Review: Darknesses by Lachelle Seville

It’s been a year since Oasis stumbled away from Blessed Falls with wings carved into her back and too many scars to count.

A year spent razing delusions of being an angel’s vessel, proving to her brother that she doesn’t belong in a psych ward, and mourning the loss of her mother’s vinyl pressed ashes.

A year spent struggling to feel human again.

Enter Laura, the mesmerizing stranger who claims to hear Oasis’ heartbeat, who reads her hand-written memoir like scripture, who makes her feel closer to found than lost.

Laura is the most recent face of the eternal Count Dracula, ruler of the shadows, chimera of the Devil, and embittered victim of libel.

The Van Helsing Institute have been waiting for a glimpse of the dragon’s underbelly, and eagerly approach Oasis for her help in a ploy to kill Dracula for good. But not every wound from Blessed Falls has cicatrized, and Oasis realizes she may be a danger to Laura—and to herself.

Yet no one is as dangerous as Laura—the first vampire, the Devil’s plaything, and the person with whom Oasis finally feels human.

Oceans of time have passed since she last had a drink, and she will not let Oasis go easily.

If you’ve got Kindle Unlimited, read this book here! Seriously, read it.

Content Warnings: This book handles some seriously heavy topics candidly, descriptively, and with a lot of raw emotion. These topics include: sexual assault, cult activity/recruitment, death of a parent, familial trauma, forced hospitalization, self harm, suicide ideation, disordered eating/eating disorders, blood, violence, murder. There is a warning at the start of the book, as well, that is more specific and in depth–please check that before reading the book.

This review may touch on these topics, but will not describe any scenes or acts in explicit detail without additional in-text trigger warnings.

What is Darknesses about?

Tropes: found family, retelling, history repeats itself

Genre: paranormal romance / retelling / sapphic vampire fiction

Plot: Dracula simps for a hot, traumatized modern day woman

The Good

There are so many quotes, lines, pieces of dialogue, and one-offs in this book that are startling and perfect. Tense moments that are cut with a laugh from a perfectly timed piece of dialogue, deep conversations that incorporate stark realities and dark humor, the way Dracula’s whole family unit operates. It was impossible to expect where the novel was going next, as well as how the situation would turn out. Narratively speaking, it’s fascinating. The beginning is fraught with Oasis’ emotional journey through her past trauma, navigating the modern world that she doesn’t quite feel part of as she both moves past the angelic cult she escaped and counts down the day until the rapture it claimed would come. The story’s plot beats move in sync with Oasis’ journey–the stakes rise dramatically as she takes bigger steps into the world, and after confronting the truly mystical and absurd, she finally faces down the man who took so much from her.

The vampiric mechanics of the world are absolutely fascinating. If you’ve spent any time at all reading my blog, or my Twitter, or just talking to me then you know I read a lot of vampire books, and I care about how vampires operate within their lore. Seville’s interpretation of Dracula is one of the most creative, fascinating, and genuinely brilliant ways I have seen the vampire imagined in fiction. The combination of legends and facts about Vlad Dracul, the odd bits of traditional vampire lore, and the utterly mystical absurdity that is the deal Dracula has with the Devil was like unwrapping present after present.

The side characters are all amazing–even the villains and antagonists are so perfectly crafted to be hated. I think after each of the “good” side characters was introduced, I left a note in my Kindle saying “I love them,” because they were all perfectly lovable. Included in this are the faces of Dracula that we see or hear about that aren’t Laura–Laura is obviously the main love interest, but the way that Laura’s association with the traditional Dracula is so well handled and incredibly creative. All of Dracula’s pets are fantastic, and I would die for most of them but especially Minty Fresh. I also like the casual way in which some of the side characters introduce other legends and mythologies into the story. I’m a sucker for world building that includes a whole hidden world, and this book surely delivers.

The Okay

Usually, this section is stuff that bothered me but wasn’t necessarily bad. For this book, though, this is where I’m going to put the stuff that I either am not done thinking about or have decided not to think about too deeply.

Such as the tampon scene. I don’t know if that was a dig at 50 Shades of Grey or whatever, but that single snow white tampon will haunt me for a while. Similarly, I’m not sure where I stand on the whole amnesia plotline. Not done thinking about it, but also worried about thinking too deeply about it.

I am only mildly sad that Bunnincula was introduced, but never expanded upon (as in, how does that fit into the new Dracula canon?). I also would love to know more about Bird Bones. And I definitely wish we got more of Talon–but what we did get was so, so good. The twins’ mother was also fascinating in her own right, but I have no idea where more memories of her would have made sense.

Ultimately, the biggest thing I have is that I want more. An entire world and cast of characters were created in this book and I am not even a little bit done with thinking about and caring about them.

The Bad there’s nothing bad to say here

Final Thoughts

So, I wrote this section first. Generally, I don’t do that; I usually write the three critique sections and then decide what parts of those I want to include in my summary. But I’ll be honest, with the Roe v. Wade situation I had a lot of trouble motivating myself to write this review at all. Lachelle Seville is the only reason I did, because an author this talented absolutely deserves to have their work discussed and recommended. Lachelle wrote what I can only describe as the most tender, loving, emotional, and beautiful story. This is so much more than a “Dracula retelling” or a queer romcom or a wish fulfillment fantasy. Somehow, despite all that happens in this book, it’s never too much or too unreal–there is so much trauma written into Oasis and so much love and fight there, as well. One moment you can be in tears reading about the terrible abuse suffered by Oasis and Helena while trapped in a cult, and the next you’re reading about the many wonders kept in a magical dungeon in upstate New York. There is cause for celebration, laughter, terror, horror, sorrow, love, and just about any other human emotion you can have in this book.

The novel is unapologetic about…everything. There’s no cushioning blow for the white readers or decolonization lessons–this isn’t a book that holds your hand as a white reader, it faces the intersections of Oasis being a Black woman in the US head on. It also doesn’t hold your hand when it comes to the complexities of difficult trauma. Not everyone survives serious trauma still picture perfect and innocent, and Seville grapples with the messy emotions that come with a lot of different traumas. They also perfectly captured the navigation of new love, how at the same time it can feel fresh and timeless, uplifting and agonizing. The complicated ideas dealt with here, the overlapping narratives of hurt, abuse, and revenge, and the back and forth of danger, acceptance, and perseverance tie the whole book together. There are a lot of plot points, but they’re all crucial in the whole of the relationship between Laura and Oasis–the heartbeat that keeps the novel going.

I cannot emphasize enough how beautiful of a book this is, how talented the author is. Please, read this book.

By Catherine

I'm a lover of books, coffee, wine, and bees. Happy to join the ranks of book bloggers everywhere!

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