The Daily Monocle

Critical book reviews from a literary skeptic.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Darkness and Light by Kathryn Nichole

Posted by J. P. Wickwire

Cristian West, an established young artist, has often been plagued by the elusive image of an unseen, but beautiful woman. Finally, after years of her face haunting his dreams and infiltrating his mind, he decides to paint her picture.

At the same time, Sage, a vampire of royal blood, is still mourning the loss of her own true love after his death a century ago. She and her coven are in attendance at Cristian's art gala, when he unveils his newest work of art: a portrait of her.

What ensues should be a fresh take on the often overdone vampire story. And maybe there was something new and exciting, hidden somewhere in there. Unfortunately, I will never know.

Why? Well, as much as I liked the premise for Kathryn Nichole's Darkness and Light, I labored through the prose. It was difficult to read, not because of unnecessary complications—or mind-bending simplicity. Rather, the prose didn't follow conventional norms for fiction. Normally, I would just write this of as a stylistic difference and keep my mouth shut on the matter. But in this case, it was well nigh impossible to follow the story.

Sometimes, five or six characters would talk within one paragraph. Their lines of dialogue were not separated at all, except that a new set of quotations began. Sometimes the quotes were missing altogether. This same sort of issue came up when reading the body of the story. Scenes were jumbled together, one paragraph after another. Rather than being separated by asterisks, or even just a blank line, they smushed up against each other, causing the reader to continually jerk out of the story.

The plot ended up developing alternately too quickly, and too slowly. On one hand, sometimes so many things happened within the breadth of five pages, I couldn't keep up. This left the characterization murky. But then, almost a hundred pages would go by without an important event—only the characters revealing their life stories, times, and troubles to each other, often to an excessive level. I'm not sure if the latter was an attempt to support the 'quicker' pieces or not, but the consistency didn't fit well with me.

As a rule, I don't like vampires, but I was willing to make an exception for this book. With some more polish time, and a better editor, Darkness and Light could've been the one vampire book I recommended to others. I loved the premise—I loved the feeling I got from Cristian and Sage. It was everything in between that caused me to dislike the book.

Author's website
Buy it/read an excerpt on Amazon

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