Book review of Dark

Dark, the first novel from Laurier Brantford student Lisa Gurney, is described by the author as supernatural fiction with a murder mystery thrown in.

With vampires and werewolves and a sort of dystopian future, it definitely has the supernatural part down. The murder mystery, on the other hand, isn’t that much of a mystery; we’re presented with one account of events at the very beginning, and this plotline is more or less ignored until the final climactic scene.

Instead, what Dark delivers is action. Lots of action. The first few chapters are full of fight scenes and hints of other fights scenes both past and future. This makes it a little surprising when the two battles that are teased throughout the novel never come to fruition, but the quick action at the beginning is enough to suck some readers in.

The plotline is simple enough that it can be followed easily: Dark is a vampire hunter, who has lived a nomadic life ever since his parents were killed when he was five years old. In his late teens when we meet him, Dark travels the world with his sister, fighting vampires and werewolves along the way. He discovers that an enormous bounty has been put on his head, and he must try to find out who is behind it and why – all the while fighting off different groups trying to earn the reward.

Of course, nothing is exactly as it seems, and Dark finds himself in the middle of what even he, familiar with a world of all sorts of fantastic creatures, only knows of as legends. Accompanied by everybody from a curiously loyal werewolf to one of the men hired to kill him, Dark navigates this world with determination.

Characters themselves are one of the strong points of the book – Gurney doesn’t introduce characters needlessly; everybody serves some sort of purpose. The bizarre names – Narveria, Jachin, and others – make it nearly impossible to forget which character is which, and who has done what.

The book is not without its downsides. The plot moves at too linear of a pace – characters and subplots being introduced out of nowhere, resolved, then dropped. In this sense, it would almost work better as a series of short stories. More attention should have been paid to copy-editing; at least six instances of ‘passed’ being used instead of the correct ‘past’ were particularly jarring. We’re not given any particular reason to care about any of the characters. The dialogue feels very clunky at times, especially when Gurney uses words like “fight” and “mortal” over and over again, steadfastly refusing to bring in any synonyms.

Dark is not a book that will make you think. It is not a book you will recommend to everybody within earshot. It is not a book that will leave you waiting in breathless anticipation for the sequel. It is, however, a supernatural thriller, and a great book to take with you on bus journeys and to class – something you can pick up and put down without worrying that you’ll forget what’s going on.

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