, so that "the Met" seems fashionable. The supernatural is all the rage these days, and America's foremost art museum must stay ahead of the times.

Dear me, I've forgotten their coffee, and they'll be clamoring for it. I'll return once I've served them and given Edgar an unbearably sweet smile. Did I mention that his cheeks went red when I descended the staircase and waved? Perhaps there's something about a girl back from boarding school that makes a man see her differently. Too late, Edgar, too late. Not that I'd fault you for breaking off your engagement...maybe there's a way I can assure it...Drat. Coffee first. Schemes later.

Later...

I hate them. All of them. Especially Edgar. Don't they know I might be at the door at any moment? I may be mute, but I am not dumb.

I'd hesitated outside the study, the coffee tray carefully balanced in my hands. Their cigar smoke wafted beneath the door, acrid tendrils making that threshold a foreign passage where women are forbidden to go-unless, of course, they are there in service. And then I heard my father say something he'd recently said directly to my face:

"I don't have the foggiest idea what to do with her. I've no idea what would be best..."

Which was, sadly, the truth. It was the subsequent response from Edgar, of all people-I'd know his voice anywhere-that shocked me:

"Why don't you just send her off to a convent, where you wouldn't have to worry about her, Gareth? She could become a nun and change out her own communion wine for whiskey for a change. A vow of silence certainly wouldn't be difficult!"

Before any of them had a chance to laugh or snigger at the insult, I threw wide the door, sending coffee spilling onto the tray. My nostrils flared as I narrowed my eyes and looked right at Edgar. He blushed again, this time not because he thought me pretty. Let him rot with guilt for everything he's done to cause me misery. He's never known how much I care-no, cared-for him, but surely now he knows I'll never respect him again.

I may be an unfortunate, but Father taught me never to stand for being made fun of.

"Edgar, shame on you," Father muttered.

There was deathly silence in the room as I served each of the men: first, Father, who was looking up at me apologetically, second, Mr. Weiss, who couldn't look at me out of embarrassment, and then finally Mr. Nillis, who never has a single interesting thing to say but always has a grandfatherly way of patting my hand, which I'll take over being teased any day. Mr. Nillis beamed up at me, entirely oblivious of the awkward moment, and patted me on the hand. I managed to offer him a grateful smile for his small, unwitting courtesy.

I turned and walked back out the door with the last cup of coffee, Edgar's, in my hand. He would not be served. Now I sit sipping it myself as I write this account and stare out the window at Eighty-Third Street three stories below, golden and dappled beneath patches of shade in summer's setting sun. Men in top hats and women in light shawls and bonnets stroll slowly along the cobbled street toward the gem that is our beloved Central Park for one last promenade before dusk. They have a slow but sure purpose to their movement, to their existence, which is more than I have. What am I going to do with myself?

Oh, Mother. If you hadn't died, I'm sure this wouldn't have happened. I'd speak. And you'd know what to do with me.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"I totally fell in love with the premise of this book from the moment I heard it." - Book Labyrinth

Meet the Author

Raised in rural Ohio and obsessed with the Victorian Era, Leanna's life goal is to be a "gateway drug to 19th century literature." An actress, playwright and award winning author, she lives in New York City and is a devotee of ghost stories and Goth clubs. Visit www.leannareneeheiber.com

