Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review - Draw the Dark

Draw the Dark
by Ilsa J. Bick
Date: 2010
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Source: NetGalley

Seventeen-year-old Christian Cage is the outcast. The weird kid. People around him tend to die under mysterious circumstances, and Christian seem to be involved. Because he can tap into their worst nightmares... and draw their deaths.

In the tiny village of Winter, Wisconsin, everybody knows everybody else's business. Or so they thought. When Christian stumbles across a decades-old mystery, he becomes consumed by forces that he can't control.  Will he be able to follow the clues and put together the pieces before yet another person falls victim to his strange artistic talent?

(see it on Goodreads)

I didn't realize that the climax of this book would take place on Halloween.  Is that perfect timing or what?

When I first read about this book, I thought it sounded pretty interesting.  And it was.  It was pretty different from anything I'd read before, not least because the narrator is a 17-year-old boy (an unusual choice in young adult fiction, it seems).  But I quite liked Christian and his take on what was happening around him.  He seemed pretty real, and I was impressed that a female author could take on the voice of an adolescent boy and have it ring true.

As for the story, it was engaging enough to keep me reading, but I will admit that I hoped for a bit more of a payoff at the end.  There are so many loose ends that I'm wondering if there's going to be a sequel.  The story was pretty ambitious, incorporating some supernatural elements, and really had two major threads running through it: the first was the question of Christian's artistic powers and what they had to do with his mother's disappearance when he was small; the second was the 1945 murder mystery.  Only one of these was satisfactorily dealt with.  Overall, I'm not sure that both were needed.  And unless there's actually going to be a sequel, the ending was not that satisfying.

The writing was fairly solid, but there were some odd quirks that had me raising my eyebrows.  What on earth is a "hair's breath"?  There were a few things like that that the editor didn't catch.  But I did like the style that was used.  The story was told in the first person, in almost a stream-of-consciousness style at times.  It fit quite well with the atmosphere of the story.

There are some instances of foul language and graphic descriptions of violence.  Based on this (and on the subject matter itself), I'd say this is probably a book for older teens.

I don't think I've read anything quite like this before (although one particular element of the plot reminded me of Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr).  If you're looking to read some engaging young adult fiction with just a bit of a supernatural twist -- but you're tired of vampires, werewolves, and fairies -- you might really like this book.  I was certainly pleasantly surprised.

Thank you to NetGalley and Carolrhoda Books for providing a digital ARC.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Originality: 5/5

Overall: 3.6 out of 5


  1. "Hair's breath" always confuses me -- I've seen it like that, before, but I've also seen it as "hair's breadth" and "hair-breath" -- so colour me confused with that one, haha.

    Loved the balanced review :D

  2. Nice review! I think it sounds like an interesting read, so I'll add it to my tbr list (which I'm slowly making my way through). I like the cover art on this one, too -- makes it look dark and mysterious!