Silvia Moreno-Garcia combines noir detective style, vampire action, and Aztec legends in her upcoming reissue, Certain Dark Things. The supernatural mythology is compelling and her characters, human and otherwise, are unique. I’ve read eleventy million vampire books, and I hope Moreno-Garcia writes more in this world. Soon!
Moreno-Garcia also explores a bit of race-class narrative in her characters’ dystopian Mexico City setting. Part of this comes from her main male character, Domingo. He’s a teenage garbage picker with no family support and some checkered gang-adjacent history. The realities of life on the street are pretty stark.
Still, Domingo also reads graphic novels about vampires in his little subterranean safe spot. He likes the classics. But there’s also newer content available because someone outed vampires back in the 1970s. Most regions or countries have their own vampire clans, and Moreno-Garcia details all of them in a glossary. (Why don’t publishers put these in the front?) Despite the species’ prevalence around the world, Mexico City outlawed vampires a while ago.
So when Domingo sees one on the subway, of course, he follows her. She’s young, beautiful, and has a huge Doberman with “enhancements.” Domingo learns her name is Atl, and that her clan is descended from the Aztec people. Like many of Moreno-Garcia’s vampires, she’s also a shapeshifter. Plus, she’s on the run from a nasty clan of drug-dealing vampires.
This is an engaging romp for a semi-dystopian book. Moreno-Garcia describes the dark and dank aspects of Mexico City in detail. She also delves into the Aztec aspects of Atl’s clan, in combination with the general vampire mythology.
But I wish Certain Dark Things had more emphasis on the psychological aspects of living in that world. Getting deeper into the mindset of her main characters Domingo and Atl would benefit the story. She’s from a privileged family and he’s the exact opposite. But Moreno-Garcia never explores that. Instead, she opts for a tepid romance, which left me cold.
The main plot—Atl escaping the more “evil” vampires—this has zing. The villains are vile, and the creatures Atl contacts for help add some layers of mystery. I definitely cheered her and Domingo on as they fought for their lives. Although Certain Dark Things is categorized as Young Adult, it reads as somewhat more mature.
I recommend this mostly light and easy vampire story because of its unique connections to indigenous people and interesting dystopia. But the romance is just so-so.
Pair with Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, which is also dystopian, supernatural, and connected to indigenous traditions.
Many thanks to NetGalley, Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire, and the author for a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review.