Title: Certain Dark Things
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: October 25 2016
Hardcover: 323 Pages
Welcome to Mexico City… An Oasis In A Sea Of Vampires…
Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is busy eeking out a living when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life.
Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, must feast on the young to survive and Domingo looks especially tasty. Smart, beautiful, and dangerous, Atl needs to escape to South America, far from the rival narco-vampire clan pursuing her. Domingo is smitten.
Her plan doesn’t include developing any real attachment to Domingo. Hell, the only living creature she loves is her trusty Doberman. Little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his effervescent charm.
And then there’s Ana, a cop who suddenly finds herself following a trail of corpses and winds up smack in the middle of vampire gang rivalries.
Vampires, humans, cops, and gangsters collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive?
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Review copy from publisher
Format (e- or p-): ecopy
I thought I was so over vampires but then I read Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
Atl, a northern vampire, the last surviving member of a powerful family from a bird-like vampire subspecies with pre-Aztecan roots who often feed on young blood to survive. Young and privileged, Atl is on the run for her life and ends up in Mexico City en route to Brazil.
Nick, a northern vampire, from a subspecies that resembles European vampires, searching for Atl to finish off what their families started. If he can make her suffer in the process, that’s just the cherry on top.
Domingo, a garbage-collector teenager who lives on the streets. Lovely, earnest and clever, Domingo is a survivor, a tough cookie, who becomes smitten with Atl and is prepared to do anything it takes to help her.
Ana, a Mexico City cop who, for better or worse, is an expert on fighting vampires. With a career that has all but stagnated due to systemic sexism and gaslighting, Ana gets caught in the crossfire after she accepts an offer she can’t refuse from the human gangsters of Mexico City.
Plus: an augmented dog, an old-school vampire-revenant and a bunch of very human gangsters.
An alternate Mexico City, a vampire-free zone after most of the country has fallen to violent vampire factions in a world that is very much aware that vampires exist.
This is an elegant, modern, dark take on classic vampire lore, complete with its own glossary and everything. I pictured this book as the offspring of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction with a dash of telenovela and Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s own seasoning (if you read the excellent Signal to Noise, you will know exactly what I am talking about).
What’s interesting to me – beyond the excitement of reading what feels like a unique take on vampires and a fresh story – is the mixture of worldbuilding, lore and the very fragile relationships built within. Those relationships also include the relationship between Mexico City and its people – the way the city protects or not, its citizens.
Domingo is a street kid, a survivor of the worst poverty can offer, but someone who still remains, for lack of better words, good and empathic, with a clear sense of right and wrong that continuously get challenged by his entanglement with Atl. It might be a side effect of youth, or a certain type of naivety. Atl is naïve as an extension of her privilege (she is rich, did not have a care in the world until her family was killed) and her sense of ethics is as twisted as it can be, from a being used to violence and death. Ana and Nick are great counterparts to Domingo and Atl. Ana’s life too has been shaped by her experiences in the streets and her age as well as the long-time, continued experience with her male co-workers’ sexism has turned her into a bitter person who is prepared to break the law in order to survive. Similarly, Nick is a vampire used to violence and death just like Atl but there is a marked different in their approach to killing: there is an element of ritual to Atl’s life, and a dark, violent, chaotic edge to Nick’s. No one is exactly innocent here and the book makes no excuses – the thing left to be seen is who gets to survive and how.
The build up to the final showdown is thrilling, the twists coming fast and furious, up to and including a perfect, fitting, bittersweet ending.
Certain Dark Things is Urban Fantasy, Noir, alternate history in a tale of revenge, survival and, why-not, love – it’s the vampire tale I did not know I was waiting for.
Rating: 8 – Excellent
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