Monday, May 31, 2010

Book Review: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Title:  The Dark Divine
Author:  Bree Despain
Publisher:  Egmont USA
Genre: YA (paranormal)
Hardback: 372 pages
ISBN:  1606840576 
A prodigal son... A dangerous love... A deadly secret...

I stood back and watched his movements. Daniel had that way about him that could shut me down in an instant. . . . I kicked the gravel a couple of times and worked up my courage again. “Tell me . . . I mean . . . why did you come back? Why now, after all this time?”

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared—the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in blood. But she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night really held. And when Daniel returns three years later, Grace can no longer deny her attraction to him, despite promising Jude she’ll stay away.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, her actions stir the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind Jude and Daniel's dark secret . . . and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it—her soul.

Overall rating: 7/10 flowers
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Grace's childhood crush sweeps back into town after having disappeared under mysterious circumstances years earlier. Why has he come back? What does he want from her? And is she willing to give him her heart even if it means ignoring her family's wishes or betraying her brother? Bree Despain's The Dark Divine is a romantic, paranormal YA novel inspired by the parable of the Prodigal Son.

What I Liked:
-      Grace's close-knit family is unusual in the sea of YA paranormal novels. That gave her a unique and memorable perspective. Parents are notoriously absent/neglectful/evil in YA novels, so the fact that this book features activities like family dinners, looking after younger siblings, and being expected to contribute to their church charity work made Grace's family dynamic stand out as something different from the average YA heroine's family dynamic.
-      I often have a soft spot for 'bad-boy' heroes, so I expected to like Daniel for his mysterious, 'bad-boy' qualities. Instead, I ended up liking him for the childhood crush he shared with Grace and for his nice-boy-with-a-secret-and-a-rough-past qualities.
-      I enjoyed Don's character. He remains a bit of a loose cannon throughout the story, so you are not quite sure what to expect from him, and that kept his roll interesting. He reminded me of Lennie in John Steinbeck's 
Of Mice and Men and Boo Radley in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.
-      I liked Grace's fixation with the walnut tree, and nearly all of my favorite scenes involved that tree.
-      The details of Daniel's childhood were revealed in a way that was consistent with the rest of the story and got the point across without halting the rest of the story or becoming disturbingly graphic in the description of the abuse he endured.
-      The romance, while somewhat predictable, is sweet and compelling. I liked Daniel more than I liked Grace, who occasionally seemed a bit too selfless and 'perfect' to me, but I still wanted them to find a way to be together. I look forward to seeing what obstacles they will face in the next couple of books in this series.
-      The paranormal elements in this story have their own unique mythology and tie into the Divine family's religious beliefs quite convincingly. Daniel's story strongly parallels the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32), and I am curious to see if the upcoming books in this series will have elements of other parables.
-      This book did veer a little too close to preachy territory a couple of times, but I enjoyed the way the ideas of forgiveness, love, and sacrifice were woven into the fabric of the paranormal mythology.

What I Wished:
-     I strongly wished there were not time and location headers every few pages throughout this book.  Since the time and place were already obvious within the text, the headers seemed unnecessary, distracting, and redundant.  They were also strangely inconsistent.  Here are a few examples of these headers with my notes in parentheses:  "Downtown" (a location),  "Later, before school" (a time), "In the house, about twenty minutes later" (a time and a location), and "Avoidance" (not a time or a location).  Perhaps this was just my personal pet peeve and won't bother other readers, but I found the headers consistently unnecessary. 
-     The paranormal twist to this story is hinted at way too heavily to feel like much of a surprise once it is finally officially revealed, so I found myself wishing it would come out into the open much sooner than it actually did.
-     Jude annoyed me from start to finish, and although tried to understand Grace's desire to respect his wishes and honor his requests, I simply could not.  I understood that his irritating behavior was critical to the roll he played within the story of the Prodigal Son as well as the roll he played within the paranormal aspect of the story, but it succeeded in making me annoyed with Grace as well as Jude each time she chose to take his side.

The Dark Divine will appeal to fans of paranormal romances with fairly innocent heroines, like Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, Maggie Steifvater's Shiver, and Shelena Shorts' The Pace.  If you would like to learn more about The Dark Divine or author Bree Despain, please visit her website | blog | facebooktwitter.  I am looking forward to checking out the sequel to The Dark Divine, The Lost Saint, which is scheduled to be released on December 28th.

My awesome friend Debbie from Cranberry Fries created this lovely trailer for The Dark Divine:


Kirthi said...

Wow, what a detailed and well-written review! I agree with everything you liked! The Dark Divine was a great book.

Lea (YA Book Queen) said...

Great review! I definitely agree, the twist was really hinted at too much to be a surprise later on. :)

PaintWithWords said...

I stumbled upon this and passed up on it, but after seeing your review I think I may give it a go. Thanks for the review! Maybe one day you'll be reviewing a book I've written. :P