Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was part of my Steampunk Symposium haul and if all of them are half as good as this, it’s going to be a great pile of books. It’s a gaslight urban fantasy and I enjoyed the holy heck out of it. Natalie is a young woman living in NYC in the late 1800s and she has a problem. After a trauma that cost her her mother when she was four, Natalie has psychosomatic mutism. Her father, who is involved in the art world, is at a loss as to what to do with her after she leaves the school for girls with disabilities, but he is indulgent.
through him and the art world, Natalie meets Maggie and her wealthy aunt, Mrs Northe who purchases the compelling portrait of Lord Jonathan Denbury to keep it safe, sharing it with the Metropolitan museum of art (where Natalie’s father works). Denbury died in England, or so everyone thinks. With shades of Dorian Grey, Natalie and Mrs. Northe learn that Denbury’s soul is in the painting and something demonic is walking around in his skin committing murders.
As Northe initiates Natalie into the world of spiritualism and magical powers (something that will be an issue between Natalie and Maggie), Natalie learns her dreams connect her into the all of this and more than that she can walk into the picture but Denbury can’t walk out. Sure there is some insta-love there but it annoyed me less than usual.
Natalie and Mrs. Northe have to solve the puzzle to free Denbury and stop the demon before any more women died. For the most part I liked both women who are mostly smart. I didn’t like some of the impulsive things Natalie did and there was some cattiness with women her age but other than that I enjoyed these characters and I’d love to see the follow up with the questions raised with the ending.
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