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Darker Still 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 100 reviews.
Acanoffleas More than 1 year ago
Done with boarding school, Natalie Stewart returns into her father's care in 1882 New York City. She hasn't spoken since she was four years old, the age when her mother died in a carriage accident. Natalie is beautiful and intelligent, though she struggles to find her purpose in the world seeing as that everyone around her, save her father, sees her muteness as a complete disability. When Natalie comes across a stunning portrait rumored to be haunted, she finds herself unable to turn away. When the portrait changes before her eyes, she's even more stunned. The handsome lord seemed to be willing her toward him, almost as if pleading for her help. I have a love of all things Gothic. Darker Still is more or less a mash up of The Picture of Dorian Grey, Jekyll & Hyde, and a dash of Ann Radcliffe. It's the embodiment of a Gothic novel, all dark, dangerous and romantic. It's quite lovely. Ms. Heiber weaves a wonderful story and it's hard to put the book down once we're drawn in. Natalie possess what most Gothic heroines have - curiosity. Luckily for her, she's also wickedly smart. Our hero, Lord Jonathon Denbury, is the perfect Gothic hero. Strikingly handsome, he is also the epitome of a gentleman, though he struggles with a dark side as a result of his cursed imprisonment within the portrait. Most Gothic novels have a certain "feel" for me - dark, haunted, lush, and mysterious - and Darker Still embraced that tone from page one. I loved that it was set in New York City - can we say Gangs of New York anyone? Go Five Points! Ha! I also was pleased that our heroine was anything but a simpering miss. She stood her ground and had no issues making her opinion known, regardless of the fact she couldn't speak. I think it's safe to say that Mother Monster of Gothic Fiction Ann Radcliffe would have approved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had me at the sample. It was a must read for me and it was a good one at that. Amazing writing and a good love story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book a lot. I enjoyed the unique twist on the "soul captured in a painting" story. It had a lot of strong female characters which I appreciated. There were no simpering little girls in this story (well, most of the time) It's not an amazing literary achievement in terms of prose but I still enjoyed it and felt like the imagery was solid enough to give me a detailed view of the character's world. Definitely give it a try, I think it will be worth your time.
CNUcrazy09 More than 1 year ago
This book was good. I can’t say that it was stellar but it was definitely an interesting read. I found it to have its twists and turns and be gripping at times. I am always really intrigued with the time difference romance scenario and this one was no exception. The fact that Lord Denbury is stuck in this painting, that Natalie (the main character) is mute, and has to communicate with him to save him keeps you wondering what will happen next. I felt the book could have used some spice in certain parts and that in those certain areas it was lacking a little something extra special but otherwise it was a good solid read. I don’t regret reading it but I did hope for a little more in the plot. If you like time difference romances though, like Timeless…you will like this!
Truly_Bookish More than 1 year ago
Darker Still is such a unique novel, in a very good way! After witnessing her mother's death at a young age, Natalie Stewart stops talking. Now 17-years-old, Natalie communicates with other people through sign-language and writing on notepads. The story is told through Natalie's journal entries which is very appropriate for this story. While it may seem odd to read an entire book made up of journal entries (a first for me), Ms. Hieber makes it work very well and the story flowed wonderfully. I am a character driven reader and Natalie is a very likable character. She is brave, spunky and smart. People don't expect much of her because she is mute, but she proves them wrong. She stands up for herself and refuses to be bullied or put down for her short comings. The women in Darker Still, Natalie and Ms. Northe, are the heroes of the story, the ones who do the sleuthing and the saving. I liked Denbury's swoon worthy character and I hope we get to know him better in the next book. The setting of Darker Still is perfectly Victorian and the story is awesomely dark and gothic. The circumstances that got Denbury stuck in the painting and keeps him there are scary. Filled with dark magic, a gorgeous man trapped in a painting and an evil, possessed body, this is a great creepy read for this time of year when the weather is cold and gray. If you enjoy gothic stories like the Picture of Dorian Gray, you will love this book. The ending of Darker Still is satisfying with no cliffhanger but there is more there to explore. I was very happy to find out that there will be a sequel coming out next year. I can't wait to read it! Content: Kissing, violence. My Rating: Really Good!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book, full of romance, suspense, and of course "Magic Most Foul". I recommend it to anyone who loves a good historical fiction or even just a teen romance. I can't wait for the next one in this series!
mlorio More than 1 year ago
This interesting story is part tribute to the Portrait of Dorian Gray. The story focuses on Natalie Stewart a mute in the 1880s born into a family of new money. Her father works at the Metropolitan Museum and Natalie discovers that the new painting at the museum is actually a vessel that holds trapped the soul of Lord Denbury. To free him Natalie has to learn about different aspects of spirituality, religion and myths. This was for the most part interesting although it did get bogged down with detail at times. While it was interesting to hear the story told in first person, the use of a journal as medium was awkward at times. Natalie seemed to be writing in it at the most unlikely times. The overall story was good and well worth the read. I will definitely check out the sequel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was intrigued by the cover copy and devoured it in one day. Filled with magic from runes, evil, and souls plus young love between a young lord trapped in a painting and the mute girl determined to save him.
