|Book cover via Amazon.com|
Yeah, I’m that mom that carries pepper spray when I take my kids to Trick or Treat, and my son thinks it’s a seasoning, but I digress. The point is, Halloween is a different thing to different people, and we all can connect on some level to the feelings of fear.
Fear is something that is different for different people. Fear can both frighten one person and can transform another person into someone stronger to face their fears. So what does this have to do with anything?
Well, strap on your sunglasses and don’t look at anyone too long with your naked eyes, make sure you sleep well without a nightmare and whatever you do, remember not everything is as what it seems! Join me for a review of Crystal L. Kirkham’s “Depths of Darkness” part of the Saints & Sinners series.
Full disclosure here guys, first, I talk to Crystal on Twitter a whole lot. And second, I got to review an ARC copy of this book, so my copy may have been different from the one you have. But, that in mind, I only was given this copy to review on the agreement she let me review this with “Brutal” honesty. So for her sake, I shall do my best to be brutal.
With that in mind, we shall change things up and start with the critiques! I will put in all the good stuff after, don’t worry.
Critique number one because I know others are going to see it, let’s address the elephant in the room. It is very unusual to have a prequel as a sequel, especially when the hooks are different and the path that is taken is backwards. The first book “Road to Redemption” had a hook that grabbed you and lasted a chapter, but wasn’t exactly the end all and be all to the rest of the book. “Depths of Darkness” has a seamless hook that haunts you and makes you want to hug a box of tissues for a month. It chilled me to the bone, and that chill lasted with me to the end of the book. I’m not sure if it was good exactly, but it really did hook me in.
Critique number two, I’m not a big fan of child murders, and this book has mention of them. I am not comfortable with it. I have kids of my own, the idea of children suffering needlessly hurting or dying, it is not something I can stomach very easily. But, the murders are essential to the plot in this book, and it’s in the synopsis, so no spoilers if you read the synopsis.
Critique number three, and this one is probably my biggest critique; I don’t have anything to critique on story structure, grammar or spelling, because I didn’t find anything. I tried too, but again, I have an ARC copy so if you guys see something I missed, feel free to let me know in the comments. It is possible we have different copies but I do know Crystal had worked to ensure mine was the as close to the final product as possible.
Now, with the brutality out of the way to let’s jump into this. Our story is a detective story which is very different, but of the same world and with some of the same characters from Crystal’s last “Saints and Sinners’ novel. In this one there is a set of murders, and it’s up to a former detective to trust someone he isn’t sure he can trust, to help him solve and stop this.
If you are familiar with Crystal’s previous work, you are probably aware already there are a lot of demons in this. No spoilers, but my favorite characters from the last book are back, specifically Ruby. Ruby is one of the most amazing characters that I have seen because she’s versatile and has a lot of depth. She fit in so well in the last story in two different ways, but in this story, she’s more personable in my opinion than last time.
To add to the richness of the story is a character arch involving Iain and how he becomes who he was meant to be. Anyone who is a skeptic I think can get behind this character to enjoy the world that is painted around him through pain and misery. The dynamic between both characters is something akin to a “Sam and Dianne” thing, only if you take that, add some Red Bull and Vodka and then kick it off a bridge to bungee jump. The tension between the two is fun, but in my opinion, this is not overplayed at all.
In the end though, the book goes into an interesting place, that I felt was played out well by the first book. That goes to my first critique. Yeah, for a sequel, this is a prequel. That was intended, and the idea is to make you think. You know what’s going to happen to Ruby eventually, but you also have to know why it happened at all. You know what will become of many things at some point, but without knowing where this started, how can you know the way it ends?
I like what Crystal did here. Some may argue that it is a big jarring to have one book end one way and another book ends where the first one starts. I disagree. I think the point of this is to get us all to a full understanding of what is happening overall. By having it spaced in such a manner, we will have a rewarding experience later. I like that there is a delayed gratification to the way Crystal is laying these books out, it comes across to me as more enjoyable, but I can see someone disagreeing with my personal opinion here.
To which my other point is in my opinion, this book is fine as a standalone book, and having a timeline does not help this series. You do not have to read the other one to understand what is happening here, and vice versa. It helps to do both, it probably is better to read this novel first than the first novel second, but it's by no means required nor necessary. I am certain that anyone could have a heck of a good time reading this series in any order, and that to me is a testament of encapsulated stories in an overall story arch. That’s a rare talent to be sure, even movies have a difficult time accomplishing such a feat.
And to my second critique from above, well was comfort level. This was a rough read for me when it came to dark themes, because it really struck to some of my emotions. This was frightening to me in a way the other book was not, and it had a lot of tough spots that made me stop and actually cry. I have a tender soul I think, and that is just me. Unlike some of the other books I’ve read, or even the first one in the series, this was a bit darker in tone in places. So, if you are into that kind of thing, I hope you enjoy this. If you are however like me, this might be bumpy at spots.
What Crystal however nailed and I think should explore further, was the detective dynamic. I love mystery and detective stories. I love the classic “who dun it?” type of books. This good cop bad cop thing that was between Ian and Ruby should in my opinion, be more of a thing. I honestly wanted a triple scoop of that. Adding onto it one of my other favorite characters Father Brannigan, and it’s a match made in heaven. These spots was where I got very into the book, and felt so much about where the story was going. The other parts though, those were tough.
To my last point, the pacing is excellent in this story, the book reads more relaxed than the first did to me, and as I said I didn’t find anything out of place. There wasn’t grammar errors that I found in her previous book, nor spelling issues. I enjoyed this book, even if it did scare me to my socks.
For scoring, I’m going to go with my traditional methods here and score right down the middle as honestly as possible. I’m giving “Depths of Darkness” a 91/100. Despite any critique I gave, it’s really good. I recommend this to anyone who is into darker themed books and wants a bit of fear with their Halloween. If that is for you, get a copy!