**I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for and honest review**
Title: The Dark World
Author: Cara Lynn Shultz
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: 27 May 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Paige Kelly is used to weird–in fact, she probably corners the market on weird, considering that her best friend, Dottie, has been dead since the 1950s. But when a fire demon attacks Paige in detention, she has to admit that things have gotten out of her league. Luckily, the cute new boy in school, Logan Bradley, is a practiced demon slayer-and he isn’t fazed by Paige’s propensity to chat with the dead. Suddenly, Paige is smack in the middle of a centuries-old battle between warlocks and demons, learning to fight with a magic sword so that she can defend herself. And if she makes one wrong move, she’ll be pulled into the Dark World, an alternate version of our world that’s overrun by demons-and she might never make it home.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this book when I first received it. I wasn’t too keen on the cover, but the description seemed similar to books I’ve enjoyed in the past. Reading the first 50 pages or so, I was still unsure where the book was going. The story though, caught me completely off guard and I think that’s why I enjoyed Shultz’s story so much.
What I Liked:
Page Kelly is an awesome teen female protagonist. I loved her humour and her sarcasm. She’s weird and quirky and quick with the wit. I’ll admit, I read this story a lot on the commuter train on my way to and from work and I laughed out loud more than I’m willing to admit. Shultz and I could be friends I think. Her humour adds a wonderful bright spot to this intense and often dark story, punctuating scenes of terror with much needed and hilariously good relief.
Paige is shunned by the rest of the school so she immediately appeals to anyone who understands what it’s like to be bullied or outcast. She’s an accessible character who’s misunderstood and misjudged, I know, a typical YA protagonist trait, but it gets better. Unlike so many female characters we’ve seen before, Paige isn’t shy or boring and she doesn’t think of herself as plain. She’s confident, despite being thought to be crazy. As Logan, the lover interest, points out, she (and I’m paraphrasing) “holds her head high despite being constantly mocked.” She’s ultimately okay with who she is right from the start, a refreshing trait to see. It is her confidence and her quirkiness that makes her attractive and prompts the novel’s romance.
Paige’s process of self-discovery is quite unique as well. It takes a while for her to uncover her strengths and her powers and to come to know the young woman she’s become. These changes are something she faces head on and her bravery is something I admire. Although her process is a little slow and contributed to my difficulty getting into the book in the beginning, her journey of realization over time is what made me like this book even more. We learn as Paige learns. Shultz reveals an imaginative, fantastical, and terrible world to both Paige and the reader. We are constantly reminded that things in this world are not always as they seem.
What I Didn’t Like as much:
Paige’s thought process, especially when confronting her romantic feelings are often frustrating. I can see that her inner turmoil stems from her social struggles and her lack of experience in the love department, but she often seems to be self-sabotaging. The romance moves along smoothly for a while, only to be disrupted by her seemingly involuntary mood-killing interjections. I wanted to shake her sometimes to get her to wake up and be smooth instead of the super awkward teen she sometimes is (and she is only seventeen so I can’t fault her for that).
As much as I enjoyed this book, it’s not a story that I haven’t seen before in some form or another. Paige is a really unique character and I’d curious to know about the Dark World and what lies within it. But the demons and warlocks and the battle that’s centuries old is the traditional fallback plot for fantasy novels.
I was pleasantly surprised and caught off guard by Schultz’s authorial style and voice. Her voice is unique and has a commanding presence throughout Paige’s journey. She’s able to quickly drive the story and create a thrill in the frantic scenes of action and danger, but she so easily contrasts these heart-racing moments with scenes of excitement and budding young love. I’m excited to see where this story continues in the second novel.