Septimius_Severus More than 1 year ago
This book was one that I couldnt put down. The suspense keeps you going right til the end and you never know whether Natalie and Denbury are going to end up together.. if you like 'A Picture of Dorian Gray' or are interested in Jack the Ripper, you'll love this book! I could see this being made into a movie definitely. You can relate to all the characters in this - from the mute Natalie to the rather eccentric Mrs Northe and, at least for Me, to Lord Denbury himself. :-)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not want to put this down! Also loved The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Parker by te same author.
VeronicaK89 More than 1 year ago
A well-written and captivating book. Natalie has been mute since a traumatic childhood incident. She encounters a painting of Lord Denbury, presumed dead shortly after his parents' deaths. However, Lord Denbury is very much alive. He is stuck inside this painting with no idea how to escape. In the meantime, there is an evil spirit that is possessing Denbury's body and committing horrible acts. A very interesting book that I couldn't put down. I definitely recommend for fans of "Carrier of the Mark" or anyone looking for a generally quick read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is freaking amazing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a rather interesting read! Very Portrait of Dorian Grey. But it was a really great read too! I was sucked in very quickly and I had a hard time not thinking about what was going to happen when I wasn't reading it! Just couldn't wait for them to solve the mystery!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is unlike any story I've ever read. I only purchased it originally because it was a Nook daily deal that I finally thought MIGHT be interesting. Turns out I loved every bit of it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyable! Well written and first in a new series, but unlike other series books, you can read this as a stand-alone novel. Lots of fun with suspense and a paranormal romance set in early 20th century New York City. Even though this is first in a series that can stand alone, I eagerly await the next installment.
Ray-Venn More than 1 year ago
Love the homage to classic, Gothic supernatural novels.
iheartyabooks More than 1 year ago
Darker Still is definitely a Halloween treat. Leanna Renee Hieber has taken from the story of Dorian Gray and penned her own wicked tale, and believe me, the only similarity is the picture frame. Hieber's Darker Still is way more dark and twisted and spine tinkling. Darker Still screamed eerie, spooky suspense from the first page and its claws dug into me and didn't let go. Natalie Stewart has not spoken a word since her mother died in front of her at the age of four. But words are not what draws seventeen-year-old Natalie to a painting in her father's art museum. It's the portrait of a gorgeous face. The face of Lord Denbury with the most beautiful blue eyes that calls to her. Natalie needs to know the mystery of this man Lord Jonathon Denbury. And with the help of Evelyn Northe who's a Spiritualist, Natalie will be the only one who can stand up against the dark powers of Hell and set the man she loves free. But that's where the real mystery comes in. How free are Natalie and Jonathon from this hell's dark Society? Natalie isn't the only one who fell in love with this gorgeous blue eyed and dashing, black-haired Lord. I did, too. Jonathon is definitely a ladies man, but the lady whose capture his heart is Natalie, and their love is hotter than anything Hell can throw at them. Natalie and Jonathon's love will conquer all evil, even some of their own. Darker Still is a masterpiece-twisted, dark, and chillingly possessive. I definitely got my treat with this dark romantic suspense, and I highly recommend Darker Still as a must read.
Icecream18 More than 1 year ago
A perfect novel for Halloween, this book will interest the reader till the very end. Natalie is mute, not to be confused with "dumb or deaf." Otherwise, she is a very pretty, smart young woman. She will be likable to the reader. Right when her life appears to have turned around slightly, she is worried her father will send her to a convent and doesn't know what to do about her inability to speak, Natalie stumbles onto a painting of a shockingly handsome man. The portrait, however, is not normal and may have been created by evil. Natalie must find a way to save Jonathan, the man in the painting, without losing her life and while guarding her heart. The setting is perfect for this novel. The author managed to put in many qualities from the Victorian era. The writing is fluid and the events are fast-paced. The characters were fun, they will draw the reader into the novel. One might think it would be difficult to understand the story from the point of view of a mute character; however, Natalie was terrific, because she was mute she appears so much more observant and intuitive than the normal character. This book is highly recommended to young adult/teen readers.
ReadingCorner More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I found the writing and the story incredibly compelling. The characters were unique, the story appropriately creepy, and the setting absolutely perfect. Let's start with the setting and atmosphere. Darker Still is set in Victorian New York (1880s). The gritty, dark parts of the city of contrasted against the opulence of the wealthy, flashier parts of town. It's a world where social status still reigns and wealth is openly flaunted through architecture and fashion. What I loved in Darker Still was that we got to see all sides of society--from Maggie and her high-fashion friends to Natalie and her father's modest living to the dark alleys of The Five Points. I felt like I had stepped into a real world, something I must attribute to Ms. Hieber's stellar writing. Natalie was a really awesome MC to read about. To start with, she's MUTE. How many MCs have you read about who are mute? I thought it was really interesting to have a main character who struggled to communicate with the world around her. It made everything that she learned and did just a little more amazing. It also makes so much sense when you learn *things* later in the book. It also ensured that she wasn't some flaky chick, but instead, she was a tough, intelligent