by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Here in the city, heavily policed to keep the creatures of the night at bay, Domingo is another trash-picking street kid, just hoping to make enough to survive. Then he meets Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers. Domingo is smitten. He clings to her like a barnacle until Atl relents and decides to let him stick around.
But Atl's problems, Nick and Rodrigo, have come to find her. When they start to raise the body count in the city, it attracts the attention of police officers, local crime bosses, and the vampire community. Atl has to get out before Mexico City is upended, and her with it.
I received an eARC of Certain Dark Things from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Certain Dark Things has probably been my most anticipated read of 2016 after I adored Silvia Moreno-Garcia's 2015 debut, Signal to Noise, to the high heavens. If you've been following my blog for a while you're probably sick of me talking about it. With Certain Dark Things not being released until October I was waiting impatiently for it until it happened to pop up on NetGalley and I was lucky enough to receive an eARC four months early. Naturally, I started reading it immediately.
And? I really liked it. Like, a lot.
After loving Signal to Noise as much as I did (and still do) one of the things I was most excited about was Moreno-Garcia's take on vampires, and I'm so pleased to say she did exactly what she hoped I would: she took existing tropes, played around with them a little, and created something completely, wonderfully different. She weaves vampirism into Mexican folklore and Aztec history so brilliantly, creating several different subspecies of vampire in the process.
One of these vampires is our heroine, Atl, who fills me with joy. Atl is more of an anti-heroine than a heroine, the kind of protagonist I feel as though I've rarely seen without a penis. Maybe I'm just not reading enough of the right books (which is probably the case, what with there being so much to read) but I don't meet characters like Atl often enough. She's not always likable - in fact she's probably not the kind of person I'd want to have as a friend because I think it'd be a very one-sided friendship - but she's compelling, and throughout Certain Dark Things I was always eager to see more of her and learn more about her.
Our other protagonist, Domingo, was also a lot of fun. Moreno-Garcia has taken something of a stereotypical character - a geeky 'nice guy' who doesn't have much luck with the opposite sex or any other aspect of his life - and made him genuinely nice. Did I find Domingo annoying? At times, yes, but he never felt like a cardboard cut-out, and it was really refreshing to read a book in which the main character is homeless; I don't know about you, but I don't come across homeless protagonists all that often.
I enjoyed the relationship between Domingo and Atl, but it was also ultimately the reason that I gave Certain Dark Things four stars instead of five. I was a little disappointed that there was a romance between the two of them, purely and simply because, to me, there wasn't really any chemistry there beyond Domingo thinking Atl was stunning and Atl thinking Domingo was useful. Perhaps that is all their romance is - not every romance has to be the biggest love story to ever rock the world - but I loved their chemistry as friends, and throughout the first third of the novel I got excited that I might be reading a book about friendship rather than love. In some ways I was, but I adored the chemistry between Meche and Sebastian in Signal to Noise (and I know I shouldn't be comparing the two, because they're completely different novels) so I couldn't quite invest in this relationship as much.
That being said, this book is still bloody wonderful. It's the first time I've read a vampire novel that's made me feel like I'm reading something new, something fresh, and I love how in parts it's gritty and nasty and dark. There's an ensemble cast at work here, from our heroes to our villains to all the people that get caught in the cross-fire, and I think what I loved most about Certain Dark Things is that it's a story about a few hectic days in one city, like someone has taken a snapshot of this new, bloodthirsty Mexico and turned it into a book.
If you haven't read any of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's work yet then I don't quite know what you're doing with your life, she's a fantastically fresh voice in the world of speculative fiction and Certain Dark Things is proof of her creativity. It's being released this October, just in time for Halloween, so pre-order your copy now and meet the vampires you never knew you needed.