Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a surprising and beautifully written novel of horror and darkness that will drawn you into its bloody and visceral world and remind you of how seductive and deadly vampires were before they were turned into glittery boy-band wannabees. Intricately researched, Moreno-Garcia brings the ancient lore and forgotten legends of Mesoamerican vampires into the dim light of modern day.

“…I’m not what you think I am.’
Atl looked at him as she fished out two tea bags and closed the tin. She grabbed a pad of lined notepaper that was attached to the refrigerator. It had smiley kittens on it. He knew it wasn’t hers; it was probably the relic of a previous tenant. She wasn’t a smiley kitten girl, that was for sure.
‘No, man, no, I wasn’t saying, you know. Just in case, I-‘
‘I’m a Tlahuihpochtli…”

It is Mexico City, in poverty and hunger, Domingo makes his way collecting garbage and trading and selling what he can to survive, when he stumbles upon a beautiful woman. Domingo follows her and he can tell that she is hurt and afraid of being seen. When he comes to her aid, she seems to make a decision. Inviting him up to her rooms she reveals herself.

She is a vampire, but not any normal kind, she is a royal descendant of an ancient bloodline of Aztec blood drinkers and she is being hunted. In the world of vampires, there is a war waging and Atl is the last of her family. She needs to escape from South America but she is alone and trapped in Mexico City. She is weak from her wounds and against her better judgement, confides in the street urchin, Domingo.

Mexico City is considered a vampire free zone. Atl is not only in danger from the rival Vampire clan, but there is the police and a vigilante group that is bent on ridding the world of vampires. Time is running out and Domingo is Atl’s only hope.

“…Are you hungry?’ Domingo asked her.
‘Maybe,’ she admitted.
‘You can have some of my blood. I don’t mind.’
Atl pressed a hand against her chest, pausing and carefully considering her options.
‘Domingo, would you like it if we were friends?’
‘For real?’
‘Yes. But being my friend is a bit different.’
‘I’ll bet it’s different,’ he said, smiling goofily, his crooked teeth showing.
‘No, it’s not just the blood.’
‘Then what?’
‘It’s a bond. You’d be my tlapalehuiani,’ she moved closer to him, brushing his hand. ‘Bloodletting was very important to the Aztecs, did you know that…”

Vampires, gangsters and cops all come to the gritty and dark streets of Mexico City to hunt Atl and Domingo. Can they get out alive?

Certain Dark Things is a vampire novel of the kind that has not been written for years. There is no doe eyed young adult romance here. There is no elitist vampire creature that is dressed in long cloaks and walking among the rich and famous. No these creatures the vampires of ancient myth and folklore, dressed uncomfortably in the garb of modern day. They war and kill and hunt. But among themselves they fight for power. This is the Godfather, but these families of evil are far more dangerous and cruel than any mobsters could ever be. Mexico City is transformed through the eyes of Domingo into a surreal world that is more reminiscent to the world that was The Blade Runner. It is dank and dark and without hope. But hope is all these two have as the fight for survival.

Domingo is an amazing character. His love for Atl is that of a puppy far more than a paramour. He is in love with her and what she is. At her side he doesn’t find power, he finds courage as he battles against the life that has held him down in the gutters of Mexico City. His love and devotion to the vampire is that of a servant and a lover. But there is something of the hero in him. A sense that in his heart he has waited his whole life for such a challenge. Such a quest. He is far more Don Quixote than Renfield.

Atl is very complex. She in turn uses Domingo for her own needs and then protects him. Not allowing herself to feel anything but the loss and grief of her murdered family. She knows she must survive if what is left of her people has a chance. Still the opportunity to wreak vengeance for her family threatens to keep her in a city that begins to close in around her.

Certain Dark Things is a beautifully written tale. Well plotted and the writing is a cadence of horror and poetry. This is the first book by Moreno-Garcia I have ever read but it will not be the last. I am intrigued to find out what else she has to offer.

A very good read.

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