Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Thomas Dunne Books, 2016
Available: Hardcover, Kindle edition, Audible
Certain Dark Things is an excellent example of what a vampire novel can be. The characters are strong, the writing is fast-paced, and it paints a vision of a world we have not seen before. There is a ton of vampire fiction out there, much of it unreadable, but Silvia Moreno-Garcia brings a fresh take to the genre in this page-turner.
In the world of Certain Dark Things, the existence of vampires became public knowledge in 1969. Slowly, the vampires have become a part of society. There are a variety of species and sub-species of vampires, and many have evolved geographically and culturally. Reading it, there is a sense that we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg. The book comes with a glossary which explains the ins and outs of the vampires and their history. I found this unnecessary, and only referred to it once. Many of the details listed at the back of the book have little bearing on this story, but it is clear the author has this whole world thought out in great detail. World-building is clearly one of the book’s great strengths.
Domingo is a homeless teenager surviving on the streets of Mexico City, whose life changes hen he meets Alt, a vampire that comes from a Aztec background. Alt’s biology requires that she feed from the young, but she doesn’t have to kill to feed. Domingo is fascinated with her: he has read about vampires, but never met one. Although gangs of vampires and drug cartels battle beyond the city limits, within Mexico City, vampires are illegal. Why would Alt risk coming to Mexico City? This is what drives the narrative.
The novel is well structured. Moreno-Garcia uses multiple points of view, switching easily between them. Character development is also impressive. Ana, the police detective, has a story interesting enough to carry its own novel. Watching Domingo fall deeper and deeper for Alt, readers learn just how inhuman she is. Some of the strongest moments of the book happen between them.
Moreno-Garcia isn’t the first to write about Mexican vampires, but every dark fiction author deserves a chance to put their spin on the creature, using the unique set of tools they bring to the table, and she has created a clever and original story. We can only hope she will choose to return to this world with a sequel. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by David Agranoff