Title: Innocent Darkness
Author: Suzanne Lazear
Release Date: August 8, 2012
When Noli and her best friend V take a flying car out for a joyride, neither expects Noli to be sent off to a reform school to mend her hoyden ways. While there, she wishes she could be anywhere else but that place, and on Midsummer's Eve, she ends up summoning Kevighn, a mysterious and dangerous man who whisks her off to the Realm of Faerie. At first, Noli thinks she was rescued, but the reasons behind Kevighn's appearance start to turn sinister and dangerous. Noli hopes to find a way back home, but when V shows up, with some secrets of his own, they have to navigate the Otherworld before they can go back. If they're successful, Noli will live, but the Otherworld might die in the process.
Innocent Darkness felt rather unique to me, an alternate look at the turn of the 20th century that features hoverboards, airships, and the Otherworld full of faeries and magic. The author's San Francisco felt very old world, just as the Otherworld felt so lush and magical, but oh so dangerous. It's an intriguing mix of early 19th century California, steampunk, and fantasy, with it leaning more towards fantasy.
Different view points, written in first or third person, are hit or miss. Here, with different view points in third person, it all worked for me. I was given everything I needed to see, all of Noli's confusion at the reform school and then the Otherworld and then Kevighn and V and the faeries, all of V's conflicts and troubles and huge secrets that were slowly revealed over time, all of Kevighn's tricks and lies and debauchery and attempts to make things right. He is very much the stereotypical trickster with a silver tongue who makes this book lean more towards the adult side of a young adult audience.
Noli. Noli is very much the classic unconventional (for the time period she's living in) female, the kind of girl who doesn't necessarily want to be special but desires some freedoms like studying botany and fixing old machines. She felt a bit tame for a while child, a few rebellious traits here and there but not enough to drive her to run off and leave home. Her getting sent to the reform school felts like they were trying to cut her off at the pass, catch her early before she becomes a completely reckless hoyden. And I liked her with V more than Kevighn. I do think that one of the better parts of the book was her relationship with V, how it went from them being close friends to his worrying about her at the reform school to him hunting after her in the Otherworld. And he had secrets beyond the standard 'has had a crush on the cute neighbour girl for years' secret.
I was drawn in by the world-building, by the magic and the aether, everything was bright and lush in the Otherworld, but I still wanted more steampunk. The beginning with the flying car was great, Noli was wearing goggles, and then there was a gradual shift towards the fantasy side of the story.
For me, the cover seems a bit misleading. Yes, there's airships and
clockwork and at the beginning Noli is wearing a pair of goggles, but
then it shifts and turns to the Otherworld and Noli gets wrapped up in
loads of royal double-speak and trickster faeries.
If you're looking for
something that's straight steampunk, I wouldn't suggest this, but if
you're okay with magic and faeries messing with your alternative
history, then feel free to give this a try. It reminds me a little of
Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely, if it was set in the early 20th century.
(I received an e-galley to review from Flux through NetGalley.)