Darker Still (Magic Most Foul, #1)

PJV Quickie: Leanna Hieber has a way of taking a character and making them larger than life. She breaths this quirky life into her creations and they become almost a part of you as you read. If you haven’t read Ms. Heiber’s work — I ask, “Why not?”

Title: Darker Still
Author: Leanna Renee Hieber
Series: Magic Most Foul #1
ISBN: 1402260520
Publication: November 8th 2011 by Sourcebooks Fire
Received ARC review copy from Sourcebooks in exchange for a review
Links: Author Web >> Author Twitter >> Purchase Book >> Goodreads
Rating:4 out of 5


Having read, Leanna Renee Hieber’s, Percy Parker series I was prepared for her unique style of writing with the visceral and descriptive weaving of characters, settings and plot structure, I just wasn’t prepared for how well she portrayed this style in a young adult novel. I was highly impressed and hope to see more of this kind from her. The fact that I usually don’t like Victorian accounts, unless they have Steampunk influences is a testament to the uniqueness of this novel.

‘Darker Still’ is the diary account of Natalie Stewart, seventeen year old daughter of a museum curator. She lost her mother in a tragic accident that she witnessed and since then has not been able to speak. Mute and from a moderately placed family, Natalie has really no hopes of being introduced into Society or landing a good husband. Her spinster status seems right on the horizon until the moment she hears rumor of a mysterious portrait that is said to be haunted. With a bit of maneuvering Natalie gets her father to befriend the interested buyer of the portrait, Mrs. Evelyn Northe and convince her to lend it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Once laying eyes on the portrait of Lord Denbury, Natalie knows the rumors are true. There is something wrong with the painting, she thinks she might have even noticed it moving! Mrs. Northe is also  quite intrigued, both with the paintings mystical properties and Natalie herself. Together they investigate the mystery of Lord Denbury and Natalie’s connection to the painting – along with an evil that seems to be associated with the painting.

A mystery, a romance and a Victorian showcase all rolled into one. Heiber takes her influences from the greats and rolls it into a mesmerizing young adult novel that will have your flipping quickly through to find out if Natalie will triumph! Natalie and Mrs. Northe were such strong characters that it gave the book a backbone. I think the reason I don’t usually like Victorian/Historical is because of the restrictions they put on the female characters,  with the proper societal behavior and the deferment to the male gender.  I never like when women have to have a proper place. Hieber doesn’t restrict her characters to any such nonsense, she even claims in interviews that this is the exact reason she writes in these time periods. The restriction and rules that she has work within but triumph over. Makes for a unique character. Her two female leads are apart, yet within society giving them a little more freedom and thus making them stronger characters than the usual cowed and corseted heroines.

There were a few things that I found disconcerting with the novel, thus lending it with a less than perfect rating. Where I found Natalie to be larger-than-life, Lord Denbury I found fell flat. Hieber seems to put all her energy into the females of the novel. The only thing I got from him was his attractiveness. I hope that I’ll come to enjoy Lord Denbury in the later books, because of course he was rather restricted in this novel. Also, I did find the climax to be rather hurried and the diary style of the writing restrictive. I found it rather hard to believe that Natalie instead interacting would be scribbling in her diary, which is what was hinted in the writing.

Besides those minor down points, the novel was excellent. I liked the wrap-ups at the end and thought that was a great touch. I love Hieber’s writing style and believe that if you enjoyed this one you’ll definitely want to check out her adult series.


Recommended for fans of historical young adult, but it is a great transition book if you haven’t read anything like it before. Paranormal romance young adult fans might really enjoy. The style is mature, but there is little mature content for parents to wary of, I’m giving it a 13+ recommendation.

Even More:

LEanna Renee Hibier

Leanna Renee Hieber & myself at ALA 2011 when I actually received this book. Read excerpts and view a great interview of Leanna on her website.

 Like This, Like That:

The Girl in the Steel Corset‘ by Kady Cross
‘The Faerie Ring’ by Kiki Hamilton

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