August 13, 2010

The Dark Divine: Review

One night three years ago, Grace Divine's brother Jude staggered home dripping blood and refusing to tell Grace exactly what happened. All she knows is that his best friend Daniel -  the guy she's had a crush on for forever - was somehow involved.

Now Daniel's back, and he seems to need her help. He's homeless, jobless, just about penniless, and Grace feels more attracted to him than ever. But Daniel's hiding something, a secret that explains his seemingly superhuman abilities and volatile moods. A secret that has more than a little to do with a silver knife, a piece of moonstone, Jude's odd behaviour... and Grace's own fate.

I wasn't expecting that much from The Dark Divine, but I actually ended up really enjoying it. Despite the fact that I guessed Daniel's secret from quite early on, the twists and turns of the plot were exciting and Bree Despain had me doubting myself repeatedly as I tried to piece everything together.

Although some elements of the book are admittedly Twilight-esque (brooding, mysterious guy has superhuman strength and speed, and likes to tow girl along on really fast trips through the forest; said guy can't seem to be able to make up his mind whether he wants to be with girl or not) the protagonist is definitely a lot stronger than Bella Swan. Grace sticks up for herself, makes her own decisions, and learns from her mistakes. Perhaps she isn't always quite as self-aware as one would wish (for instance, she doesn't always seem to realize why she keeps trying to pry into Daniel's affairs), but that's fairly typical for teenagers.

Also, I was really happy to see that once she found out all the nitty gritty dangerous details of Daniel's secrets (more on this later in a spoiler zone), Grace wasted no time in making the decision to stay away from him. Yes! She somehow manages to! She tells him repeatedly that she doesn't want to see him anymore - partly out of loyalty to her brother, and partly because she is genuinely scared of Daniel. When she does eventually return to him, it is with a good deal more knowledge than she had before about his situation, and without any fear.

The book is written with a Christian slant, but I was pleased that it was woven well into the storyline and doesn't come across as heavy-handed or moralistic. Grace Divine is a pastor's daughter, so of course religion plays an important role in her life; that Despain also manages to connect it soundly to the more fantastical aspects of the novel makes it even more seamless.

Also, there are a couple of twists toward the end that I totally did not see coming, which set things up nicely for a sequel. Despite this, Despain manages to tie the great majority of loose ends together well (although I am still wondering about Gabriel. Why is he still alive?), and the reader finishes the book feeling satisfied. It's a major pet peeve of mine that some books leave off in the middle of the story arc, and you have to wait for the sequel to find out what happens, so I'm glad to say that's not the case with The Dark Divine. While the reader is left hoping for more, most of the mysteries of the book have been explained by the end.

If there's any one thing I would pick on, it would actually be Grace's father. He totally knows what's up with Daniel the whole time, he knows that it's potentially dangerous, and yet he doesn't let on to anyone what's going on - not even his daughter who happens to be hanging out with Daniel. Then, when Grace is finally told some of the many secrets involved, and decides she doesn't want to be with Daniel anymore, all Grace's father does is hand her some really old letters (giving further explanations) and tell her it's all up to her. Does this sound like a responsible father? It just didn't seem very realistic. Grace's father trusts Daniel, and so we're supposed to believe that he's not concerned about his daughter's safety with Daniel...but given Daniel's situation, it wouldn't hurt Grace's father to show a bit more caution! Also, we aren't shown how Daniel convinces Grace's father to help him, or why Grace's father believes all of the information he is given; his role in this whole scenario needs some more grounding before it can be entirely believable.

{Beware of Spoilers, All Ye Who Enter Here}

I do try to write my reviews without spoiling too much, but there's a large section of this one that can't really be talked about if I don't - namely, Daniel's secret and its implications. It didn't take me long to speculate that Daniel was a werewolf, and though Despain threw me off the scent (yep, there's a pun there) briefly with all this talk of the Urbat, eventually it turned out I was indeed right.

Werewolves are hardly unusual in the YA paranormal/fantasy genre; personally I like them better than vampires, but not as much as angels (the other two currently "hot" trends in YA paranormal). However, Despain does a great job of creating her own rich culture and history of werewolves. While her story incorporates many traditional folklore elements (aversion to silver, connection to the moon, strength and speed) it also branches off onto new paths. The use of moonstone in helping a wolf keep control makes perfect sense, and the connection to the soul she introduces works well with the religious setting. I appreciated that Despain's wolves were not tame; once they've changed form, they seem to discard most human emotions and go by primal instincts (though we do see some evidence of Daniel being able to control himself in wolf form, later on in the story). The idea that once someone is bitten, they have the potential to become a werewolf, but it is not a certainty unless they commit a 'predatory act' that will endanger their soul, is a really interesting take on the transformation. I'd like to see this fleshed out even more in the next book (and I think it likely will be!)

Daniel kind of annoyed me at the beginning of the book, but once we find out that a werewolf can only regain its soul if it is killed by the one who loves it the most, his behaviour makes a little more sense. I still wish he had told Grace about all of it sooner - or stopped acting so hot-and-cold with her at any rate - but hey, he was going through a lot (and it's true that he didn't know what the cure would entail until partway through, so perhaps he was hoping he could be cured without Grace finding out he was a werewolf at all). 

{End of Spoilers}

Read if you like YA paranormals with strong heroines, guys with dark secrets, and unexpected twists you can't predict. 4 out of 5 shooting stars.


  1. This one sounds good, I think i got it in my TBR pile somewhere.

    Nice review

  2. I liked this book and can't wait to see what happens to Jude in "The Lost Saint". You can read my review here:

  3. I have had this book on my reading pile for ever. Someone's review (not yours) ruined the secret for me, but I'm still curious to see how this plays out.

  4. I really enjoyed this book and im happy to hear you did too! wanst Daniel just great?! i think he was easily my favorite character. i agree in the beginning he was kinda annoying, but after we learn his "secret" you cnt help but feel for him... thanks for sharing your thoughts



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