Book Review: Innocent Darkness by Suzanne Lazear

innocent darkness cover

View from the window seat:
After driving her flying car without a permit and then crashing it, Noli gets sent to a reform school designed to transform her from a willful, disobedient girl into a lady. She soon discovers the true horrors of the school, and in wishing to leave, gets transported to the Otherworld (land of fairies) with a mysterious and charming Fae named Kevighn Silver. My first problem with this book is its billing as steampunk. While the first couple of chapters feature flying cars and hoverboards, that’s about the extent of steampunk and I don’t even consider that enough to actually call this steampunk. The majority of the book takes place in the reform school and the Otherworld. While the reform school and its torture of the girls living there are described well, the Otherworld is barely even a setting. The author hints at dangers lurking around every corner, but all we see are three different houses there that could basically be located anywhere.

Noli is mostly insufferable as a heroine. The author spends a lot of time telling the reader about the personality traits of her characters, which is really annoying. So we’re constantly reminded that Noli is this wonderfully creative, spirited girl, but she never really does anything to live up to these qualities. She spends the entire novel whining about her situation, like her desire to return home from the Otherworld, and doesn’t do anything to help herself. She relies on the two men of the story, her best friend Steven and her mysterious stranger Kevighn, to save her. The entire love triangle felt forced (why would you have feelings for someone who has constantly lied to you and whose only character trait is that he’s a womanizer?). These two men also patronize Noli in their treatment of her by constantly trying to protect her and shelter her. They both do this by lying to her about who they are and why she’s important to the Otherworld. Noli simply accepts this kind of behavior towards her. I think the author was trying to present her as the type of woman who contradicts society’s expectations of the female gender and who fights against it, but Noli doesn’t do this at all. Her behaviors and attitudes simply reinforce that society’s perceptions of women’s abilities (always needing protection from men, never independently acting to achieve anything, etc.).

Overall impression:
Innocent Darkness fails to impress with its underdeveloped settings and terrible characters.


Note: I received this ARC from the publisher at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference.

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