Becoming Darkness takes place in an alternate timeline where the Nazi’s won World War Two. Their victory was fully dependent on them releasing a plague which quickly went out of hand. The majority of the world’s population died and the rest became vampires. So in other words: Nazi Vampires.
Not everyone transformed, a very small percentage of the population were uninfected. These people were dubbed as Immunes and they learned that their blood was poisonous to the vampires. The Immunes fought back against the vampires but were eventually driven back to Haven: a small tropical island.
When our story begins Haven and the rest of the world have been at peace for a few decades. The vampires and the humans mostly keep out of each others way but do have some trade deals. Immunes with extra cash can even vacation to the vampire city New York City. In other words a tentative balance has been achieved.
Sophie Harkness is just a regular teenage girl living on Haven. Everything falls apart when her best friend is found murdered… and vampires might be involved. The crime reminds Sophie of another crime scene she witnessed in the past. This is the catalyst for her to investigate what exactly is happening on the island. It turns out her happy home has been hiding some pretty dark secrets.
The driving force of Becoming Darkness is Sophie trying to work out these deep dark secrets of Haven. The story quickly falls into the following pattern:
- Sophie asks a question
- Someone tells Sophie that she’s better off not knowing the answer
- Sophie does something stupid to find out the answer no one is willing to tell her
- Sophie finds herself in a bad situation and needs to be pulled out. Someone probably dies
And the cycle repeats. The amount of mysterious deaths that surround Sophie as she investigates Haven and her family history is hysterical.
It’s the secrets that keep you interested in the story. These twists and turns are not exactly surprising. At certain points you will feel like you are one step ahead of the protagonist. I found myself wanting to grab Sophie by her shoulders to shake her and say: “It’s right there! Put it together! How are you not seeing this?”
Other twists didn’t feel like plot twists. Instead they come so far out of left field they don’t make sense towards the story. The author is clearly trying to shock the reader but it fell seriously flat for me.
One of the biggest surprises for both Chelsey and I was the romance plot. Instead of focusing on the formation of the couple, Sophie and Val have been together for a while. There isn’t even the traditional fight that the couple must overcome in the last third of the book. Their relationship isn’t perfect (for a multitude of reasons) but it’s comfortable. That being said, Val doesn’t do much for the plot. He serves as a well meaning road block for Sophie. In fact he’s the one who constantly is telling her she’s better off not knowing things. Also, he’s a vampire. Because of course the main character has to be dating a vampire. When you think about it, it is quite impressive that she managed to find the one vampire on the island who physically appears to be the same age as her.
But be prepared to be slightly concerned by his romantic history….
Becoming Darkness has an interesting premise, the more you think about it in theory it works. There were a lot of things that Becoming Darkness did that I liked. I liked the dark family secrets and it’s critique on motherhood, I liked Sophie’s determination (even if she went about it in some pretty unhelpful ways). Most of all I liked how this novel felt like a mash up of The Man in the High Castle and The Strain. As a concept, it really works, but in execution it didn’t deliver.
For a novel where a lot happens, it feels like nothing happens. The story gets bogged down by trying to do too much. Becoming Darkness began to remind me of the problem that I’ve had with the Moffat era of Doctor Who. There’s too much focus on making the story so big and so overwhelming for our heroes there is no way to come to a satisfying conclusion that manages to ties up at least a few of the loose ends. If Brambles had focused on a few elements of the story and not tried to hit on everything at breakneck speed, it may have flowed better.
Did I regret picking this up? No. Will I be reading the sequel? Probably not.
There’s a lot more in Becoming Darkness that I want to talk about but to do that I would be going into some seriously spoiler filled territory. I’ll get to it eventually. Till then, check out our spoilers review of the novel.