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Review: The Dark Between by Sonia Gensler

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Dark Between
Sonia Gensler

Genre: YA ParanormalMystery
Hardcover: 352 Pages
Publication: August 27, 2013
by Knopf Books For Young Readers

At the turn of the twentieth century, Spiritualism and séances are all the rage—even in the scholarly town of Cambridge, England. While mediums dupe the grief-stricken, a group of local fringe scientists seeks to bridge the gap to the spirit world by investigating the dark corners of the human mind. 
Each running from a shadowed past, Kate, Asher, and Elsie take refuge within the walls of Summerfield College. But their peace is soon shattered by the discovery of a dead body nearby. Is this the work of a flesh-and-blood villain, or is something otherworldly at play? This unlikely trio must illuminate what the scientists have not, and open a window to secrets taken to the grave—or risk joining the spirit world themselves. 


I think this is the first time I've ever read a novel that centers around Spiritualism. Since this was the case, I have to admit that I was looking forward to reading it based on the premise. However, I felt that this novel fell a bit short on its promise.

I have mixed feelings about our protagonists. Kate, Asher, and Elsie get fairly equal amounts of screen time, so they're pretty well developed characters. However, I thought their individual developments could've benefited from some flashbacks. We're told about their pasts in tidbits, in particular about Elsie's unique condition, but these pieces are never expanded later on. I wanted to know more about the art tutor Elsie once loved, the relationship between Asher and his father, and how becoming an orphan affected Kate. Since the brief pieces of their past aren't elaborated on, I thought this was a big loss, as this information could've made these somewhat interesting characters even more so.

Much like previous books I've reviewed, this narrative follows a different character in each chapter. This was fine, but the problem I had with this structure was that there would be switches of the narrative within individual chapters. These sudden changes felt jolting and disorienting because of the switches of character and situation. I felt that this would've been better handled if each chapter just followed one character at a time.

Normally I take my time reading books because I like to savor them, if you will. This was a rare instance where I wish I had rushed through the book instead. The pacing felt very, very slow throughout the whole novel. There were a few sections that I wish hadn't meandered so much, and these made the plot seem to drag out more than necessary. Unfortunately, the prose didn't do anything to help this problem either. It wasn't horrible, but at times it didn't make for smooth reading.

Throughout this book, I felt most invested in the mystery. The way the clues were gradually revealed worked well, and I really liked how the three protagonists discover personal ties with the society of paranormal researchers. Since there were quite a few possible suspects for the murderer, it was actually fun and compelling to see how the trio gathered evidence and figured out who could and couldn't be guilty. I was curious about the nature of the murders and really wanted to know who or what was doing the killing, and the sleuthing moments didn't disappoint.

That being said, the ending left quite a bit to be desired. Once the killer's identity has been revealed, the story skips to a few hours afterwards with the characters discussing the accident that resulted because of said discovery. It honestly felt really anti-climactic for me. I thought this revelation would cause some sort of uproar, but because the character who finds out who the killer decides not to tell everyone the truth, we don't get the full effect of the revelation. I have to admit that I was genuinely shocked at who it turned out to be, but I felt that the motivation was lacking. Even though this novel is a standalone, the last few pages made me think that there would be the possibility of a sequel, or at least some sort of epilogue.

Part of me thinks I'm being a bit generous with this book because I genuinely liked the mystery for the most part. The characters were all right, though I still wish we had gotten some more on their respective pasts. However, missing background on characters, sudden switches in narrative, a lukewarm climax and an unsatisfactory ending hurt my enjoyment of this book.

Rating: 2 stars



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