Along with Throne of Glass, another ARC I recieved at BEA, Innocent Darkness, will be released in August, so here is my review of it. You can find a link to Shanella's review at the end of this post. Warning - review can be spoilery.
Innocent Darkness tells the story of Magnolia (Noli), Braddock, a girl who finds herself at a harsh reform school after getting into trouble. There, a wish inadvertently takes her into the world of the Fae, where she realizes that she is to be the sacrifice that will save the Fae world from withering. That’s because Noli has the “Spark,” and every seven years a girl with the Spark is bound to the Fae world and killed so that the Fae don’t fade. Unbeknownst to her, her best friend and crush Steven (V) is Fae, a prince, and comes to Noli’s rescue.
I thought the premise of Innocent Darkness was interesting because I had never heard of a novel that combined Steampunk and Fae/magic elements. However, I was disappointed with the execution of the novel. It was very difficult for me to finish, and I don’t think it lived up to its potential.
Noli lives in Los Angeles, during a time period that mimics real life history in that women are not on par with men, a working woman is looked down on, and there are societal expectations for a way a woman is supposed to dress, act, etc. The reform school Noli ends up in is supposed to suppress her personality and turn her into a vapid lady. I can’t say I was drawn into the world though, because I did not feel as though there was enough world building, especially in regards to the Steampunk elements. In the Fae world we don’t see a wide scope of it, but for the space the story encompasses I think it was sufficient.
I did not connect with Noli; she was not an extremely strong character. On one hand she believes that as a lady she should act a certain way in regards to men, yet on the other hand both love interests get pretty far under her clothes with not much protesting from her. Yes, there’s something to be said for getting caught up in the moment, but the amount of back and forth she had made it harder for me to let her get away with her teenage hormones. She struck me as a more passive than active character who just went with the flow while everyone else made the decisions.
As far as the love triangle, I did not buy one angle of it at all, and the other, while more believable, felt a bit forced. One minute V (the more believable love interest), is resolved to be distant to her for her own protection, then a page later they’re making out. Then there’s Kevighn, who is the Queen’s huntsman sent to find human girls with the Spark, seduce them, and trick them into sacrificing themselves. The fact that he so quickly falls for Noli after she ends up with him in the Fae world was extremely unbelievable, and I knew it was only done so that he would have a crisis of conscience when it came to handing her over to the high Queen. Then there’s V’s brother James, who searches for Noli’s friend Charlotte, who also has the Spark, and was taken from the reform school by her abusive uncle. James brings her into the Fae world, and while we don’t read any scenes of James and Charlotte together until they show up to where Noli and V are, they are suddenly in love. Where is the build up to make that believable and make me care about their romance? There was an overall streak of sexuality in the book that I found to be off. I don’t have a problem with sex/sensuality in YA novels, but it has to feel believable, and there has to be a reason for it. In this novel, there was something about the references and scenes regarding sensuality that felt awkward and not believable to the type of story it was.
It was intriguing to have the idea that Noli’s death would save the entire Fae kingdom (including V), and if she didn’t die all the Fae would die, but I think the conclusion was too neat. There weren’t really any huge stakes for Noli, no real action scenes, no real feeling of impending doom, and the high Queen was quite disappointing; she let Noli just run off and hide in another part of the kingdom with V. Why wouldn’t you want to keep the girl with the Spark that will save your people under lock and key?
Something else that I found jarring was the writing style. The amount of repetitive phrases was definitely noticeable enough to throw the reader off. Kevighn can only seem to say “opium and soft women” in relation to his desire to go to a brothel, and can only call V “that whelp of a prince.” Then there were all the “hoydens” and “fussy old bodgers.” Overall, the writing style was not captivating.
If there are future books, I will not be continuing with the series. Innocent Darkness gets one out of five from me.