You have to be active, not passive. You can't just storm away from Meriwether, from Dray, from Reyn. You can make things right. You, Nas, actually have to grow the hell up. At last.
Darkness Falls by Cate Tiernan
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Fantasy, 400 pages
January 2nd 2012 by Poppy/Little Brown BYR
I think many of the things I said in my review of Immortal Beloved apply here as well. I mean, as much as I loved Immortal Beloved, I still went into this one a little leery (she leaves Rivers Edge? WTH?), so I was prepared to face some sophomore slumpage. But again, Cate Tiernan thwarts me. There was a teeny bit of the slump, but for the most part, I loved it again.
Here's the thing about the dreaded Sophomore Slump: it's nearly unavoidable. The shiny wears off. The things that made a book new and exciting aren't new any more, and so they're normally not as exciting either. The courtship phase is over. A second book in a serious really relies on growth and tone, and in the pursuit of one, authors often lose sight of the other. Fortunately, Tiernan doesn't seem to have trouble with this. There is a good deal of growth, for all that Nas takes a huge step - well, maybe not wholly backwards, but sideways at least. But the tone, Nas' fantastic voice, is still there and just as enjoyable as ever.
I chose the quote at the top because to me it represents the book - and what I love about it - really well. As I've said before, Nas has the potential to be really annoying (460 yr old whiny club kid? Pass.) but she manages not to be, and part of it is that she does actually realize what a screw-up she is, and she does realize that it's time to stop being one. It gives her just enough leeway for you to go with her and give her a chance, and see that she's not as big a screw-up as she thinks she is. Just...profoundly damaged and ready to heal.
There's Whiny Nas. Scared Nas. And it couldn have been much more annoying than it was, but it wasn't. Nas is still Nas, and you always know that there's something going on, that her actions are a little more excusable because of the life she's had, and because you suspect someone is pulling the strings. So even though she pushes people away, and even though you're screaming at her like a horror movie bimbo for the love of god not to leave Rivers Edge, you know that there's more to it. And you also know that it really is necessary - it reconfirms that Nas didn't just overreact when she came to Rivers Edge, or when she started to doubt Innocencio. It wasn't just melodrama, and it wasn't just a burnout. There is something insidious going on, and she sensed it, and now it's come back for her. So any steps back-and-siedways she may take are needed and not nearly as frustrating as you would think. Plus they add great tension.
When I wrote my review for Immortal Beloved, I ended up tossing most of the notes I'd written in favor of a "just read it, gahhhh!" review, but a few that I didn't include I think remain true to this book. So I'm un-tossing them:
- The side stories and bits of info on the other characters really round the story out and drive home my favorite thing about the series: everyone has shit. Everyone has to deal. There is still darkness and wallowing in Darkness Falls, but more than that, Nastasya starts to really see that everyone has shit to deal with, and everyone has darkness to battle. Her understanding of this begins to pave the way for her to become a very sympathetic, more (I almost hesitate to use the word) enlightened character. I just love it when good world-building is combined with good character-building. Plus it just adds so much to the story for the reader; really enjoyable, and this coming from someone who often cringes when the word "flashback" is used...
- It's less like a concrete episodic story, and more like a journey that is just beginning. This may bother some people, loose ends and all that, a fairly minor villain and a reversal of a bigger one in book 1, then an expansion of the one we thought was the Big Bad, while the a potentially Bigger Bad is out there roaming around off stage, etc. But I liked that. It made sense, and was a bit of a coming of age story, which is funny for someone Nas' age, but also just a bit...epic feeling.
- It handles the concept of immortality better than most. I mentioned this in the other review, but it bears mentioning again. There is thought to it, what it would really be like - pieces you would carry with you from your old lives, habits and thoughts, people you'd mourn, things you'd miss and how that would all shape you. All the way down to how tall you're likely to be if you were born 500 years ago. I really liked that it was clear Tiernan thought about these things.
- And it's all super quick and fun to boot.