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Book Review: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

If you’re looking for a deliciously dark historical fantasy book, Darker Still is right up your alley.

Book Review: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

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darker still leanna renee hieber

Title & Author: Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Release Date: November 8, 2011

Series: 1st in Magic Most Foul series

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

How I Got the Book: Bought


I was obsessed.

It was as if he called to me, demanding I reach out and touch the brushstrokes of color swirled onto the canvas. It was the most exquisite portrait I’d ever seen–everything about Lord Denbury was unbelievable…utterly breathtaking and eerily lifelike.

There was a reason for that. Because despite what everyone said, Denbury never had committed suicide. He was alive. Trapped within his golden frame.

I’ve crossed over into his world within the painting, and I’ve seen what dreams haunt him. They haunt me too. He and I are inextricably linked–bound together to watch the darkness seeping through the gas-lit cobblestone streets of Manhattan. Unless I can free him soon, things will only get Darker Still.”

Darker Still – A Rich, Historical Fantasy

I thoroughly enjoyed Darker Still – it offered a much different setting than most YA books out right now AND it has an unconventional, spunky heroine. The novel is set in New York City in the 1800s, with a mysterious, mystic-type feel brought on by the cursed Oscar-Wilde-eque painting.

Natalie is mute – she can hear and communicate by writing or signing. This instantly added some novelty to Darker Still, as I’ve never read a book with a character remotely like Natalie. What she lacks in speech, she makes up for with her fiery temper and strong personality (read: headstrong). Plus, she’s fiercely independent, which marks her as an oddity in her time.

I loved her tenacity and found her a very likable, sympathetic character. Natalie is really the driving force behind this book. If you don’t like Natalie, I’m not sure how much you’re going to connect with Darker Still.

Also, the novel definitely tips its hat to The Picture of Dorian Gray (which I loved reading in high school) – with the whole “mysterious man in a painting that seems super life-like” thing. But, I like the direction that Hieber takes with it. It’s less dark and scary and more dark and…well, actually it is scary-ish, but it definitely has a lighter overall tone. Basically, if a man in a painting ever communications with you, run far, far away.

Preach it, Sistah

One thing I definitely found interesting in Darker Still was the spiritual/mystical side of the painting (how Lord Denbury got stuck in the painting). It was interesting, mixing elements of actual modern-day practices with fantasy. Plus, it’s not preachy or pushy.

I really liked that Natalie faced a physical, emotional and spiritual struggle- it all felt well-balanced. She overcomes a great deal in a short amount of time (300 pages, give or take) without a cliched, too-perfect ending.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the romance in Darker Still! It was great, if a little instalove-ish. Overall, though, I liked the intensity, the use of different mediums (of both the human and artwork variety) and the right balance of drama.


Darker Still offers a fascinating look at opposing ideas – dark and light, baseness and morality, perceived strength and weaknesses. Plus, Natalie is a charming character, who I think many readers will relate to. If they don’t, there’s always Lord Denbury to drool over. 😉

Plus – it MAKES SENSE that the girl on the cover of Darker Still is wearing a fancy dress, although the model looks like she needs to eat a piece of pie.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.