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One highly opinionated feminist YA nerd's twisted, snarky and informative journey through the genre's perils, pitfalls and sparkles.

Review: "The Dark Divine" by Bree Despain

"The Dark Divine"

Author: Bree Despain

Publisher: Egmont Books Ltd.

Pages: 384.

Summary (taken from Amazon): A prodigal son. A dangerous love. Haunted yearning...Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared and her brother Jude came home covered in his
own blood. Now that Daniel's returned, Grace must choose between her growing attraction to him and her loyalty to her brother. As Grace gets closer to Daniel, she learns the truth about that mysterious night and how to save the ones she loves, but it might cost her the one thing she cherishes most: her soul.

Cover impressions: Even the most bright eyed and optimistic of YA fans knows that this cover is designed to appeal to the Twilight crowd. I have something of an aversion to feet so the toes sort of creep me out even though the basic design is striking (nice nail polish too), and the freakishly pale skin suggests vampires (which the book does not have, it’s about a sort of wolf-like creature that lives to serve good or something like that, it’s sort of badly explained). I know that vague, mysterious covers with the weakest of connections to the actual book are nothing new but this cover genuinely has absolutely no connection to the story at all. It’s solely to entice Twilight fans. Hell, it got this cynical weirdo to give it a go so it worked. Rule number one of the sparkle project: never trust a cover.

This book came with a lot of blog hype. I saw it being promoted pretty heavily on a lot of paranormal YA blogs, pretty much all of which raved about the book. Personally, I felt like this was a book that did not need to be a paranormal story. The story itself is incredibly weak and not at all helped by an incredibly slow pace and structure (Despain has all these ridiculously unnecessary sub-headings that say things like “Later” or “After lunch”) and amateur, immature writing. It starts off slow and the pace never picks up throughout its 300+ pages. Every event seems incredibly contrived for the sake of creating tension that never appears. For example, Grace’s dad, the most perfect of perfect preachers who always does good, even if the face of the ridiculous and dangerous, gives her a book full of a series of letters which pretty much explain everything she needs to know about Daniel’s condition and how to cure it. So what does Grace do? She ignores it and mopes about her undying and impossible love for Daniel for a few more chapters before picking it up as Despain tries to create some sort of exciting climax.

Like a growing portion of heroines in YA paranormal romances, Grace is not particularly smart, despite what she and other characters say, and is so blank a slate you’d swear she’d just been removed from a box of packaging and thrown into the story before the batteries were put in. She is too perfect, too nice and far too dull, completely willing to do everything and anything for Daniel, no matter how he treats her. There were points where one thinks one sees evidence of vertebrae but they disappear very quickly. There’s this completely baffling scene where Daniel explains that his lycanthropic state is genetic and Grace blames herself! She falls into this sobbing pile of self pity, saying Why did I have to press the issue, refuse to stay ignorant? Why couldn't I stop myself from creating this mess? If I had just stayed out of things, if I had just minded my own business for all these years, would everything be the way it used to? I think Despain was trying to show some sort of religious conflict between what Grace wants to do and the beliefs she has been raised with but I never saw it beyond a few scenes where Despains tells us this but doesn’t show us this.

The religious characters in this book seemed like huge cardboard cut outs. They, like Grace, were too clean and too perfect. Even in moments where Grace wonders about the secrets her family are keeping from her, they’re still too clean. The strange exception is Grace’s brother Jude, who is the most perfect Christian boy and high school hottie but gradually reveals himself to be a very bitter and angry young man. This had potential but Grace needed to keep reminding us that he was her brother and she would always do whatever he wanted her to do, except stay away from Daniel. There was something so stupid about Grace elevating her brother to that level despite his obvious faults, it wasn’t Christian-like at all.

Then of course there’s the bad boy love interest Daniel. He’s not a bad boy – he’s just a jerk. This seems to be a recurring theme, I’m getting far too used to it. How is he a jerk, I hear you say? Let me count the many ways: he’s arrogant, often very rude and has mood swings at the drop of a hat. There’s one scene where he genuinely cries whilst proclaiming his love for Grace (reader, I eye-rolled) which feels more like a fantasy love scene written in a fan-fiction. Beyond a common love of art, Grace and Daniel have nothing in common except for growing up together for a couple of years and we’re supposed to take this as good enough evidence that they love each other. Even though it’s not mentioned on the blurb and it’s supposed to be some shocking reveal, I guessed Daniel’s furriness pretty early on. There’s a difference between subtle hints and constantly telling us moments where Daniel “barks”, “growls” or looks “like a starved dog.” It began to feel a little condescending. The paranormal element was very under-developed and didn’t feel organic to the story. If Despain had written a story about a girl’s inner conflict with her beliefs and her family as she grows up then it would have been a much better story. As it is, “The Dark Divine” is the blandest of stories. There’s nothing about this book that grips the imagination or encourages me to read the upcoming sequel. For the incredibly easily satisfied, this book may fill some sort of hole but for everyone else, it’s a badly written, badly plotted mess with no originality. It’s too dull for me to even properly rant about. This book was made for meh-ing. And that’s just what I’ll do.


(End note: the typeface for this book was really weird. It was like it had been written in bold with some very obscure font that felt distracting and annoying to read. Keep it simple, publishers. Just because the prose is overtly dressed up, that doesn’t mean you need to make the type so.)

The next review: "The Knife of Never Letting Go" by Patrick Ness.

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Anonymous said...

The bold type-face really made it a struggle to get through The Dark Divine, even before anything else took place. I had to read it in small chunks because it started to wear on my eyes pretty quick. WTF EgmontUSA.

Ariana said...

I definitely agree with you on all of your major points. Probably one of the worst YA books I read this summer.

Also: There's a sequel?


Ceilidh said...

@CatherineHaines: It was just unnecessarily dressed up and annoying. It didn't distract from the terrible prose either.

@Ariana: Yep, it's called "The Lost Saint" and it's coming out this December IIRC. The cover also features ridiculously pale legs and feet wrapped up in bright blue fabric which I'm guessing doesn't appear in the book like this one's cover.

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