Certain Dark Things is one of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s earlier works that I was desperate to get my hands on. Unfortunately, it was no longer being sold. I was so excited to hear that this new and updated edition was being released; I couldn’t wait to start! This book is an atmospheric, character-driven neo-noir filled with vampires in Mexico City. Gorgeous, haunting, and slow-paced Silvia Moreno-Garcia breathed so much atmosphere into these pages. If you love complex, grey characters and aesthetic, bittersweet storytelling, you need to pick this up.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a pulse-pounding neo-noir that reimagines vampire lore.
Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.
Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.
Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?
Mexico City doesn’t have any vampires, supposedly. When Domingo, a lonely street kid, stumbles across a beautiful vampire on the run, he’s instantly drawn to her. Atl is the descendent of the Aztec vampires, and she needs a friend in the city if she’s going to survive. With crime bosses, cops, and rival vampire clans on her tail, Domingo and Atl will need a lot of luck to make it out alive.
The Mexico City that Silvia Moreno-Garcia has described is dark, atmospheric, and violently vivid. It was so easy to visualise the city and the people trying to survive inside of it. The author expertly weaved together the lives of the characters, the politics of various factions, and the underbelly of the city to create a setting that drips with style.
The highlight of this book was the complex, nuanced characters that populated it. They aren’t necessarily likeable, or good, but their character development and relationships felt realistic and multi-faceted. Domingo was so desperately loyal, so lonely that even the tiniest speck of kindness would earn you his full devotion. Atl was dangerous, selfish and alone. She’s frightened for her life; she’s cut off from her family, a spoiled, rich woman on the run – her character was infinitely interesting. Even amongst the side cast, you have wonderful characterisation. A disillusioned cop who moved to Mexico City to give her child a better life. A rage-fuelled, misogynistic, brutal vampire who personally wants to make Atl suffer. These characters are types commonly exist in the genre, but Silvia Moreno-Garcia breathes new life into them.
Unique twists on vampire lore are always exciting to read about. In Certain Dark Things, there are various forms of vampires from around the world. Vampires are a different species to humans; humans can’t become vampires. Every subtype of vampire is very different. The more popular media representations are more similar to European vampires known as Necros, than to the form of Aztec vampire that Atl belongs to. Instead of biting people with sharp fangs, she has talon-like nails and a proboscis similar to butterflies. There various forms of vampires make me desperate for another book in this vampire-infested world.
The tone of Certain Dark Things resembled a noir; it was relatively slow-paced, atmospheric, and the relationships and characters arcs felt realistic. This isn’t a book where happy endings are inevitable; it’s a book where people’s mistakes come back to bite. I loved the bittersweet tone, how you could watch characters make bad decisions and truly worry about the consequences of their actions. Combining the genres of fantasy, horror, and noir has allowed Certain Dark Things to have a starkly different atmosphere which I adored.
Overall, Certain Dark Things was a fantastic, atmospheric read that masterfully combined a gorgeous, dark setting with a character-driven narrative to build an exciting, unique story.
CW: blood, gore, violence, drug mention, animal injury, misogyny
(Thanks to Quercus Books and Netgalley for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review)
Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of a number of critically acclaimed novels, including Gods of Jade and Shadow (Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, Ignyte Award), Mexican Gothic (Locus Award, Pacific Northwest Book Award, Goodreads Award), and others.
She has edited several anthologies, including She Walks in Shadows (World Fantasy Award winner, published in the USA as Cthulhu’s Daughters). Silvia is the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press. She co-edited the horror magazine The Dark with Sean Wallace from 2017 to 2020. She’s a columnist for The Washington Post.
She has an MA in Science and Technology Studies from the University of British Columbia. Her thesis can be read online and is titled “Magna Mater: Women and Eugenic Thought in the Work of H.P. Lovecraft.” She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Certain Dark Things is out now, so there’s never been a better time to grab a copy!