Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Certain Dark Things is a book about vampires and, put simply, I loved it. I’ve read a lot of vampire books and to be honest, over the years, I guess that these immortals have become a bit jaded in some respects. Vampires have been romantacised so much that we’ve almost forgotten that they’re predators – not gorgeous,emotionally tortured and beautiful creatures that are in search of love. Certain Dark Things once again brings to us the vampires of old. Cold, predatory, self serving and dangerous immortals. It delivers a wonderfully real and gritty story set in an alternate and contemporary Mexico that kept me riveted to the page with tension because of the way I cared about the characters. Forgive me whist I gush a little. This is an excellent read and one that I strongly suggest you pick up if you want to get back down to good old basics where vampires are concerned.
Firstly, to the plot. Basically this is a cat and mouse type story. The vampires in this story are drug dealers who fight bitterly over their territory. Atl’s family have gone to war with a rival gang and the fallout has left All running to the anonymity that Mexico can provide (more about that in a while). Of course she has a pack of vampires on her tail and so she needs to lie low until she can find a way to take on a new identity and then disappear for good.
The setting. Certain Dark Things is based very much on our own world. Most things are as we already know them except for one vital element, about 40 or so years ago, give or take, humans finally became aware of the existence of vampires. The myths and folklore were all true – well certain elements at least and this led to all sorts of conflicts. Mexico City became a vampire free zone along the way. Using sanitation squads they maintain heavy security. It’s probably the last place a vampire would want to go – unless of course that vampire was on the run.
Atl is a vampire. Her blood line harks back to the Aztecs which gives her a particular type of birdlike capability that affects the way she feeds and also gives her other gifts that not all vampires enjoy. Atl is a strong and independent woman but underneath her tough exterior you can sense the loneliness. Domingo is a young man living rough on the streets. He collects garbage to sell and knows the backstreets of the city like the back of his hand. He’s also familiar with looking after and depending;on himself but he also seeks company – which is why, one dark night he follows Atl home. Of course he little suspects that she’s a vampire, Mexico is free of vampires after all, he just likes her and, even though he knows, deep down, that she can’t possibly like him he accepts her invitation to enter her domain. Now, what follows is a strange dependency that develops between the two. Atl needs Domingo even in spite of all of her protestations and more than that she becomes captivated by his naivety. She needs his blood first and foremost but she also needs his eyes and ears, out on the streets, running her errands, at times when she is unable to do so herself. Domingo needs Atl. He loves that she relies on him and frankly refuses to accept that he’s in danger – which he most certainly is. There’s something very winning about his innocence, given that he’s been living on the streets and taking care of himself for so long he has a fascinating lack of guile.
We have the tough and hardened cop Ana – I liked her. I guess she’s a bit of a stereotype in some respects but I followed her chapters just as eagerly as the others. She’s a single mum who has had to work hard to achieve any sort of ground but she finally feels like she’s gained some respect for her vampire hunting skills.
But, my favourite character of the piece was undoubtedly Bernardino – a revenant and frankly the most scary, yet understated, vampire of the entire book. You definitely want this guy on your team. That is all.
The gangsters hunting Atl are led by Nico. Nico is a particularly nasty vampire, a necro – probably akin more to the vampires of our old folklore with long teeth and hypnotic type abilities that allow a victim to be glamoured. Nico wants to find Atl very badly, but I won’t go into that as I think that the reason why Atl is on the run need to be discovered during the read.
I loved that the author has come up with so many different vampire species or types here. It feels like she’s taken myths from all over the world and created her own compendium! There’s even a glossary at the conclusion of the novel – and what I loved even more about the glossary was that it reads like a factual account of all the real vampires that have come to our knowledge since their ‘outing’. Of course we don’t get to see all these vampires in this story – the glossary is almost like a piece of evidence that gives the main story even more realism.
Whilst I have no criticisms for this story I would point out that this is without a doubt a bloody read. It pulls no punches in that respect so be warned as there are certain chapters, particularly as the tension ramps up, that are literally blood soaked.
I really enjoyed Certain Dark Things. It’s a modern story of vampirism that is gritty and realistic – although I hope not too real! It brings to us a story of two of the most unlikely characters that made me tense with anticipation wondering whether they would both survive.
I hope for more to come.
I received a copy courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.