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Certain Dark Things

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Her descriptions are vivid so whether the characters were in a beautiful old mansion, a festive plaza, an outdoor bar, or a subway tunnel, I felt like I was there.

Her YA novel Gods of Jade and Shadow was nice enough, but overly simplistic compared to the way it was sold (which may be more marketing’s fault than the author’s) and then Mexican Gothic was so much fun and a really great horror novel that had a lot more to say than just “oh look, creepy house”. I live in Vienna, Austria and, apart from reading, I enjoy movies, video games, thunderstorms, eternally bickering couples, coffee, and anything made of chocolate. Admittedly I'm biased because I enjoy a good vampire story, but even if you're not usually a fan, I would still recommend this one. He still didn’t understand what a city-state was exactly, but it sounded important and the vampires stayed out. Once Domingo realizes how much Atl needs help, the two work together to find a way to get out of town and escape her pursuers, a sadistic vampire named Nick and Rodrigo, the companion who’s trying to keep Nick under control.Domingo has been on his own in Mexico City since getting kicked out of his home at fifteen, but his work as a garbage collector keeps him from starving and he manages to find joy in the vampire comics he loves to read. Also, a sidenote: It wasn’t until I was several chapters into the book that I remembered I played a Mexican vigilante detective vampire in the last Vampire: The Masquerade game I played in, so, like, bonus I guess?

Gangs, drugs and corruption run rampant in the capital, but what you won’t have to worry about are vampires. Atl is hesitant to trust anyone other than her faithful dog Cualli, but with cops, crime lords, and vampires all closing in on her, she’s not going to be able to last long in the city without some human help. This book has rock-solid world-building, very compelling characters, and a wonderfully addicting storyline filled with action and violence. Silvia Moreno-Garcia's gritty novel is steeped in the history of Mexico City and vampire lore and yet manages to deftly re-invent the bloodsucker .

And none of that even touches on the final chapter, which is an idea that could work on paper, but here feels less like an ending and more like an abrupt “well, I ran out of ideas” here, with a character choice that feels wholly out of place, and jars even worse against the epilogue that draws it all to a close. Atl grew up sheltered and showered by love, but after her entire family murdered, she has to learn to survive on her own. There’s easily enough unexplored stuff in there to make for a sequel, if the author ever felt like it. Though the romance doesn’t play a large part in the plot, I did love how Moreno-Garcia progressed it throughout the story, and felt it was written extremely well. He had his comic books and graphic novels to keep him company, but most of the time, when he was bored, he would watch people as they walked around the subway lines.

Don't get me wrong, the reason I don't like vampire books isn't because of the campiness or the shimmering in the light, it's because of the blood. And good thing it was, since it would be a shame for this fresh take on vampires to pass into obscurity.

Atl and Domingo come to rely on each other as they try to survive and ultimately escape Mexico City, while pursued by a rival vampire, the police, and the organized crime syndicates that have made Mexico City a no-vampire zone. The author also plays around with some noir and vampire tropes, most notably with Atl and Domingo, subverting the mortal/vampire romance in some ways, and leaning into it in others. Through Domingo, readers learn that Atl is not the arrogant and confident vampire she tells herself she is. What is fascinating, as other reviewers have established, is the details to which Moreno-Garcia goes into about the different subspecies of vampire.

The other main character Domingo, human, is touchingly portrayed along with his complicated relationship with Atl. Rodrigo, on the other hand, works tighly with Nick and is more familiar with the criminal underbelly of Mexico City. Despite my love for Silvia Moreno Garcia’s writing, I hesitated to read this novel despite adding it to my tbr every year since its publication.The characters are similarly pale with the protagonist Domingo remaining one-dimensional throughout the entire book. Her range in her writing never ceases to amaze me, same with her never wanting to limit herself to one genre. And she was a beauty, with that black hair and the dark eyes and the way she stood, so damn graceful. While Moreno-Garcia brings certain tropes that we know and love into the story, the addition of gang style violence, her use of Vampire races and the colonialism references that come with it and her expertise in writing unique and complicated characters make sure that it will stand out in the genre.

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