The Darkness, Crystal Connor's debut novel, is an interesting blend of dark fantasy bordering on horror, science fiction and urban fantasy that comple...more The Darkness, Crystal Connor's debut novel, is an interesting blend of dark fantasy bordering on horror, science fiction and urban fantasy that completely does away with traditional genre categories. In fact, it does away with a lot of other elements traditionally found in speculative fiction and literature in general, such as the portrayal of motherhood, womanhood and characters of color. Like a lot of debut novels, there are quite a few things to praise here, but also a few to nitpick.
The opening chapters are among the best I've read in a while, as Connor is quick to set up an uneasy atmosphere that successfully grabs hold of her readers from the very start. You'll get chills down your spine by the time you read these words "I used to call you mother". And you'll want to know who this child is and what could possibly have happened for him to hold such hatred towards the one who rescued him. And here's the double-edged sword, because Connor will tell you this story.
She takes you back to the days when The Child was but a child, albeit with extraordinary abilities he couldn't always control, sometimes to dreadful consequences. The novel's pace slows down then, though I'd be hard pressed to ever call it slow, because Connor smartly alternates between past and present narratives. But the novel does start to lose some of its initial steam as we get to know more about Adam and identify with Artemisia's feelings for him. We know he's dangerous, and yet, he seems to be such a cute little baby that it's hard to re-conciliate the initial perception we had of him as a dangerous stalker, lurking and simply waiting for the right moment to strike, and this little child acting like any child, manipulating his environment to obtain what he wants. Again, this was a necessary step in the narrative, the reader's understanding of the past and Artemisia's feelings towards her child, otherwise the ending wouldn't have that much of an impact. But while building up for the ending, it also slowly unravels the atmosphere of gloom and unease that made the opening pages so gripping. And I never seemed to be able to reconnect with it later on. It felt like the fog had lifted and I could see the background tricks. I do realize this is a probably me being picky as I haven't read any other reviews that hinted at this and truth is, I don't think there was any way around it; except perhaps starting the novel at another point? But truly, I can understand that it was too tempting for both author and editor to have the novel start then and loose steam later on, rather than the other way around. Anyway, the character of Adam annoyed me as we got to know him. I struggled to see him as the psychopathic murderer the author wanted us to see, all I could see was an annoying little brat with special powers going through a teenage crisis.
I did however greatly enjoyed the characters of Artemisia and Inanna, both embodied different types of womanhood and motherhood (one could argue that where one is science and rationality, the other is magic and emotions, but it's a bit more complicated than this simplistic dichotomy), but both are strong, ambitious women who will stop at nothing to get what they want and they don't look for excuses or pretend to be sorry about it. I think the novel's greatest asset resides in the opposition of these two characters. Had the novel only included one and not the other, and had opposed Artemisia/Inanna to what I'll refer to as the traditional mother character, Artemisia/Inanna would have inevitably been set up as the dark side, the evil one, the ambitious black woman with an agenda. In The Darkness, because they share these traits, one is not set up as good and the other as evil. Both obey their own laws whether these happen to fit the laws of man or not, both love Adam and want to be a good mother to him, and so neither is good or evil. Without spoiling the ending, if the reader manages to rid himself of his traditional perception of motherhood and what it implies, and simply puts together the pieces scattered throughout the novel, the decision taken at the end of the novel makes perfect sense. That's all I can say and keep this review spoiler-free.
The Darkness is a short novel, with a gripping opening and a shocking ending. And while I do have queries about some of the middle parts, it must be recognized that it's a far from being your usual urban fantasy novel, especially when it comes to the portrayal of women of color and motherhood. Also know that a sequel is in the making, Artificial Light. (less)
I enjoy this series for so many reasons; it's original, gripping, disgusting, wonderfully illustrated, philosophical at times as it really questions w...moreI enjoy this series for so many reasons; it's original, gripping, disgusting, wonderfully illustrated, philosophical at times as it really questions what it means to be human and the nature of civilization... and yet, I can't help but wonder, why does it always have to be the black woman who gets raped? *sighs* I'm well aware this is not a proper review but more like a series of initial impressions.(less)