young woman who wasn't afraid to stand up for herself. Lord Denbury was an enigma all unto himself. He has some of the same characteristics as our favorite typical male love interests (well, primarily that he is extremely gorgeous), but he's (a) not a "bad" boy and (b) trapped in a painting! I adored watching him interact with Natalie because he gave her a sort of confidence in herself and encouraged her to find her voice and be brave. She was already a strong young woman, but he really seemed to encourage her to...expand her horizons (I'm not really sure that's the turn of phrase I'm looking for, but you get the idea, right?). Also, I liked Denbury (or Jonathan, as he asks me Natalie to call him) in his own right. He handles the whole "I'm trapped in a painting" with fairly minimal whining (which would have drove me crazy). While Darker Still isn't a fast-paced novel, the beautiful prose and intriguing storyline kept me turning the pages. I think what it may lack for some readers is a stronger sense of mystery and impending doom since you know who the bad guy is from the beginning and the only mystery is to solve the few clues (which comes together in a rather unexciting way). However, for the reader looking to dive into a well-written story of Gothic romance and intrigue, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good book.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Oddities have always clung to Natalie Stewart. Some are tame like the art objects her father collects for the new Metropolitan Museum. Some are stranger like the Whisper that sometimes tugs at the edge of her hearing. Some are so terrifying that they took Natalie's voice, leaving her Mute from a young age. Then there are the things that defy all description like the portrait of Lord Denbury--a painting seems to call to her, changing as if Lord Denbury himself were beckoning Natalie. Stranger still, when Natalie answers the call of the portrait she finds much more than a painting. Soon she is drawn into the uneasy world of magic and possession where paintings can act as traps and a body can be stolen with the right words. In this dangerous word Natalie may love and even her voice. But other, darker things, may find her as well in Darker Still (2011) by Leanna Renee Hieber. Darker Still is the first in Hieber's Darker Still trilogy, followed by The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart and The Double Life of Incorporate Things which is currently being presented in serialized form on Hieber's blog (and will culminate with the publication of the complete novel). For obvious reasons, Darker Still is an epistolary novel--written as Natalie's diary. The format makes sense and provides opportunities for interesting passages of time and an interplay between "present" moments and Natalie's narrative asides. However during high action sequences the journal entry form does stretch the limits of believability as Natalie rushes to jot down key scenes. Hieber's writing is delightful with Natalie's breezy, sometimes even impertinent, tone. Natalie is refreshingly brash and independent as she does a lot of the wrong things throughout the plot (for all of the right reasons). Being Mute, Natalie's narration also offers a unique perspective on life in general and specifically 1880 New York. While Natalie shines as a heroine, the format and pacing of Darker Still did not leave much room to build up the setting as a backdrop for the story. The journal also created limitations in pacing as Natalie "rushes" to write everything down. While Denbury is an admirable male lead in terms of looks and personality, his immediate connection with Natalie felt almost too immediate. It works because the entire novel is a bit of a whirlwind but if you think too much about their connection it starts to fall apart. Darker Still is a fun, generally satisfying, riff on themes found in many a gothic classic with obvious nods to The Picture of Dorian Gray. A great read for anyone eager to try reading historical fantasy, gothic tales of suspense and even steampunk. Possible Pairings: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, Dracula by Bram Stoker
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was really good! I love a good ghost story and this one is clean with good writing and a romance too! Cant ask for anything more. Original and entertaining. I want to read the sequel. I love that its set back in time in new york city. Adds to the mystery of it all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MsT82 More than 1 year ago
Darker Still: A Magic Most Foul is a wonderful book to me. I love the mix of magic and the way people carried themselves in the 1800's. I wouldn't call this steam-punk as it didn't have that feel to me. It's more Victorian with magic. The magic in this book is very reminiscent of the story of Dorian Gray. Such a fantastic idea by the amazing Oscar Wilde. A gentleman's portrait that catches his youth so he may live forever, less he were to ever gaze upon it. I also see some Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The book is written in a diary format. While this isn't my favorite way to read a book, I do appreciate that I know that it is always written in the 1st person. The writer of the diary is Natalie Stewart, an almost 18 year old who, after a tragic event as a youth, is mute. Her father is a curator at the museum that wins the bid to house the painting of Lord Denbury. Mrs. Northe, a lady who is intrigued by the painting and helps the museum get the painting, becomes Natalie's mentor. Together they figure out the magic of the painting and how to "solve" it. The premise behind the painting is that the young Lord Denbury was tricked by evil and his portrait was painted thus catching his soul within, while the evil took possession of his body. Can you see how I get the Dorian Gray/Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde? I'm not the only one who thinks this, it's written everywhere. When it comes to romance, it's muh. It's not really there. Yes, it's written but I never felt the tension. It was also inevitable that our young Natalie would fall for the Lord. That's just the way YA goes. I just wish it could have been UNpredictable. So, my conclusion: Would I recommend this? Absolutely Would I read it again? No, but that's just because I don't read books more then once. How do I rate this? 4 stars Am I going to continue the series? You betcha!