Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. ★★★★
Certain Dark Things is a gritty, fresh take on vampires set in an alternate version of Mexico City.
Domingo is a homeless seventeen year old who makes a living collecting garbage off the streets of Mexico City. But then he meets Atl, a young vampire on the run. Her clan of Aztec descended vampires was obliterated by another vampire clan who was muscling in on their drug trade. Mexico City, a “vampire free” sanctuary, looked like somewhere she could lose her pursuit, but now she’s risking both rival vampires and the gangs and police of Mexico City.
The plot of Certain Dark Things is relatively simple, akin to a Hollywood action movie. Atl and Domingo run and are pursued, particularly by Nick, a vampire from the Necro subspecies. But while the plot line is simple, it makes for a fast paced novel with the feel of a thriller. There’s plenty of action to keep you flipping those pages.
One of the highlights of Certain Dark Things was the world building. Silvia Moreno-Garcia turned out to be fantastic when it comes to world building. This book actually made vampires feel new and original! I loved the originality of having different subspecies of vampires based on different cultural legends. It made for a wonderful variety that is slowly uncovered through the course of the novel.
Atl is in her early twenties, but she sometimes read as younger. Presumably, early twenties is very young for a long lived vampire species, so it does make sense that she occasionally came off as immature and childish. She’s also got a vindictive streak, but that appears common to all the vampires of Certain Dark Things. While she did feel young, I was still unnerved by her relationship with a seventeen year old. Age gaps in relationships tend to feel skeevy to me, especially when the younger party is only a teenager. Certain Dark Things was no exception.
While Atl and Domingo are clearly the leads, Certain Dark Things brings in several other POV characters. Among them is Nick, the loathsome young vampire of a European subspecies who’s determined to capture Atl and has no compunctions about killing when it benefits him. However, my favorite of the cast was clearly Ana, a flawed but sympathetic detective struggling to make a living as a single mom within the sexist Mexico City police bureau. Things don’t go so well for her in Certain Dark Things, and I really felt for her.
Certain Dark Things is dark, bloody, violent and certainly not for the faint of heart. Yet this explosive combination of vampires, drug cartels, and cops in the heart of Mexico City made for one of the best vampire novels I’ve ever read. If you’re a fan of vampire books, this is one you definitely need to read. And if you’re not into vampires, Certain Dark Things may change your mind.