by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
Thanks to Partners NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for the digital ARC of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things (Amazon | Bookshop.org) in exchange for an honest review. The book will be available for purchase on September 7, 2021.
Certain Dark Things is full of things I already knew I loved:
Vampire stories? Check. (I’m such a sucker for them all. Pun belatedly intended.)
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s ability to transfer her fabulous, gritty writing from genre to genre? Check.
A noir alternate history set in Mexico City (in which different species of vampires, of course, play a role)? Check.
The book is actually a reissue, originally published in 2016 and since out of print. I’m so, so glad that Tor Nightfire is bringing it back.
Certain Dark Things is about Atl, a twenty-something Tlāhuihpochtli, a type of matrilineal vampire who can shape shift. After the murder of her family, Atl has fled to Mexico City and is desperate to escape the notice of those who are hunting her. The other main character is Domingo, a garbage picker who catches Atl’s eye and becomes her “Renfield,” her human servant.
As Atl and Domingo work their way through a list of people (and vampires) who may be able to help Atl get to safety, they’re pursued by Nick, a Necro vampire, and his own Renfield, Rodrigo, who is doing one last job before he retires. Nick is desperate to capture Atl, who humiliated him, and Rodrigo is charged with keeping Nick safe and helping him to find their nemesis.
It’s a fun, action-packed story that gradually peels back the layers on this new world of vampires, filled with different species, new rules (they can’t make humans into vampires), and an interesting story about how vampires integrated into the world after their discovery in the 1970s.
Moreno-Garcia has an amazing touch with world building and with crafting troubled, problematic characters who nevertheless earn the reader’s feelings of loyalty. Domingo’s naivete pairs beautifully with Atl’s world-weary guilt, and the sense of dread that increases every time we get a glimpse of Nick and Rodrigo as they slaughter their way toward their prey is just delicious. (This would, by the way, make a great adaptation!) Whether you’re new to Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s writing or have enjoyed her books before, Certain Dark Things is a perfect addition to her list of phenomenal books.
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