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Monday, October 4, 2010

Review: Draw The Dark by Ilsa J. Bick

Draw the Dark (Carolrhoda Ya)Draw The Dark
Written By Ilsa J. Bick
Lerner Publishing Group
NetGalley provided by the publisher - Thank You!
YA Fiction/Fantasy
Release Date: October 1, 2010
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Summary (from NetGalley):
"The things I draw: They tend to die." 
There are things the people of Winter, Wisconsin, would rather forget. The year the Nazis came to town, for one. That fire, for another. But what they'd really like to forget is Christian Cage.
Seventeen-year-old Christian's parents disappeared when he was a little boy. Ever since, he's drawn obsessively: his mother's face...her eyes...and what he calls "the sideways place," where he says his parents are trapped. Christian figures if he can just see through his mother's eyes, maybe he can get there somehow and save them. 
But Christian also draws other things. Ugly things. Evil things. Dark things. Things like other people's fears and nightmares. Their pasts. Their destiny. 
There's one more thing the people of Winter would like to forget: murder. 
But Winter won't be able to forget the truth, no matter how hard it tries. Not as long as Christian draws the dark...
 Draw the Dark encompasses several very interesting premises into it's pages. I'm a bit of a history buff, so the inclusion of post-World War II Nazi prisoners was interesting to me. Also, I haven't read many books where the protagonist drew the darkest recesses of people's minds. I enjoyed the book overall, but I had some trouble getting through the first half because of slow pacing. Read the full review after the jump.

I had never read anything written by Ilsa J. Bick before, but after some digging I found that she is quite an accomplished science fiction author. She has written several Star Trek novels, as well as part of the Mechwarrior: Dark Age series. She has a clear talent for exploring the hard-to-believe, and I quite enjoyed her writing, once she picked up the pace.

Draw the Dark follows 17-year-old Christian Cage as he uncovers the mystery behind some strange visions he is receiving. He is a conduit of sorts, streaming horrible memories from other people into drawings or paintings. He can even tap into the darkest parts of people's souls, which has, on more than one occasion, lead to the person's death.

Christian is a pretty likable protagonist. He's thought of as the town weirdo, and because of that he is pretty well distanced from his peers. He's mature for 17, which I like, because it's easier to relate to him. Even though the strange-outsider hero has been done, it doesn't feel like Bick was recycling characters the way some authors do. Christian's supporting cast is well-developed and realistic. I feel like every character that Bick introduced us to served their purpose well. Even the villainous Karl Dekker had bits of likability woven into his bad-ness. You catch yourself feeling a little sorry for him at some points. It's that kind of emotionally confusing character connection that I really love in a book.

The story itself started very VERY slowly. The first half of the book was really hard for me to slog through. There were several disjointed flashbacks into the mind of Mr. Witek, and while a couple may have been necessary to introduce all the details Christian needed to hear, the extra blasts from the past really broke up the flow of the story. A technique Bick was fond of for illustrating that Christian was falling into a trance, flashback or blackout was abruptly cutting off a description of what was happening mid-sentence. Example: "...and the muttering fell to a whisper, my thoughts got jagged and smells became sounds became colors and then I was falling--" End Chapter. While this is a kind of nifty way to end a chapter on a cliffhanger, to end almost all of the chapters in the first half of the book this way really wore off the novelty for me. I did feel like it was appropriate in some places, but it just turned into overkill after a while.

When the pace picked up in the second half of the book, it was really interesting. I couldn't help but be drawn into the incredible history of this fictional version of Winter, Wisconsin. Bick did an amazing job of sneaking up on me with the way the events actually played out in Witek's memory. I couldn't stop reading until I found out exactly what he had seen, and then I had to know what was done about it. I was actually surprised to find out what had really happened and who was walking around the streets of Winter all those years. The ending, while eerily appropriate for the tone of the story, felt like it was delayed. It seemed for a few pages that the dragging was back from the first half, but the action picked up in the right place to keep me reading.

I recommend Draw the Dark to anyone who enjoys science fiction with a dose of reality.

1 comment:

  1. This one sounds really interesting, and the cover I find extremely creepy. Good to know that despite a slow start, it turns into an interesting story! And I agree, ending each chapter with a cliffhanger would get frustrating after a while. Thanks for this review!


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