Title: Certain Dark Things
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: October 25th 2016
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things is a gritty, complex vampire novel with rich world-building and an interesting cast. On the run from the vampires who killed her family, Atl is a fish out of water. Despite being a sort of refugee country for vampires, Mexico’s capital has been able to stave off the bloodthirsty clans. The streets of Mexico City aren’t exactly safe, but most people would choose gangs over vampires any day. Atl is desperate to find her way to South America before the rival vampire clan that is hunting her discovers where she’s been hiding in Mexico City. Her quest brings her into contact with a street kid named Domingo, who may be the only person willing to help her, but their unlikely alliance may get them both killed.
Moreno-Garcia’s world of vampires is vibrant and intriguing. It’s worth noting that in this world vampires cannot be made, but are born and brought up in a clan. Alt is a Tlāhuihpochtli, a vampire descended from the Aztecs. Her family has a rich history in north Mexico as do many vampire clans within the country, but the more recent arrival of Necros, vampires originating from Europe, has threatened their sovereignty. One thing that really stood out to me was that Moreno-Garcia’s take on vampires is much broader than what I’m usually used to seeing. Each subspecies of vampire has unique traits and are terrifying in their own ways. Necros most closely resemble the vampires we see in popular culture, equipped with sharp teeth and repulsed by sunlight. The Tlāhuihpochtli have bird-like characteristic from talons to the ability to fly. The Revenants are another subspecies we get a closer glimpse of and it is these vampires that I found the most unnerving. Instead of feeding on blood, a Revenant sucks the life energy from its victims, both human and vampire alike.
We get a few glimpses into Atl’s past, one that’s more carefree than anything else. She enjoyed all the luxuries of belonging to a powerful family without any of the responsibilities. Her sister Izel was much more levelheaded and equipped to deal with clashes between clans, but Atl is more impetuous and it is her lack of restraint that cost her someone close to her. I really wanted to know more about Atl’s clan and family. One of the distinct characteristics of the Tlāhuihpochtli vampires is the line of matriarchal succession. Atl’s mother had been grooming her older daughter Izel to take over and I think it would have been really interesting to see this through Atl’s eyes. Domingo felt like a very lost puppy for the most part. He’s immediately drawn to Atl and has a very romantic idea about what a vampire should be. I felt a bit iffy about any kind of romantic notion between the two because Domingo came off as really young and naïve at times while Atl couldn’t afford to be ignorant about the world.
Beside focusing on Atl and Domingo, the story also gives a glimpse at those hunting the young vampire. Nick is a particular nasty character, both impulsive and entitled. Atl got the better of him and now he’s determined to make her suffer. The Necros vampire is driven by both pride and a need to prove himself. It is his human victims that put Mexico City’s gangs on his and Atl’s trail. Detective Ana Aguirre transferred to Mexico City in hopes of getting away from the vampire infestation. All she cares about is keeping her daughter safe. When a local gang reaches out to her to help rid the city of the newly arrived vampires, she reluctantly agrees.
Though a little slow getting started, Moreno-Garcia’s novel is perfect for those looking for a well-rounded vampire novel. Certain Dark Things is a delight with creatures that will make your skin crawl and a perilous undertaking that will keep you on your toes.